This appears to be a very informative and balanced article. Well done to Charmaine, please keep us up to date on this.
We spent five winters in Marathon on a mooring ball, met many great cruising friends and enjoyed our time there. However, last year we tired of the City Marina treating cruisers like naughty school children and scolding them on the morning radio net (I was one of the Net controllers one day per week). So this year we decided to try a winter elsewhere and are glad we did!
I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce to let them know that we won’t be back and that other cruisers we talk to are beginning to see Boot Key Harbor changing from a cruiser friendly place to being hostile to the year-round mooring residents and those who prefer to anchor.
Anchoring out in the open roadstead south and west of Boot Key in the winter season is at best uncomfortable and sometimes downright dangerous! Taking a chance on arriving to find the moorings all taken and being told I couldn’t anchor in Sister Creek or in the harbor until a mooring was available is NOT something that I would recommend to anyone.
Boot Key Harbor and the City Marina have lost us and others we know as customers already. Unless they change their current position on rates and anchoring restrictions they will lose more customers.
Sad to see all of the changes going on down there. I used to skydive once a year down in Marathon and always wanted to stay a few months to revisit when I started in cruising.But for that price I can just dodge up to the Port Charlotte area and pay for a nice slip with shore power, good wifi, and all the perks and not have to worry I’d be waiting exposed in a harbor while room freed up. I stayed at Gasparilla last year and it was secure, extremely friendly and had a good work yard with reasonable prices.
From that area I have Cayo, sailing on Charlotte is divine, Ft Myers mooring and a quick motor across the Okeechobee waterway gives me access to the Bahamas.
I got into cruising to get away from the hassles of life, not add to them.
I am not always opposed to change, changes can be made in a good way. We did anchor in Boot Key for a week or so waiting on a mooring ball to come available. I do think that maybe the council could consider temporary anchoring in all areas suitable when the mooring fields and set up anchorage is full, so as not to drive away cruisers, while this would still prohibit, derelict boats from permanent anchorage in these other areas. But at the same time, the derelict boats are just going to occupy the set up anchoring field and fill it so that cruisers won’t be able to anchor there when they arrive. So I do understand the councils problem. I do hope that maybe they will consider some way of making it work for everyone. Marathon was one of our favorite spots to visit, and we did spend time at Marina’s there as well, but even those are full much of the time. Best wishes with the efforts here, we are not cruisers who wish to boy-cott, because of change or rules, but at some point, things do become inconvenient, and when that happens, it does slow the flow. Us included.
There are existing ordinances to rid Boot Key Harbor of Derelict boats however the are NOT ENFORCED! Not by the City of Marathon nor the Florida Maine Patrol nor by the Monroe County Sheriffs Office which has a patrol boat @ Marathon Municipal Marina. Any excuse by the town,county or state is only an admission of there own violation of there own existing laws.
Our Lord’s Blessing to All
Ed & Bonnie Spomer
S/V Almost Heaven
Thanks, Charmaine and SSECN for bringing this situation to our attention.
We last visited Marathon two years ago. When had a reservation at Sombrero Dockside marina, but when we arrived the boat in our slip had not left and we were forced to anchor out overnight in Sisters Creek until they left the next day. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had not been able to anchor in Sisters Creek. The mooring field was full. The marinas that could accomodate a boat of our size were all full, and it was too late in the day to head over to Newfound Harbor.
The city does, of course, have the right to charge whatever it chooses for slips, mooring balls and dinghy dockage. However, the isssue of anchoring and safety are another matter. Derelict boats can be handled with current regulations, so I still do not understand why the city would choose legislation to restrict anchoring that could cause a negative reaction from the crusing community and be potentially dangerous.
We had planned to cruise back to the keys next winter, but we will definitely be bypassing Marathon if this legislation is enacted.
I have been making ready to stay over in Marathon for the last two years, this new news is making me re think my plans. I am retired and on a budget. Being on the hook in more open water is not on my to do list. Maybe the islands are better. Regretfully,
I have to say the current state of Marathon was shocking. Just took a nice group of sailing students on a week long cruise. Never had the time to anchor in Book Key Harbor before so I decided what a great time to visit and show some West Coast sailors how great the Keys were. Again, not having spent any time in Marathon, I always thought of it as one of the few real cruising friendly areas down here in the Keys, a little taste of what I had in the Carolinas and Chesapeake.
Big mistake. I was embarrassed for my clients. Not only were we harassed in the anchorage by some very derelict live aboard boaters, yelling and screaming while pounding down beers and smoking at 9am, but walking the streets was a big wake up call. I’ll never take any clients to Boot Key Harbor again. So sad to have to make that statement.
Being a sailing instructor, I am trying to show cruisers in training what our lifestyle is all about. How to get safely from destination to destination and how wonderful it is to pull into that funky, cool little down, dinghy up and have great time, or sit in the cockpit and watch the sun go down.
Marathon does need a massive clean up, as true of many Key’s anchorage areas. Real cruisers are getting a bad rap from all the derelict boaters. But penalizing the active cruising community is not the way to accomplish this.
Marathon I don’t want to give up on you but you have a long way to go.
Capt. Edana Long
We were just down at Marathon for a month in an RV, with a boat, and visited the harbor almost daily. There was always a 2 to 3 day waiting list for moorings. The parking places were nearly full. I can see the point of showering on shore, if the water is $.05 a gallon!
We did notice that boats seemed to be having difficulty getting anchors to hold–and it may well be the type of anchor –mostly Bruce type or Claw seemed to be having problems.
My husband and I have visited Marathon the past 2 seasons, anchoring out for a few days before taking a mooring. We’ve had very positive experiences with both the local boaters and the cruisers and the sense of community we find here is what draws us back. Yes, there are those who live a different lifestyle than what we choose, but there is room here for us to coexist, and the general atmosphere of the community is one of support and friendship.
Cathy Dieter s/v Orion JR
The problem with derelict vessels can be resolved by having an Insurance requirement requiring Liability, wreck removal and polution coverage. The Certificate of Insurance could be required by the harbormaster within 48 hours after anchoring or the harbormaster could call the police to evict and or ticket the owner. Derelicks are uninsurable because a condition survey is always required prior to coverage being bound. This could be a requirement much like the DMV. Cruisers / snow birds are always aboard seaworthy boats because they need to be to cruise. Boat yards require coverage to haul so why can’t the state, municapality and local harbormasters require coverage as part of the FL registration?
Localities can’t require equipment or insurance above and beyond what is state mandated–that is a state-level requirement, just as car equipment requirements are set at the state level. If you start allowing localities to impose their own rules you would be constantly having to go through hoops every time you moved on to the next harbor, making cruising impossible. However, there are numerous laws already on the books that can deal with supposed “derelict” boats, which is really more about derelict boat owners who have problems above and beyond any maritime rules. However, these laws are just not enforced: proper registration, proper sanitation equipment, proper boat equipment, anchor lights, etc. In the case of Marathon, sure there are some boats there that are marginal, but the real reason the city is making anchoring difficult and expensive is they have a shortfall in the marina and mooring budget and they want to force more people to pay for the moorings. It is about $$, and don’t let them throw a smoke screen over it by declaring it is about derelict boats, which they refuse to do anything about using the laws already on the books.
And, I should have added above that they may be solving the derelict boat problem by eliminating legal anchoring areas, but they are going to do it by chasing away legitimate tourist boaters who prefer to anchor out. They will lose money in the long run with that attitude. Cruisers don’t want to visit places that are a hassle–they go cruising to get away from all that.
I have gone to Marathon many times over the last 15 years and enjoyed the friendly people and the area. I got to know many locals who treated me as if I were one of them. I sure hope that the fees for the mooring field don’t price me out of one of my favorite place.
After reading the entire article, if possible, I would like to add that the three boats we were visiting with were 25 foot C Dorys, who anchored in Sister Creek until a mooring became available. It would have been very uncomfortable and on some days dangerous for this size of boat or smaller, to have anchored in the open roadstead to the West and South of Vaca Key. One night it blew up to over 30 knots–another night it was 50 knots in gusts.