Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Sister Creek is an alternate entrance to Boot Key Harbor, which runs, more or less, north from Hawk Channel. In the “sagging utility lines posting (http://cruisersnet.net/?p=84316)” both Claiborne and our very special Florida Keys correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, cautioned that boats drawing more than 4 feet should not attempt to use Sister Creek to access BKH.
At normal high tide I have entered with 6’2 draft and no bumping, several times seeing depths once inside in the teens.
Sombrero Marina resides on Boot Key Harbor’s southerly banks, near the bay’s easterly limits, just east of unlighted daybeacon #5A. Skipper Reeves points out the marina’s pro and cons.
We stayed @ Sombrero Dockside for 1 month. Never could get internet as promised. The people on the docks are wonderful and are very welcome to new comers. They love the place. Dave the Prince of Poop is a hard worker and will POUT on Thursdays and Mondays if needed the fee is $5 and $10. Dave is always cheerful even when replacing old dock boards in the hot sun. The parking lot is right at the docks and locals/tourists speed through the curve fast so watch out when biking/walking to nearby stores. There is a golf course across the street with a nice walking trail. A patch of grass is provided as a dog walk and some users from the marina never pick up after their large dogs.
The Dockside Cafe is on the grounds and is a good place for a cold beer and has a great Mahi sandwich, but the music is so loud the acoustics so bad you can’t hear the music for the sound level. I assume the singers are good.
The tiny kitchen is quickly overwhelmed by the crowd and service depends on the size of the crowd. You share the showers and such with the bar. The laundry is in a shed and seemed to always have one or more machines out of order. The huge demand for dock space in the winter keeps the place full at $23 @ Ft plus elect and pump outs.
Home to a very popular, busy anchorage and mooring field (usually has a waiting list), Boot Key Harbor lies in the heart of Marathon and north of Vaca Key. This review comes from our friends at the “T&T” (Trawlers and Trawlering) nautical mailing list.
Boot Key harbor in Marathon has a few hundred mooring balls at a reasonable rate that includes dinghy dockage, showers, car parking and laundry access. The harbor has better breezes than on the mainland or in canals.
There are many restaurants nearby, Sunset Grill facing west adjacent to the 7 Mile Bridge being our favorite. There are many other favorites too with great Happy Hour specials such as Lazy Days. The popular Salty’s however recently burned to the ground. There is a local theatrical group and movie theatre plus Publix, Winn-Dixie and Kmart are nearby. Next door is the city park with ball fields, tennis courts and amphitheater. During the winter months there are numerous flea markets, festivals and other special event.
Its 50 miles to Key West by city bus, inexpensive.
Rick aboard “Dark Star”, 44′ Marine Trader DC
Boot Key Harbor lies east of Marathon and north of Vaca Key. The crew of Mi Amante was very fortunate indeed to have escaped with only equipment damage.
We were hit by lightning at Boot Key Harbor the night before Thanksgiving. Suffered a lot of electrical component damage but we lived. 1:30AM – ‘CRACK – BOOM!”. Our neighbor on her mooring ball saw the strike – “sparks everywhere at the top of your mast!”. We are fortunate…
Mo s/v Mi Amante
The current rates for mooring are: $22 daily, $110 weekly and $300 monthly. For more information on pricing, go to: http://www.ci.marathon.fl.us/government/departments/marina-and-ports/pricing/
What are the fees for mooring balls and anchoring in Marathon?
Jim, Dinghy dockage and mooring balls from the city rent for $22 per day, with lower rates for longer terms. Basically it costs as much to anchor as to moor, unless you don’t go ashore much. Anchoring itself is free, if you can find a spot in the small remaining area.
Burdine’s Waterfront Marina overlooks the Boot Key westerly approach channel’s northerly banks, just a quick hop east from Pancho’s Fuel Dock.
Please make your cruiser’s aware that B100 biodiesel is available at Burdines in the Florida Keys. It is locally produced, not imported from Miami.
Marathon BioDiesel, Inc
Captains Dave and Nan Fuller offer good advice and recommendations of routes and stops on the sail from Marco Island to Marathon, as originally posted on the AGLCA Forum, www.greatloop.org.
We made this leg of our Loop in August 2013, and it was the roughest open water we have yet encountered, probably because we were on a deadline to get > to the Keys. Our Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs leg was glassy smooth as we were patient and waited nearly 3 weeks for a suitable weather window. I mostly used NOAA and Weather Underground for my weather forecasts from Ft. Myers to the Keys but did not make a go-no go decision based on weather as it was predicted to remain the same for several days and it was within my personal tolerance of seas 2-3 feet. We had wind from the northeast and east during the three day trip from Ft. Myers to Islamorada. Day one, we traveled from Ft. Myers to Marco where we met a close friend and his wife for dinner and then the next day we left Marco for the Little Shark River anchorage in the Everglades. Everyone told us to beware of bugs, but there was
sufficient wind blowing day and night so they were almost zero problem in August. I was even able to grill out after dusk and only had a few horseflies to deal with. We highly recommend Little Shark River as an anchorage as it is well protected in every direction except southwest and if you go a little deeper up river, it offers protection in every wind direction. The trade-off will be the amount of bugs to deal with. After spending one night at anchor, we continued around the Cape and to the Keys. We have friends in Islamorada, so we did not go to Marathon by boat. We spent a few days in Islamorada and rented a car to go to Key West and be tourists.
If I take this route again, I will stay further offshore going around the Cape. We basically followed the boundaries of Everglades National Park and went over so much shallow water that I finally shut off my depth alarm. We never hit bottom, but this is an area where shallow water is the rule and the charted depth pretty much matched what we experienced. Interestingly, the closer we came to shore, the bumpier it became and the further off shore, the smoother. This was with a 25 MPH east wind. We had constant 2 foot seas with occasional 3 and 4 footers. I think that the bottom profile is such that because of a slow slope, it gives the wave energy extra lift making for steeper waves and the deeper water makes them more of a roller profile. Normally, when you are behind a reef, you experience smoother water than on the windward side, but that was not the case here. Waves were on
our port forward quarter resulting in nearly constant spraying and were more bothersome than uncomfortable. However, our dinghy came loose and was thrashing about on the davits and we just had to let it swing as it was not safe to go on our swim platform to secure it. It did some damage to the
davit mounts and bracing that required repairs, but the dinghy sustained zero damage.
I am not an expert on weather in this area, but my understanding is that typically the winds are out of the northeast (bad weather) or east (prevailing) or even southeast (best possible for this leg). I understand it is rare to have winds out of the west quadrants unless associated with a storm. We spoke to one skipper in Marco who had come from Key West the previous day and said they got beat up by 6 footers in the same wind conditions, but they took a much deeper water track than hugging the coast as we did. There is only one area you will need to watch with a well-marked channel marking the opening between two reefs. You make an S turn and it is very easy – no problems. As you approach the Keys, crab pots are EVERYWHERE and can only be described as a mine field, even in the middle of the marked channel. Keep a sharp lookout, go slow, and forget your depth alarm – it will be useless.
If you follow Tom’s weather musings for the Big Bend crossing, he posts a disclaimer that his advice is dispensed based on a specific boat with its characteristics and his tolerance for risk which clearly falls on the conservative side. I share his risk philosophy of being conservative as this is supposed to be fun boating – not a race or a delivery captain mission. Each skipper is responsible for their own decisions after gathering all available data. You should make your decision based on your personal risk tolerance, your boat’s ability to handle different sea conditions, your level of competence and training, and your personal tolerance for what conditions you are willing to accept. Keep in mind that this leg is open water and is a LONG way from help if something goes wrong. VHF radio coverage is spotty in places, and cell phones simply won’t work as you go around the Everglades. I personally carry an EPIRB just in case the VHF or cell phone won’t summon help. You should be prepared to be self-sufficient for this leg or travel with a buddy boat.
If you can be patient and are not on a specific timeline, you can pick a suitable weather window and have a non-memorable open water trip to the Keys.
Dave & Nan Ellen Fuller
This photo comes from our good friend, Sonny Reeves of Jekyll Island, GA, who is surely gloating over the lovely weather in the Keys while most of us above the GA/FL state line are shivering! Enjoy friend!
In response to reports of numerous crab pots in the west side approach to Marathon (http://cruisersnet.net/?p=131869), Captain Lindberg’s remarks refer to 50 statute miles of the Hawk Channel between Rodriguez Key, just north of Key Largo at mile 1145, and Marathon at statute mile 1195.
We just came back from sailing Fort Lauderdale to Boca Chica and back 12/23/13-1/3/14. The pots were so bad between Rodriguez Key and Marathon that we had to drop sails and motor. We had planned on putting out two fishing lines, however it was impossible with all the pots.
This was our experience as well during the week of January 6th, 2014.
Be Aware and Careful !
Captain Chuck Baier sends us a good news story from www.keysnews.com about design and construction that is beginning on a new customs clearing facility only two miles from Boot Key Harbor in Marathon. Currently, entering cruisers must travel over an hour by bus to Key West to clear customs.
For the full story, go to http://keysnews.com/node/52783
In response to a number of SSECN articles and editorials concerning the abuse of anchoring rights by official Florida mooring fields and in support of a lawsuit currently in Federal Court, SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, Key Lime Sailing Club, is offering all cruisers up to a $100 credit at their facility, if you will contribute the same amount towards the legal expenses of the Federal court challenge to the Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program. All donations should be sent to Key Lime Sailing Club in Key Largo, FL (see below), NOT to SSECN. For more on the Federal Court challenge, go to http://cruisersnet.net/?p=129877.
If you would like to donate $100 or more to this legal fight and get full credit of $100 toward a Vacation in the Tropical Florida Keys, that includes a cottage and a 22′ sailboat send a check to Key Lime Sailing Club & Cottages 101425 Overseas HWY #922 Key Largo Florida 33037 and in the memo put Anchoring Rights Fight. I will forward the funds raised and credit each Person back $100 to a future stay at Key Lime Sailing club & Cottages. Note: Credit is Limited to $100 but Please send more if you can. Lets keep our waters Free for us to “Roam about”.
It is now the morning of 12/19/13, and we have already been on the telephone with “Katrina,” Administrative Assistant for the Boot Key City Harbormaster, and have learned that a meeting did indeed take place last evening, at Boot Key Harbor City Marina with representatives of the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Service), local Marathon, Florida governmental officials, and a host of cruisers. If you have been following this situation both here on the SSECN, and/or on the Cruisers’ Forum (see both http://cruisersnet.net/?p=129366 and http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f57/civil-rights-attorney-needed-marathon-fl-116693-11.html), you know that a HOST of cruisers have lodged serious complaints and questions about “heavy handed” actions on the part of FWC officers in boarding and inspecting vessels both at anchor, and on the city provided mooring balls, in Boot Key Harbor.
The Marathon local government became integrally involved in this matter following a very substantial cruising community presence at the last city council meeting. Unfortunately, the on-line minutes of this meeting are not yet available, but we are told the city government expressed serious concern about the actions of the FWC, and it apparently became quite clear that local government was very much an ally of the entire cruising community in this matter.
One of the prime movers in this entire affair has been the captain of the sailing vessel, “Thin Line.” Late in the day on 12/19/13, the master of this vessel posted a note on Cruisers’ Forum, which we have reprinted below! It makes for very interesting reading, and provides what is probably the BEST summary of the 12/18/12 meeting!
Back to the timeline, the result of all this early interaction was that a meeting was arranged for the evening of 12/18/13 to bring together all interested and concerned parties. As alluded to above, this meeting was indeed held, and, thanks to our conversation with “Katrina,” we are able to provide a summary of what took place.
We interviewed “Katrina” on the morning of 12/19/13 at some length about this important gathering, and were told that the meeting encompassed better than three hours, and provided a forum for many cruisers to voice their concerns to Captain David Dipre, lead FWC representative, who “chaired” the meeting. We were told the give and take between cruisers and the FWC “went fairly well,” and many “left with a positive note.”
Captain Dipre suggested that all cruisers and boat owners who experience future problems with FWC officers, contact him directly at 305-289-2320. He and his fellows also brought along books of Florida boating regulations which were distributed at the meeting, and it was discussed which regs applied to the situation in Boot Key Harbor.
And now, we will leave our reporting mode, and enter into some editorial comments. ALL CRUISERS AND LOCAL BOAT OWNERS WHO BROUGHT THIS SITUATION TO THE FORE, AND SHONE A SPOTLIGHT ON THE ACTIONS OF THE FWC, HAVE DONE A GREAT SERVICE FOR THE CRUISING COMMUNITY! With this much attention being paid, it’s a very safe bet that FWC officers operating in Boot Key Harbor will be very mindful of courtesy and their own conduct regulations for some time to come!
It is the editorial opinion of the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net that Boot Key Harbor is once again, and will most likely remain so for some time to come, a welcoming place for both resident and visiting cruisers. And, that’s a very good thing indeed, as Boot Key Harbor is the finest and most protected natural anchorage in all of the Florida Keys.
Be ASSURED that the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net will continue to monitor this situation closely. Let’s all hope the meeting of 12/18/13 closes this unfortunate chapter which has blemished an otherwise sterling cruising destination in the Florida Keys. Please let us know about your experiences in BKH by sending e-mail to CruiserNet@triad.twcbc.com, or following the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below!
And now, PLEASE READ THESE IMPORTANT WORDS FROM THE CAPTAIN OF THE “THIN LINE:”
Sorry I haven’t been able to respond until now, our harbor internet is being worked on so I couldn’t write last night and I had to work today.
Last nights meeting was well attended, both by boaters, the FWC, and other interested parties. There were 2 FWC Capt’s, and 1 officer, 4 USCG, as well as the Mayor and several city council members. While the discussion was at times heated and several times seemed to derail and go off track, overall there was much good discussion. What I find interesting is the varying opinions of the way the meeting turned out. I personally think the meeting accomplished everything we set out to do. We,,
1. Brought attention to the problem.
2. They acknowledged our voice by having the meeting, and by those who attended.
3. They were in PR mode and attempted to put a human face on the FWC, Capt Dupree represented them well.
4. The FWC acknowledged there were problems with some laws and they are working on getting them resolved.
5. Cleared up some rumors that were blown way out of proportion.
6. We were able to establish that almost, if not all, of the questionable interactions were from 1 particular officer. (training issue)
7. Capt Dupree stated that his officers are being instructed to show greater discretion and more respect for the boaters in Boot Key.
8. Both Capt’s have instituted an open door policy, as well as gave out personal numbers to discuss issues as they happen instead of letting it come to a head.
9. Agreed we need to keep this open dialogue and should have a town hall type meeting a couple times per year.
Sure, some of the people that attended wanted a full blown apology, with FWC admitting they did something wrong and groveling, obviously that was not going to happen. They do have to maintain the integrity of the field officers (even if they were wrong) however the general impression I got was they were there to repair the relationship. The Mayor and the city showed a huge amount of support and validation for us as boaters and wanted to make sure this was resolved. Overall the people that attended were well behaved, well mannered and even though a few wanted to bring pitchforks and torches, they checked them at the door. Most importantly my kids were there from start to finish, they got to see how people can rally together and change things. It was also another example of always standing up for what is right, even if it’s not directly affecting you right now, it could have eventually and it was just plain wrong. Everyone stood together, we made our voice heard and to me, that means we won this battle.
Thank you to everyone for your support, your phone calls and your kind words, they helped tremendously! For those of you that were going to skip Boot Key, don’t, you’ll be missing out on a strong community of amazing people I’m proud to call friends.
*_The following is what I said at the meeting when I was asked to speak. I hope I represented the harbor well and I tried to walk a “thin line” between being an upset boater/member of this community, and being a city employee. _*
*We are here tonight to raise questions, questions we as boaters need answers to. Hopefully tonight we will all leave here a little wiser and with far less anxiety. The FWC’s presence in the harbor starting on Thanksgiving day was overwhelming to say the least. Nightly spotlighting, and late night boarding of vessels without cause brought a sense of fear into Boot Key Harbor. This is a family community of live aboard boaters, these are our homes. I also know that FOR NOW… these are not offered the same protection, but they should be offered respect. A little bit of tact on the part of the FWC officers in question and we might not be here tonight.
Capt Dupree you said something the other day that stuck with me, it’s something I think might have prevented the entire situation in the harbor if those officers here would have followed your advice. “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should” Just because you can board a vessel at 11pm, waking a family, scaring the children AND the parents out of sleep and into a state of disorientation, doesn’t mean you should. Using discretion and a little bit of tact, goes a long way with the public, just as the decision of your officers went a long way in creating this negative situation. Their actions have reached far beyond the mangroves of Boot Key Harbor. There are articles nationwide in magazines, internet and other media, and the city marina is fielding calls daily from all over the country about this situation. On cruisers forum alone there are over 15k views and word is spreading fast. We all await the outcome of this meeting. Many people have decided to skip Boot Key until this is resolved. This lost revenue creates a ripple effect that also reaches far and beyond the harbor. Cruisers bring money, dispensable income that infuses the economy here in Marathon. These businesses also have an interest in the outcome of this meeting.
I understand after talking with you, several of these citations were warranted. Many times the one ticket written was the least of the many infractions the individual could have gotten. Other times the citations have been odd, if not just plain bizarre. Writing tickets for things nobody has ever heard of, again, “Just because they can”. Capt Dupree, what we want is consistent interactions and for you to pass this message to your officers in the field. We are not going to live in fear, we will not put up with heavy handed officers, and we WILL call into question at the highest levels, the necessity of actions such as nightly spotlighting and shining into my 8 year old daughters bedroom window. How many nights in a row do you have to “check my registration”? Capt Dupree we welcome the dialogue and the help in returning Boot Key Harbor to the way it was before Thanksgiving. Respect is not something that comes with a gun and a badge, fear does not earn it and it is not blindly given. When it is not given to us we question that authority, so tonight lets try and repair what has been damaged and show each other mutual respect.. Thank you. *
What was the reason for the heavy handed and (in my view) illegal police activity?
Captain Mike Wright
Captain Wright wrote, “What was the reason for the heavy handed and (in my view) illegal police activity?”
1. What was the answer you received from FWC?
2. What do you expect to change as a result of the meeting?
My good friend Walt Avery has retired from his career as a marine biologist working in Tampa Bay on seagrass restoration to live aboard his lovingly restores Pearson 39. He is a waterman with as good a knowledge of the rules and regulations as any one I know but he is now fighting a jack-booted FWC in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor.
He relates the story of a family with children rousted in the middle of the night for inspection.
I don’t know how aware you or those in the Marine Industries Association are of what is going on but he reports that FWC is running off law abiding yachtsmen with enforcement of obscure regulations (like needing a 12-volt system on your dingy to maintain a yellow over white light over the long winter night.)
Law abiding yachtsmen are facing criminal prosecution for bizarre laws.
The restaurants are losing customers who don’t want to get caught taking their dingies back to their boats after dark without full lighting, not just a motoring light.
Boot Key Harbor, which generally has a waiting list this time of year has a 20% vacancy due to FWC tactics including late night inspections and demands that out of state yachtsmen from states that don’t require registration of documented vessels must now register their boats in Florida if they stay longer than 60 days. Think of having to pay sales tax on your yacht’s value if you want to come and spend money in Florida.
I want to spread the word. Our marinas could be next.
Actions speak louder than words. Hopefully, the meeting will help the situation. But don’t get your hopes up. This has been going on for decades in Boot Key Harbor. I was there in 1988, when they did a joint operation with the Florida Marine Patrol, Monroe County Sheriffs, Customs and immigration, and the FWC.They sealed the harbor on both ends,and using a bullhorn, ordered everyone to return to their boats and standby for boarding. They then spent the entire day boarding boats and writing frivolous citations. I believe Capt Dipre is the same guy who was some kind of spokesman for the FWC at the time. He went on the local radio station and basically said they planned to keep on doing it. Boot key Harbor has been the subject of harassment for decades, with occasional periods of relative calm, followed by more harassment.
Also see the Sept 2007 issue of southwinds, and scroll down to the “letters”, where this then “officer” Dipre is mentioned, regarding another raid. It appears he is probably behind most of the harassment, but seems to be softening his image a bit at the recent meeting.
This Dipre guy has been defending his cops for the past 25 years, with any relief being short lived!
On 12/9/13, it was brought to the attention of the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net that there was/is a lengthy thread of messages on the Cruisers Forum (http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f57/civil-rights-attorney-needed-marathon-fl-116693-11.html) about what has been described as “heavy handed tactics” on the part of the FWC (formerly the Florida Marine Patrol) regarding boats anchored, and on the city provided mooring balls, in Marathon, Florida’s Boot Key Harbor. This lengthy chain of messages was begun by this article, posted by a local cruiser and employee of the Marathon City Marina, located in Boot Key Harbor:
Every night for the past two weeks the boaters in Boot Key Harbor have been harassed by the FWC. I understand they need to do their job, however if the following is “doing their job” then I don’t even recognize the place I grew up.
Shining lights in boat windows at 10:30PM, boarding boats when people are fast asleep. This is my home and my daughters bed is right by the window, what right do they have to shine lights in my house waking us up when not investigating anything, it’s become a nightly occurrence.
Tonight they tried to tell a group of us on land to leave the area at the city marina. We stood fast and refused to leave since we were in no way interfering with their duties and we paid to be there. Dictating our actions on land when not on the water seems a slight overstep. The boaters of Boot Key Harbor are being harassed by the FWC, they have written unwarranted tickets to people just arriving and boats are leaving because of it. They even forced someone to FL register their boat, the person actually got a refund from the tax collectors because the FWC was absolutely wrong. A boat that was here 19 days received a ticket for not being FL registered, 19 days in the state and they wrote a ticket. The best one I’ve heard was them tell a person they were giving them a warning for having wet life jackets, apparently wet life jackets don’t float
I understand Marathon is a training ground for the FWC, but if this is the training they are receiving it scares me to think what’s coming. The boaters in Marathon are sick of it and ready to take a stand, we need an attorney to stop the midnight searches, blinding spotlights and floating checkpoints that harass law abiding boaters, we are not the enemy. If anyone can suggest someone in the local area, it would be very much appreciated.
S/V Thin Red Line
Unfortunately, after this original, very thoughtful message was published, there followed a long string of submissions about America becoming a police state of some sort. That is certainly not the editorial view of the SSECN, and most of these postings added nothing to a substantive discussion about problems with the FWC in Boot Key Harbor.
Then, more recently, the “Thin Red Line” recorded the following note:
First of all I have no problem with the USCG and their authority, this strictly has to do with the FWC in Marathon please try to stay on topic.
I am sorry I haven’t had a whole lot of time to respond but I have been actively organizing several things including a presence at the Marathon city council meeting this Thursday at 5:30pm. We have contacted the mayor, Keynoter newspaper as well as other media outlets. The harassment has been of ALL boats in Boot Key, both anchored and moored. The city marina is aware but has no pull, the local sheriff also has his hands tied and can do nothing to call them off. The harbormaster attempted to arrange a meeting with a FWC representative and was denied.
We are encouraging everyone to record any and all interactions with FWC via smartphone, camera etc. People are not enjoying this wonderful community, afraid to simply dinghy to shore, even legally. They are writing “warning” tickets to people for things that do not exist, things they couldn’t actually cite or write an actual ticket for. They hover around the dinghy dock and point to people that aren’t even operating a vessel and shout “come here”. The roaming of the harbor past 11pm while randomly spotlighting vessels, shining their lights in ports and boarding boats without owners is where I draw the line. My 8 year old daughters bed is right at our port window, what right do they have to wake me, or my family for no reason?
The other night we had a potluck and they hovered around stopping any and all dinghies they could. Once as they were leaving the canal at WELL over idle speed (idle speed in all manmade canals is posted right there) we told them to slow down and they did only to tell us “Hey guys, catch ya later” while laughing and resuming their harassment.
A few nights ago I called FWC dispatch to report a manatee in distress entangled in crab traps, I was told they were busy and the dispatcher did not even take all of my information. They did call back the next afternoon to find out more, however they were there later that night to harass boaters. I thought they were the Florida Fish & Wildlife? Yet they have no concern when I call for that exact thing? They were too busy writing a ticket for someone having “wet lifejackets” Yep that’s right wet life jackets.. Did you know according to FWC if your lifejackets are wet they won’t float..
We need help, we need to show them we know the limit of their power and will not accept abuse. I am in a unique position because I am a city employee, however I am also a resident here in Boot Key, but first and foremost I’m a boater and this is my neighborhood too.
S/V Thin Line
Originally, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net did not know the results of the Marathon City Council meeting referred to above. However, after including a reference to this entire situation in our “SSECN Alert” of 12/13/13, Captains David O’Neil and Sue Kennedy remedied that situation, and the meeting results are MOST ENCOURAGING. In fact, it is now known that local government in Marathon is very much on the side of the cruising community.
Before sharing this encouraging news, we need to bring two other very important messages to light, which originally appeared before the local meeting in Marathon:
This is the response from the FWC. If more of us contact them it may have an effect!!!
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Deranek:
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) received your email concerning FWC officers in Marathon, i.e. harassing boaters in Boot Key Harbor. We will look into the allegations and inform you of the outcome.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Office of Inspector General
620 S. Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
And, also posted on 12/10/13, there is this tantalizing message!
The fwc has agreed to a meeting at the marina on the evening of the 18th. We will all be there. Should be an interesting night. I believe that a great deal of the problem is new young officers. They wrote one guy a warning for not having an anchor light on his dingy that was tied to his anchored boat with a six foot line. (His sailboat did have an anchor light) It really has reached the point of supidity. We are paid up till the 2nd, thinking of leaing then and spend the rest of the season in Islamarada.
As alluded to above, after our “Alert” of 12/13/13, within a few hours, we heard from Captain David O’Neil who provided a link to a later “Thin Line” message giving the results of the Marathon City Council meeting, while Captain Sue Kennedy sent us the entire text. The note below proves there can still be GOOD NEWS when it comes to Florida cruising, AND that Marathon local government is as concerned about this situation as those of us in the cruising community. Read on!
The city council meeting went better than anyone could have imagined. The city manager brought the issue to the attention of everyone before I even had a chance to speak, the mayor and the city council are extremely troubled by the actions of the FWC. I spoke in front of the largest attended meeting in the history of the city of Marathon, our presence was obvious and kudos to everyone that rallied together. The mayor and the city council will be attending our meeting with FWC here at city marina on Dec 18th at 6pm, along with the city manager.
The FWC Sgt that is representing the FWC at the meeting used to be an officer here in Marathon and still lives here. When he was here the other day we discussed several of the issues at hand and both sides of the story were presented to each other. While I agreed most of the tickets were valid, he also stated that it wasn’t the right way to go about things. “just because officers can do something, doesn’t mean they should” We discussed the fact that while many of the tickets written were law, several of them were ones nobody would ever write. For instance there is a law that states your dinghy, if not tied up beside your boat needs to have it’s own anchorlight. However who writes that ticket? A new officer trying to make an impression that’s who .
The Sgt will be helping us understand what they are looking for, discussing the legality of their boardings and what they can and can’t do, as well as acting as a point of contact if we have any further problems. On that note, we have not seen and FWC boat in the harbor in 4 to 5 days, maybe someone received a memo? Boot Key is worth stopping, it’s a wonderful place full of families and a strong sense of community. My twochildren are both surrounded by otherkids and right now the harbor has well over 15 kids. The problem appears to be on the mend and things seem to be on their way back to normal.
Thank you CF and all those that are supporting our cause. Fair winds..
Thin Red Line
Clearly, the meeting between local cruisers, Marathon government officials, and the FWC on 12/18/13 will be the key element in hopefully solving this situation once and for all. We will report the results of that conference just as soon as possible.
In the meantime, THE SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET CONTINUES TO URGE ALL CRUISERS WHO HAVE HAD DIRECT EXPERIENCE, GOOD, BAD OR INDIFFERENT, WITH THE FWC IN BOOT KEY HARBOR TO LET US HEAR FROM YOU. And, please do NOT send us submissions about how the USA has become a “police state.” This is not useful input, and will not be published on the SSECN.
HOWEVER, to be repetitive, we DO need to hear from every possible cruiser who has first hand experience with the FWC in Boot Key Harbor. PLEASE follow the “Click Here to Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below, or send us e-mail at CruisersNet@triad.twcbc.com. Your fellow cruisers heading for the Florida Keys can’t wait to hear from you!
And, below are some additional messages from the cruising community:
Time to contact the chamber of commerce and let them know you will not be spending any money there.
I would love to hear all the facts from both sides on this issue. We were planning on visiting for a winter, but…..
I hope the situation is not without repair. It would be nice to know all the facts and circumstances. I have been to Boot Key and the Keys many times without problem.
Here is the harbor web cam http://www.ci.marathon.fl.us/government/departments/marina-and-ports/marina-webcam/
Here is a link to the OP’s (Thin Line) update on the city council meeting and it’s results regarding the current situation in Boot Key Harbor.
There are several different issues here, widely misunderstood, and jumbled together. That is not helpful to reasoned thought and discussion. It amazes me how little cruisers know about this topic and how willing many seem to be to give up their rights and their privacy – and mine – so easily.
First, the legal authority of the USCG comes directly from the United States Congress. There is an excellent article on USCG boarding authority, published in the USCG Summer, 2009, issues of “Proceedings” Magazine, page 29, here: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/85792. Those that argue the extra-Constitutionality of USCG boardings would benefit from knowing that the same congress (1790) that gave us the 4th Amendment gave the predecessors of today’s Coast Guard the authority to board all vessels in US waters. That congress, I infer, UNDERSTOOD the meaning of the Constitution that they, themselves, had written. Note that other FEDERAL AGENCIES appear to have that same boarding authority, including the Navy and CBP. Now I grant you, in 1790, there weren’t many live-aboard long range cruisers. And probably none with innocent motives. Nevertheless, that USCG operates with full Congressional authority, and full governmental immunity, for better or for worse.
Second, what is really at issue in Marathon is the LEGAL authority of state, municipal and “other,” miscellaneous agencies; the USCG has no role in that discussion. I don’t know if boardings by these state and lesser agencies has been litigated anywhere, but assuming the stories about what’s going on in Marathon are true and correct, I’d guess that FWC is far in excess of US Constitutional authority. Some “federal” authorities – USCG, CBP – may be exempt from the need to demonstrate probable cause, but state, county and local authorities most probably are not. It’s even possible that these agents are operating within their state’s adopted statutory authority, but if that’s so, the adopting state legislature would be unconstitutionally exceeding their authority. This is the same issue cruisers face in the Lower Hudson Valley with 30 +/- local police agencies all doing boardings. And we all remember the armed boarding done by the Volusia County, Florida, sheriff’s department. That got swept under the rug, but it was certainly excessive under the guise of a safety or MSD inspection, and it happened because these agencies operate beyond their authority in the first place.
From our position as cruisers, the only way this can be stopped is for someone to litigate it through the courts, as Dave Dumas did in the Marco Island anchoring debacle. Until a judge issues a restraining order, jurisdictions and rogue officers can operate any way they wish. That appears to be what FWC is doing in Marathon, or at least, allowing a rogue officer to do. Until a judge issues a restraining order, the only tool we have as cruisers is public opinion and economic withdrawal.
One last thing. Let me emphasize, I am NOT lobbying for people being allowed to pump overboard or for ignoring unsafe operation. But, I also do not approve of the excessive and inappropriate use of police power by states, counties, municipalities and agencies. There is NEVER a reason for “boating safety inspections” to take place after dark, and certainly not when people might reasonably be asleep aboard!
Big changes are taking place at what used to be Sombrero Marina Dockside in Boot Key Harbor. This facility resides near the western end of BKH, just west of marker #5A. This long popular establishment has, heretofore, consisted a very well patronized, semi-open air bar, and a marina, which consists of wet slips and dinghy docks set around the “L” shaped curve in the harbor west of #5A.
The bar/restaurant part of the operation has now been split apart, and been renamed Dockside Tropical Cafe’ (formerly Dockside Bar & Grill and Dockside Lounge) It will open in two week (mid-November, 2013). Under new owners, Eric Stone (singer/songwriter) and Kim Hess-Stone (creator Yoga Onboard), we get the feeling that Tropical Cafe may very well become “the” spot for cruisers to gather in Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.
Here is Dockside Tropical Cafe’s new contact and location information:
Dockside Tropical Cafe’ (formerly Dockside Bar & Grill and Dockside Lounge)
35 Sombrero Blvd
Marathon Fl 33050
Sounds like a GOOD time will be had by all. See you there!
Wow we have been waiting for this!!! Will be down mid December on our trawler with a gang of Canadian friends on their boats too. Good luck to,the new owners as it has always been popular.
Sounds like a great upgrade. Wonder if the head/shower facilities have been upgraded too.
Has Royer s/v Skye
Speaking for both Eric and myself, we are like two kids waiting for Christmas to come! The place is going to ROCK!
Concerning facilities…. we will be upgrading the restrooms as soon as possible, and there will be a new accessible restroom near the laundry.
See ya in the Keys!
Before its removal, Boot Key Bridge, at Statute Mile 1195, spanned the western entrance to Boot Key Harbor, east of unlighted daybeacon #14.
The bridge is still there, but the drawbridge part has been removed. Still is a small opening where the span used to be which must be navigated. There also is a hanging powerline which limits boats with masts higher than 62 feet in height. the rest of the bridge is still there.
Captain Ward does not have contact information for Bobby the Viking, but she says that everyone in Marathon knows Bobby, because of his dinghy decorated as a Viking ship that he sails around the waters of Boot Key Harbor in Marathon. Captain Ward promises a phone number when she and crew return home.
We used Bobby the Viking last winter to dive and scrub the bottom of our trawler and he did a great job. I have not got his phone number at the moment but if you call on the net he will get straight back to you.
October 22, 2013 [numbers confirmed]
I have now found Viking Bobby’s cell number from last year. It’s 303-887-7712. I also found a cell number for the Key Hopper Taxi service in Marathon which is 305-393-0146. Hope this is of some help.
Marathon Marina and Boat Yard lines the northern banks of the western Boot Key Harbor approach channel, west of the now permanently open Boot Key bascule bridge.
We stayed here a week-rate $613 with tax et all for a 40 ft cat. The staff was very friendly and fuel prices excellant. The residents are extremely friendly and the internet works well both at the dock and the captains lounge for non-wifi connection. Pump outs are tueday, wednesday, and thursday. The resteraunt is also excellent go for happy hour and appetizers(inexpensive). Would like to stay a month at another time(warning they book as far as a year in advance for a month dockage). Not as centrally located as the city marina, but with bikes, you can get anywhere.Publix(3 miles) and cabs are $5 for a trip on the island.
Boot Key Harbor on the southside of Marathon, near statute mile 1195, is accessible from Hawk Channel and from the Inside Route via Moser Channel.
The next day, we returned via the Florida Bay side from our overnight in Boot Key Harbor. Staying on the Magenta line on the ICW was without incident. The only tough part was to keep watch and steer around the numerous lobster/crab traps inundating the ICW route.
I’ve often said, but it bears repeating, recommendations of this ilk from fellow cruisers are invaluable!
Call Mike the diver, I have been using him here in Marathon for years. 305-360-2012.