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    • Anchoring in Boot Key Harbor (Florida Keys – Marathon, FL) – Captain Charmaine Reports

      The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net is proud and honored to welcome back Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, as our regular Florida Keys SSECN Correspondent. Some two years ago, Charmaine did some sterling work for us, but then health and other factors caused us to part company for awhile. Now. SHE’S BACK, and we could not be happier.
      Few know more about Florida Keys waters and ports of call than Captain Charmaine. Look for her reports here on the Cruisers’ Net several times a month.
      On a personal note, Captain Charmaine is just one of the “neatest” members of the cruising community I’ve ever come across. She is witty, lovable, and, on the other hand, her life has been tempered by more than its share of tragedy. Take a look at her web site, http://www.SeptemberSea.com.
      WELCOME BACK ABOARD CAPTAIN CHARMAINE!

      March 7, 2011
      Boot Key Harbor Anchorage, Marathon FL Keys (N24 42.228 W81 06.172)
      by Charmaine Smith Ladd

      A lot has changed in Boot Key Harbor (BKH) since last season. The bridge is now permanently open, as the drawbridge was removed, allowing cruisers to come and go as they please. This is a wonderful thing as it expands the very freedom we cruisers love to enjoy. However, it also means some cruisers attempt to enter after dark, which is not a wise decision if needing to anchor. Many boats in the anchorage have two or more anchors set in various directions and one cannot clearly see the many anchor rodes. It is therefore highly recommended to anchor outside BKH and come inside to anchor only during good light. Nuzzling up to the west side of Boot Key (South of the main channel entrance markers) offers great protection from East or NE weather.

      Winter to early Spring it is season in Boot Key Harbor (BKH). Which means lots of cruisers arriving to enjoy what has proven to be “the friendliest Harbor in the Keys.” Though there are 224 moorings, during
      season you will often find they are all taken. Hail Marathon City Marina (all spiffied up with a new bathhouse and improved commons area) on channel 16 once you are East of the bridge span to inquire about moorings. If there are none available, you can anchor outside the yellow buoys marking the perimeter of the mooring field. Then get on the waiting list by visiting the City Marina office (very friendly and helpful staff!) by dinghy. Unfortunately, BKH no longer has a water taxi service.

      Most find it prudent to anchor on the South side (off the main channel located immediately starboard as you pass through the bridge opening). The anchorage area stretches from there Eastward {to red marker 18}). Be wary of the far south side as that is the backside of Boot Key. Some boats are on their own moorings and do not swing much, so they can be much closer to Boot Key than someone with 40 ft. or more of anchor rode! There are also a few pockets of deeper water with shallows around them. Just because you see other boats in an area near Boot Key doesn’t mean you can anchor there. “Brown, brown, run aground” is the saying in the Keys. Steer clear of brown water. Near the grass beds off Boot Key the deep water drops off and the bottom comes up remarkably. From 9 ft. to inches in a flash! Many a catamaran owner has insisted he’s safe there after being warned. A change in wind direction puts him aground and he has Crow Pie for dinner! Local knowledge being offered by someone should always be heeded; not taken as a challenge to one’s anchoring skills.

      If you do anchor, please take note that when winds are light and variable in BKH…so can become the positions of the boats: quite variable! Make sure to leave room for neighboring boats to swing in all directions. This doesn’t happen too often during season when the winds are usually plentiful; but it can and does happen. When it does, boats can turn completely contrary to each other and the circus of fenders and fending off occurs. Staying apprised of wind conditions will keep you out of trouble. You may be just fine anchored where you are as long as the wind stays out of the East or West, but be too close to a neighbor if the wind shifts to the South or North. You get the idea. If you are waiting for a mooring, this information can open more options for anchoring. Listen to the weather and what may appear to be a full anchorage will have room for you if the winds remain in your favor for the duration of the time you need to anchor.

      The holding here is excellent but you still have to set your hook. Many a cruiser has merely dropped the anchor and expected it to hold. This writer suggests setting an anchor with no more than 30 ft. of rode out. This way you can feel when it bites. After it bites, rev up your engine and back down to allow your anchor to truly set. When your bow swings you know you’re dug in. Then pay out the remainder of your rode. If possible, ask others around you how much rode they have out. Noticing whether boats near you are on a single or multiple anchors is also very helpful in knowing how much room you have to swing.

      Boot Key Harbor is a wonderful place with friendly locals and cruisers. The changes mostly have been good ones and the City Marina is looking much improved. Hopefully, the information offered here will help to quell any apprehension one may have about anchoring during season. We’re ready for you! So come on down and see us!
      Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
      SSECN Correspondent
      “Bringing you the low down from down low!”

      With the price increases this is a place to avoid by a retired minimalist cruiser as myself..the city is much too greedy..let the `yachties’ have the place..refuse paying to anchor..will get the word out to other cruisers as well!!
      JD

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Florida Keys Anchorage Directory Listing For Boot Key Harbor

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Boot Key Harbor

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