We aren’t supposed to still be in the Florida Keys. Oops! But of all the places to stick around for a bit, this seems like an ideal place to be. Where are we? Why are we still here? And will we ever leave?
Where are we?
We are currently in Marathon, Florida in the Middle Keys. Also known as cruiser heaven, Boot Key Harbor.
Never heard of Marathon? Neither had we. Most people know of Key West and Key Largo… but Marathon is like this little gem for liveaboard cruisers who plan to escape to the Bahamas or Cuba, or who decide to just stop cruising and live here year-round on their boat. We thought we might stay for a weekend; we’ve been here for two months.
The entire community is cruiser-focused. When you arrive to Boot Key Harbor, you check in at the City Marina and receive a free Cruisers Bag (a really nice, insulated, reusable grocery bag.) There is also a daily VHF radio Cruiser’s Net, where the net controllers welcome new boats to the harbor, say goodbye to those leaving, cruisers request or offer help with boat needs, announce upcoming activities and events, offer stuff for Buy/Sell/Trade, and the boys’ favorite: a daily dose of Trivia! When we first got here, we chuckled at this crazy idea of a daily call-in radio show… but now, we can’t wait for 9 am everyday.
The harbor has 250 mooring balls managed by the City Marina, all of which are occupied during high-season (winter/spring – i.e. non-hurricane season) with a current wait list of 45 boats (who are anchored out and waiting for someone to leave.) There are also several marinas in Marathon for those who want to live at the dock. And plenty of places to anchor out.
As is the case for all of the Keys, we have the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the island, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. There are some amazing reefs close by for snorkeling and diving. Dolphins and manatees visit the harbor regularly. And there are lots of marine-related services here in Marathon.
Most everything is within a mile of the marina… Publix, West Marine, Home Depot… and the marina offers free bike loaners for the day. Plus, you can grab a taxi for $5 to anywhere on the island. It makes it easy for me to run to the grocery store on a bike if I have just a few things I need. Or walk to the grocery store and grab a $5 cab back when I load up on beer. 🙂
Why are we still here?
You mean, other than the reasons above?
The main reasons we are still here – FRIENDS! Holy cow… we have made some great friends here. There is a HUGE homeschooling/boatschooling community here. The boys LOVE having friends to play with every. single. day. And lucky for us, Matt and I are enjoying some new friends as well.
There is a huge city community park next door to the marina with baseball fields, basketball courts, bocce ball courts, tennis courts, soccer fields, amphitheater, skate park, and playground. We just walk over and let the kids run wild.
The city, the harbor, the people – all focused on events/activities for families and/or cruisers. Some of the cool experiences we have had since we got here in December:
- Watched a turtle release! A turtle that was rescued and rehabilitated at the local Turtle Hospital (which we took a homeschool educational tour of a few weeks ago) was then released in a public ceremony at the beach. We dinghied over to the beach and watched as they released the turtle back to the ocean. So cool!
- Enjoyed several family events put on by the city or city marina, including: free outdoor Christmas double-feature movie complete with free popcorn and soda; Family Fun Fest – huge carnival-type event with free games, food, drinks; the Celtic Festival (held right next door to the marina); a Christmas party for the kids with stocking and mooring ball decorating; free homeschool P.E. class every Tuesday afternoon; and Valentine’s party for the homeschool P.E. kiddos.
- Tried out some free yoga in the park; took the boys tubing behind the dinghy; participated in some hands-free kayaking (sometimes with cocktails) with another boat mama; and enjoyed many sundowners/dinners with friends. We dinghy to the beach about once/week; and Matt has learned to fly-fish and dive for lobsters (although he has come back empty-handed thus far.) The boys even got some sailing lessons on a small, inflatable sailing cat, courtesy of our neighbors on Raven.
- And we’ve attended several homeschool field trips, including: Turtle hospital educational tour, Crane Point Nature Center and Wild Bird Sanctuary visit, Pigeon Key educational tour and snorkel, Movie outing to see Sing, and the Dolphin Research Center educational visit. Matt and another boat dad also took the boys to the Wings of Freedom tour to see vintage aircraft and the flight museum.
Will we ever leave?
I think so. haha. Right now, we are enjoying temps in the 70’s all day. The beach is a 10-minute dinghy ride away. And the boys’ boat BFFs are two boats away.
However, we are watching as cruisers are starting to leave now for the Bahamas and Cuba. So our friends will probably be on their way soon. And I’m sure it will start getting hotter soon. And we moved onto a boat so we could travel and see the world… soooo… yeah… we should start traveling. But we are really enjoying this little slice of paradise for now.
We are paid up through the end of February, so we’ll be here at least until then. There are some other islands in the Keys that we’d like to visit before we start heading north up the east coast. Or maybe we’ll change our minds and decide to head south instead. The virgin islands keep calling my name… 🙂 Either way, we will probably get stalled again. Which is okay by us… we are enjoying this slower pace of life.
Have you been stalled in paradise? Let us know where!