Sunday, February 1, 2009

Margaritaville in Marathon

Originally posted January 27, 2009

I'm sitting here watching the sun rise in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon thinking that life really doesn't get much better than this - after all we're in the Keys, it is sunny and warm (finally), we have a bunch of cruising friends in the marina to play with, the open air bar here has live entertainment nightly, characters you usually can only read about in Travis McGee novels and cold pitchers of Key West Sunset Ale, and we are about to walk out to breakfast at the Stuffed Pig...

Tammy here...

Sorry - blogus interruptus...but I'm back. I'm sitting here again, the next day, watching the sun rise over Boot Key Harbor thinking that life is pretty great! The Stuffed Pig was a major find thanks to our friends Brett and Jill who gave us the inside Marathon scoop of their favorites places - it looks like a dive (usually our favorite places) but opens onto a backyard tiki garden with flowering trees and palms where mimosas are the rule not the exception. Although not indulging in the "pig" breakfast which we had heard so much about, I did fall victim to the "piglet" breakfast which was just a scaled back version of its bigger brother (and of course a mimosa) - thank goodness for the 2 mile walk back to the boat!

The weather was so beautiful we decided to walk to the beach for the afternoon. Friends had mentioned that it was "about" a mile and a half from the boat which we figured was no big deal even given the 4 mile walk for breakfast that morning. We have learned to be wary of words like "about" or "just over the hill" though given that we are walking not driving! But the pull of the beach was too great and Doug and I threw caution to the wind as we headed out with our beach chair backpacks full of books, lotion, beers and lunch. Finally more than 2 1/2 miles later, we came upon a beautiful little beach and promptly proceeded to pop the top on a nice cold beer as we sunk into the sand. All was good! Colleen who had been out for a bike ride joined us and the afternoon seemed to fly by. Before long it was 5:00 pm and time for the forced march back to the boat - surprisingly the walk went by quickly and soon enough we were on the cockpit of Tide Hiker enjoying drinks with our friends Norm and Vicky watching the setting sun and catching up on life since we had last seen them in Pompano. Did I mention life is good??? We are looking forward to spending some time in Marathon - hopefully we can drop the kayaks this afternoon and do some water exploring of Boot Key Harbor and the surrounding environs. And when we get back, the Dockside Lounge, with its rustic charm, salty characters and all day happy hour (today is Tuesday right??) will I'm sure call us home!!

There is so much to do and see down here in the Keys and the pace of life is really laid back and inviting as are the people - I now truly understand how people come down here and rip up their ticket home!! On the way down to Marathon, we spent a couple days exploring some of the smaller Keys. We left Rodriquez Key early one morning intent on heading into the back water channel around Lignumvitae and Shell Keys, south of Islamorada. We got to the channel after a beautiful passage on the Hawk Channel and started back toward the Bay side of the Keys - navigation was largely by sight since the sun was behind us and you could see the shallows and the mangroves on either side of us. It was truly a spectacular sight - the water showed shades of blue and green that I have rarely seen (and every color in between) with the white sand below reflected up on the surface by the sun as if you could reach down and touch it, and unfortunately in some places you could.

To say there were shallows is an understatement!! Our journey was accompanied by pelicans diving for prey and birds of so many different varieties that without knowing exactly what they were, we just enjoyed their company. Despite the charts which indicated there was enough water for us to get through this beautiful side channel, all of a sudden our depth sounder didn't agree and I always go with the depth sounder (especially when it is accompanied by the sound of the bottom of the boat crunching against sand!!) Not to worry though as we were going pretty slow at the time - intent on getting through the channel, we backed off and tried another portion of the channel only to hit bottom again! With all the N/NE winds over the past several weeks, the water levels were down by about 3 feet which was just enough to make it impassable for us. Bummer - but we had a fall-back plan (on a boat you always need one!)- we went back out the channel to Indian Key and grabbed a mooring ball.

Indian Key has a fascinating history - once owned by a wealthy wrecker from Key West, a town grew from the wrecking business complete with a post office, warehouses, town square and an observation post which looked out onto Alligator Reef (it was from here that the wreckers could see ships founder on the reef, fresh meat for the wrecker crews) - it even became the seat of newly formed Dade County back in the 1800's. A wealthy and prosperous island for a number of years, it was attacked by indians during the Seminole Wars and most of the town was burned to the ground. The owner was ruined and moved back to Key West where he died shortly thereafter crushed in a wreck he was "salvaging" and the town on Indian Key was never rebuilt. Today, Indian Key is part of the FL park service and there are walkways where the town's streets used to be and plaques discussing the remaining ruins. We spent a great day walking around the island absorbing some of its history and picturing the way things used to be!!

After another day spent goofing around, soaking up the sun on the mooring at Indian Key, and watching a beautiful sunrise

and sunset,

We had a pod of dolphins playing in our wake, including a baby who was too cute for words and we saw our first sea turtle!! Unfortunately he was too shy for a picture, but we knew we were officially getting to the little latitudes when we saw him. Shortly after our arrival in our slip at the Sombrero Dockside Marina, where Norm was there to greet us and help with the lines, we saw four manatees, again including a baby, feeding on the sea grass in a slip several down from ours. Now that is a sight - 4 sea cows pushing their snouts up through the grass as if they were grazing!! Too kewl!

I think we're going to like Marathon...a lot!!!

To see a Google Map of our location at Indian Key click here.

To see a Google Map of our location at Sombrero Marina in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon click here.

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