What attracts boaters to Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor? It’s by far one of the friendliest places we’ve been in Florida. There are multiple marinas, but the biggest draw is the Marathon City Marina mooring field, with 226 hurricane strength rated mooring balls that have to be the stoutest, best maintained moorings that we’ve seen anywhere.
1. The old bridge that used to open & close has been permanently opened by removing the span that opened & closed, so no bridge spanning the harbor entrance.
2. The power lines at the bridge are reportedly 65′ at mean low water. Since our mast is 55′, aside from 2012 when a boat hit the lines causing them to sag so badly we couldn’t get into the harbor, we don’t have an exact measurement. We regularly hear boats claiming that their 64 1/2 foot masts get under the lines. If your mast is about that height, you might want to check with City Marina 305-289-8877 or VHF 16 on the tides & power line height before you come in.
Since we’re fans of the mooring field (even though we do feel like we’re living in a trailer park with all the other boats, not having to worry about taking a shower in the cockpit eliminates some of the “too close” anxiety – City Marina has ample shower facilities, basic, but clean), we’ll start with it first:
1. Marathon City Marina Mooring Field/Docks: Click the link to go to the City Marina page for a larger printable chart of the mooring field — good information to have before you go so it’s easier to find your mooring ball once assigned.
Because it’s first come, first served, you cannot get a mooring assignment until you come under the old bridge at the western end of Boot Key Harbor. When you’re approaching the bridge (not 7 Mile Bridge, this is the old bridge across the harbor entrance), call City Marina on VHF 16 or 305-289-8877 to inquire about available moorings and/or get your mooring assignment. Current (April 2013) rates, $110/week, $22/night or $300/month plus tax. If you think you’ll stay more than 5 days, go to the weekly rate, you get 2 “free” days. Longer, you’ll need to make your own determination. We never thought we’d be here 3 weeks, but the first week was fixing the head (replacing the hoses and pump assembly), the second was a nasty norther and this week we opted to stay through the NASTY – gusts to 50 – thunderstorms predicted for last night & today. This is by far the most protected anchorage/mooring field we’ve encountered in Florida, probably why it’s so popular.
Marathon Cruiser’s Net … one of the reasons the mooring field is so friendly is the Marathon Cruiser’s Net, every morning at 9 AM on VHF 68. Here you get news of anything happening, the best happy hour deals, any potlucks, the Weds night Meet n Greet, the Friday 11:30 weekly SSCA luncheon, anything happening at all. The net also welcomes new boats to the harbor letting them introduce themselves first, says goodbye to departing boats next, asks for any announcements/news, then q&a anyone needing help or questions of any kind, then trivia and concludes with any final business. A very useful net, especially if it’s your first time to the harbor.
The Boot Key Harbor Cruisers Facebook Page: “A place where all cruising boat crews that have stayed in Boot Key Harbor can keep in touch – wherever in the world they happen to be.” Great for recent happenings.
2. Boot Key Harbor Marinas. There may be more, I just listed marinas that we’ve either stayed in or known cruisers that have stayed. FYI, Faro Blanco Oceanside and Bayside are both closed and look condemned.
Marathon Marina — the first marina up before you get under the bridge. We’ve stayed at this marina a couple of times and very much enjoyed it, not inexpensive but not out of line with the other marinas in Boot Key Harbor and although a bit farther away, also nicer. Reportedly they have the least expensive fuel in the area.
From their website: “Marathon Marina & Boatyard is located in Boot Key Channel between Green Markers 7 & 9. Our State-of-the-Art marina can accommodate boats up to 125 feet in length and 100 vessels for short and long-term storage. Our boatyard offers a complete line of products and services. We also feature wonderful ocean-front dining at our famous Lazy Days restaurant.”
Burdine’s Marina –– many many years ago, we stayed at Burdine’s a couple of nights after our first overnight passage to Marathon. Small, but it had all the amenities we were looking for at the time – fresh water to wash the salt off everything and washer/dryers. No pool, but a nice upstairs bar/restaurant that’s popular with everyone in the harbor.
Pancho’s Fuel Dock & Marina — frequented by fishermen, but we’ve known cruising boats to stay here if the other places are full.
Sombrero Marina— at the far eastern/northern end of Boot Key Harbor. No personal experience but we’ve met boats staying there.
Harbor Services — the essentials:
Faxes, Mail, Packages. If you’re in the mooring field, City Marina has all of the above. Otherwise, check with your marina.
Laundry. Again, if you’re in the mooring field, City Marina has a great 24 hour laundry with ample (usually) washers & dryers. You have to purchase a laundry card from the desk – $3 a load, wash and dry. Insert your card in the machine, it will prompt you to choose your settings, then BE SURE TO LEAVE THE CARD IN THE MACHINE UNTIL THE WATER STARTS OR THE DRYER STARTS! Also, for the dryers, you can put your card back in within a minute or so of finishing and add a small amount more time rather than having to pay for a full cycle if you only need a few more minutes. The machines tell you, but the dryers run for 45 minutes, the washers for 28 minutes. Please be courteous and be there when your washer or dryer is done. If you’re in a marina, the marinas each have laundry facilities so check with them.
Groceries. From the City Marina dinghy docks, walk up to US 1 and turn right. It’s about a 1 mile walk to Publix or Winn Dixie and you pass Home Depot on the way. There’s a WalGreens & CVS in the same area. We walk to Publix, then take a taxi back if we have lots of stuff. Reportedly you can dinghy up the harbor to the Sombrero Marina dinghy dock and then walk which makes it a bit closer, but we have no personal experience.
Marine Supplies. There’s a great list of marine suppliers in the City Dock Welcome Packet put together by the Marathon Cruiser’s Net, but West Marine is about a one mile walk from City Marina – turn left. Or you can order parts and have them delivered to City Marina if you’re in the mooring field or marina.
Propane. You can get propane refilled directly across US 1 from City Marina. Not sure about other locations, but heard on the net there are others.
Marine Power Systems. 1100 Overseas Hwy Marathon, FL 33050, 305-743-2876 If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary – or if you just need something to do one day, be SURE to walk down to Marine Power Systems and talk to Jimmy. It’s almost to the 7 Mile Bridge on the right if you’re walking from City Marina – turn, left on US 1 from City Marina. This is the place with the two huge wooden boats out front. He has an amazing array of used boat parts. He also has an amazing amount of knowledge — he was essential in helping us jerry rig our throttle cable when it broke and even duck tape failed. If you don’t see what you need in the overwhelming warehouse of stuff, ask, Jimmy may be able to help you.
Dinghy Docks. If you’re not staying in the Boot Key mooring field or in a marina, there are two choices as I understand it for dinghy privileges. The first is the City Marina dinghy docks – there is a dinghy dock fee you can use if you’re anchored out. The other is Sombrero Marina at the far eastern end of the harbor, but I’m not familiar with their rules.
Taxi Service. There are several taxi services, most are posted on the bulletin at City Marina. The one we use is Island Taxi and the phone number is 305-731-9022. On the island, there’s a flat rate of $5. Very fair and usually prompt. Don’t forget, this is an island, so you’re on island time! 🙂
Bus Service. We went from City Marina – a bus stop across US 1 about a block to the left – to Boca Chica Naval Air Station for the Blue Angels Air show. It cost us $1.50 for David as a senior and $4 for me as an “adult”. It was a little over an hour ride & lots of fun. Others in the mooring field have gone up & down the Keys on the bus system and enjoyed their experience. I will say we had to wait a couple of hours after the air show for a bus, but still it was within 15-20 minutes of the scheduled time and that was a big big crowd. For more information, check the latest online schedules — Key West Transit, click here.
Park. There’s a wonderful public park immediately as you leave City Marina. If you want to play tennis, bring your racquet and balls. Cruisers have a weekly softball game on the ball fields. There’s also an amphitheatre where cruisers hold weekly yoga and the city has free movies. And a playground for visiting kiddos.
Best Happy Hours! (the important stuff!) Hurricane Grill has “wings” night on Thursday nights – 25 cents a wing starting at 6 PM. Cruisers like to arrive about 5 to 5:30 because happy hour stops at 6 PM – get your happy hour drinks ordered at 5:30 and order wings at 6!
Keys Fisheries and the Pincher’s Upstairs Bar– $2 stone crab claws from 1 PM – 9 PM upstairs only. Already cracked & ready to eat. Less expensive than buying stone crab claws at the grocery store. A bit expensive, but stone crab claws are expensive. 2013 was the worst harvest in over 40 years for fishermen, so the price has doubled. But if you want stone crab claws, this is as good as it gets.
Sparky’s Landing (on Key Colony so a bit more on taxi fare) … we haven’t been but Sparky’s is always one of the top two happy hours mentioned when you ask about the best happy hour — great wings.
Lazy Days – at the Marathon Marina. A great sunset view and a swimming pool! Happy hour starts either 3 PM or 4 PM until 6 PM and includes half price appetizers and specials on drinks. Sushi included. Great happy hour! And yes, there’s a dinghy dock.
Castaway’s Waterfront— well actually tucked back on a crab boat canal, good food and great atmosphere even if it’s a bit hard to find. Has a good dinghy dock, although the tide can make it hard to climb on & off.
Other Fun Stuff! Here’s a post I wrote last year during our time in Marathon featuring some of the fun stuff we did… including Sombrero Beach & the Turtle Hospital.
This year we added snorkeling, more fun with friends at the various happy hours, the trip to the Southernmost Air Show & Blue Angels, click here, a two overnight adventure to Bahia Honda State Park with it’s amazing beaches … and much much more. I don’t understand the boaters that say there’s nothing to do in Marathon … have they ever been here?
To be sure it’s not Key West, and that’s perfectly OK with us!
Comments? Updates? Please leave a comment and share YOUR favorite thing about Boot Key Harbor, Marathon!
Cheers– Jan & David