Well, friends might argue I’m unstable, but that’s not the topic of this post! Unstable WEATHER welcomed us to Marathon in the Florida Keys. After anchoring last night in the pitch black outside Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor, the wind from the dead south provided rollers and rocky-rollies causing us a sleepless night. Awaking to the sight of the squall line just north of us, we were happy we’d make the decision to continue to the Keys. Here’s the sight … not one but TWO major water spouts formed from the storm that at the same time had a rainbow! Too bad I didn’t have a wide angle lens to capture both the water spout & the rainbow all at the same time! For those unaware, water spouts are just like tornadoes … but on the water. A very dangerous situation and NOT something we wanted to deal with … especially on a few hours sleep! Luckily they passed by within the hour… but they provided a scary few minutes! Definitely unsettled weather – not the kind to be planning a passage anywhere — remember, we’re chicken cruisers, not the daring type that plan to outrun the weather. Back to the rest of the story….
Rather than stop at Little Shark River yesterday, we opted to sail all the way to Marathon. There was a cold front pushing a serious squall line that appeared to be speeding up and might endanger our perfect Sunday sail to Marathon if we stopped at Little Shark River overnight. Plus it’s a small anchorage, open to the southwest, the exact direction the wind was forecast for overnight. Not being a fan of squall lines, we decided to continue to Marathon.
When we made the decision, our GPS was indicating we should arrive at the outer channel marker to set up for the 7 Mile Bridge at just about sunset. That would give us another hour of “almost daylight” to get under the bridge, hang a sharp left and drop the hook outside Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. But Mr Murphy intervened by first causing the wind to go more and more south all day, turning our delightful sail into a motorsail … or as I like to call it when it’s much more motor than it is sail: “sail assisted motor”. If that wasn’t enough, Mr Murphy also provided a more than a knot of current against us trying to get through the shallows/coral reef areas north of the bridge. So it was after midnight when we finally dropped the hook – and enjoyed a well-deserved glass of vino!
Prior to arriving in Marathon, we knew there were a couple of other obstacles, but nothing insurmountable — first, some tall masted sailboat ran into the cable above the old Boot Key Bridge, causing hundreds of tall-masted sailboats in the Marathon City Moorings Field to be trapped inside Boot Key Harbor .. they were calling themselves the Boot Key Hostages – no sailboat with a mast over 58 feet could go in or out. The very worst part was, scores of boats had been waiting for WEEKS inside Boot Key Harbor to make the jump to the Bahamas – no weather window in sight … until this weekend and now they’re held hostage by a drooping overhead cable! The officials claim it will be fixed on Monday — just in time for those Bahamas bound to miss the only weather window in the past several weeks! Oops!
OK, so our mast is 55 feet … plus all the antennae & “stuff” atop, but we decide to anchor outside. Plus the copy editing phase of The Boat Galley Cookbook demanded that we take a marina slip for a few days – luckily lots of boats left Marathon Marina (which happens to be located OUTSIDE the drooping overhead cable) to take advantage of the short weather window to the Bahamas and we arrived just in time to take one of the empty slips!
Oh did I mention the other obstacle? 25 diesel drums reportedly floating around somewhere in between Sombrero Reef Light and the 7 Mile Bridge — exactly where we’d be sailing through after we “hung the left” – IN THE DARK? At this point, David & I are looking at each other … “What ELSE? — Maybe we’re just not meant to go to Marathon!” As we left Indian Key to sail to Little Shark River or as it turned out on to Marathon, another boat alerted us to a warning put out on the SSB nets about these 25 diesel drums floating around waiting to snag unwary boats. That in addition to all the minefields full of crab traps — even in the main channel leading under the 7 Mile Bridge. We were lucky not to snag a crab pot OR hit a diesel drum!
But we made it … anchor down, rocky rolly’s while we tried to catch a few hours sleep and THEN the water spouts … what an unstable welcome to Marathon! Hopefully we’ll find a weather window to the Bahamas, but for now, Marathon is a fine place to hang out for a few days, reprovision fresh stuff & meet some new friends. And if the weather doesn’t cooperate – seems to be the theme for more than just our cruising plans for this winter … there are unexplored places waiting for Winterlude in the Keys!