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Our Time At Boot Key Harbor

The Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, FL. The old bridge is in the background

We arrived at Boot Key Harbor, which is part of the city of Marathon, Florida on 12/21/2021. Boot Key Harbor (Which we will call BKH for simplicity) is between Key Largo and Key West in the Florida Keys. We decided to go directly to Boot Key Harbor (Under the seven mile bridge) verses Key West because it was a shorter route to the Bahamas from the west coast of Florida. We also heard that Key West gets very crowded during the holidays. Our good friends Ed and Cindy, who were our former dock neighbors at Waterford Harbor Marina in Kemah, were already moored in BKH, which made the decision to head there that much easier. We decided to anchor outside of the western entrance of the harbor for the first night, since we were arrived in the afternoon. The outside anchorage was good to us despite some mediocre reviews on the Active Captain App. The anchor grabbed well, and there was just enough movement to rock us to sleep. For a bonus, the beautiful sunset was aft of our cockpit, allowing us to sit back, relax and enjoy the aftermath of our passage.

West Entrance To Boot Key Harbor

BKH is a very unique place. It is like its own small community. Inside the harbor there is a large mooring field , equipped with 226 mooring balls. (For those who don’t know, a mooring ball is like a permanent anchor to the sea bed, which a boat connect to, versus using their own anchor.)

Looking North Over Boot Key Harbor

The BKH marina does not allow you to reserve a mooring in advance like you would do with a hotel room. You must be on-site and present both your main vessel and dinghy registration documentation to the marina staff in order to get on a waiting list for a mooring ball. When a ball becomes available, you have just a few hours to respond to accept and pay for week or month. If you do not respond in time, you get bumped and they call the next person in line. While you are waiting for the call, you must anchor your vessel in close proximity to the harbor, or within the harbor itself. You pay daily fees to access the marina dinghy dock and facilities.

After meeting up with our friends Ed and Cindy, we went to the marina office to get on the mooring ball list. We were fortunate in that we were only number three in line. Since there were strong westerly winds in the forecast, we needed to move Namid from the outside anchorage. The inside anchorage and adjacent Sister Creek were pretty much full, so we needed to get creative. Ed and Cindy helped us find a spot near the mangroves, that was near shallow water. It would have to do in the short term.

Ed and Cindy helping us find a spot in the anchorage

So we moved Namid inside to the chosen spot, but this was not done without some drama. The anchor would not grab. Upon pulling the anchor back up, we found out why. There was a very large bound-up ball of old anchor rope attached to our anchor. Ed came to the rescue in his dinghy and dislodged the massive pile while I kept Namid from drifting to the shallows. It would have been impossible for us to dislodge this massive ball away from our anchor from the deck of Namid inside the tight anchorage, so Ed was our hero. He hauled the massive ball to the marina dock to be thrown away. While he did that, we finished anchoring. The water was indeed shallower than we normally prefer, but it would have to do until a better spot became available in the anchorage. One good thing about the spot was that we were adjacent to the mangroves, which gave us a little more privacy.

Ed dragging the massive ball of rope to the marina dock

Ed with the massive ball of old rope pulled up by our anchor

On the weekend, Sandra’s cousin Diana, and her husband Horacio came to visit us from Boca Raton . We had a great time visiting and enjoyed the BKH boat parade. The night was absolutely perfect. It started with a sunset dinghy ride to the harbor entrance. Then as we were coming in, we followed a pod of dolphins into the harbor. Next, there was a giant full moon coming up as the sun was going down, Next, the boat parade started. Everything was lit up in the harbor, and the harbor was festive. It was a special night to be on a boat.

Above: Sandra with Diana and Horacio

Below: Sunset dinghy ride

It was a special night in the harbor

The next day Diana and Horacio had to get back to Boca Raton, but not before they enjoyed some time at the beach with Sandra. The morning after they left, the wind shifted at low tide and we woke to find that Namid was sitting on the bottom. Once the tide came up and we were floating again, we moved to another spot. It was tight. The strong winds that were forecasted finally arrived, and there was “boat dragging anchor” drama throughout the harbor.

One boat dragging into another boat during high winds

Our anchor never did drag , but we were partially in the main channel after the blow due to the change in wind direction. We had to move again. We got lucky and found a great spot farther west in the anchorage. We were adjacent to the mangroves again, but this time in deeper water. I slept so good that night ! The next day , we got the call for a mooring ball. I was almost willing to stay put since we finally got a decent anchoring spot, but naaa...Ain't happening. We moved to the mooring ball.

Namid tied to the mooring ball.

We settled into life at the harbor. We would dinghy to the dinghy dock, go to stores and restaurants on occasion via complimentary bicycles that the marina offered. When we needed to go get some major grocery store shopping done, Ed and Cindy were nice enough to loan us their car.

The dinghy dock at BKH

Our most common mode of transportation at BKH

Not the coolest form of transportation, but it is practical

Christmas was approaching and we found out that some other friends Chris, Lisa and their daughter Camille, who were also dock neighbors from Waterford Harbor Marina were sailing in from Fort Lauderdale for Christmas. It was great spending Christmas with them, along with Ed and Cindy.....Part of the old Waterford Harbor group was reunited ! Christmas seemed different because it was warm in the Florida Keys.... but hey, I do not like cold weather, so I was perfectly okay with it. BKH sponsored a pot luck Christmas dinner for the entire harbor, so we all feasted. It was a good time.

The Waterford Harbor Marina group reunited and posing for a goofy group picture

A couple of days after Christmas, Chris, Lisa and Camille departed BKH to head back to Fort Lauderdale. We are hoping to meet up with them again in the near future.

Cindy, sharing her gift of arts and crafts with Camille and Sandra

I finally received the hose kit for the before mentioned starboard engine coolant leak. Upon removal, I found that the old coolant hose had a little small slit in it. It was strange that the leak was intermittent, both in its frequency and its velocity. I was relieved to get the issue resolved. Now we could move on, but had to wait on a weather window. That would not come until after the New Year.

Small slit in coolant hose causing an intermittent, nuisance leak

We had a great New Year celebration and meal with Ed and Cindy. The boat life is very different in that you tend to go to bed early, wake up early, and you also tend to meet up on...yep you guessed it, a boat . So, yes…our New Years celebration happened to be on our boat and it ended at about 8:00. I refuse to say that our sleeping habits are now different because we are getting old. On the contrary, it is because of the boat life. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Sandra and I did wake up at midnight to enjoy some fireworks and bring in the new year, but then went back to sleep. Yep….that's boat life !

Toasting in the New Year with Ed and Cindy

While we were still awaiting a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream, there happened to be a Celtic Festival that the city Marathon sponsored in the park adjacent to BKH. It was a fun time. Ed, being from The U.K. and of Scottish decent had the full garb, kilt and all. Cindy was dressed up too. They looked awesome. Sandra and I didn’t have any Celtic garb, so the usual shorts and flip flops would have to do for me. Yep, I.m so predictable.

City of Marathon Celtic Festival

Finally, after almost a month in BKH, we had a decent weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. Ed was nice enough to share Chris Parker’s forecast with us, which pretty much made the decision for us. We had planned to do an overnight stop at Rodriquez key on the way to Bimini in the Bahamas, but those plans got tweaked a bit. More on that the next post....

Probably the hardest thing about living the cruising lifestyle is that eventually friends will part ways. You don't say goodbye, you say so long....Or as Ed would say...Cheerio !!


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