When we arrived in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon Florida, it seemed like there would be a lot to keep us busy. Sombrero Dockside Marina nestled mid-way in the Florida Keys appears somewhat rustic, 70s style. Roy, David, and Dennis run the marina and their word is the last word. Two of the employees have boats right in the harbor either anchored or on a mooring ball. We had planned to have visits by friends and family at Sombrero—and greatly enjoyed each of those visits. Sombrero and Marathon did not disappoint us or our visitors. We have met many people and characters while here. The Keys are an experience in and of itself unlike any other.
Pidgeon Key hosted an art and craft festival including a fun Beatlemania concert. Andy will not let Lindsay forget that she couldn’t stay awake for the final Hey Jude number. During part of the event, a famous artist Robert Wyland (more commonly known as Wyland), drew his amazing marine pictures. We have been to a few of his galleries and love his art. It was really impressive to see him draw and interact with the people watching. The print was sold once he completed it with the money going to a charity. Later in the week, we used our ticket from the event to get discounts for entrance to Pigeon Key. A group from the marina loaded up dinghies and traveled to the Key. Pigeon Key was a main housing area for the men that built the original railway to Key West from the main land. Henry Flagler, being the driving force behind the creation and building the railway. The railway was developed into a roadway for cars and still in use until the early 1980’s when the new road way was opened.
We explored Boot Key which is remote and run down since the bridge to it was removed. It is hard to believe there is such a rundown area just a short distance from the busy Boot Key Harbor. We saw shacks, sunken boats, and a work-in-progress submarine.
Horizon Chaser, a boat from our marina, took us out to the reef by Sombrero Lighthouse for snorkeling where we saw barracuda, Angel Fish, Parrot Fish, and Trumpet Fish.
There are a multitude of good restaurants here—so many to choose from and so little time to experience them. One of our favorite eateries showcases Lobster Rueben, Stone Crab Claws, Raw Oysters and much more, including a fabulous view of the gulf. What more could anyone ask for?
Of course, we had to tour Key West visiting the places with dollar bills all over the walls and ceilings. Teresa wanted to visit Ernest Hemmingway’s house, so we toured that on our visit with Henry and Mary. We saw the 6-toed cats and learned much on the docent-led tour of the house and grounds. Most impressive to Teresa was the office area where Ernest Hemmingway wrote most of his material. We stopped for pictures at the southernmost point with Lindsay and Andy. When we went with Andy and Lindsay, we rode the bus there and back. Seeing all the characters that got on the bus for the journey proved to be phenomenal entertainment all by itself. Each evening we enjoyed spirited games of Up & Down the River.
Next, Bob and Vicki joined us aboard Sanctuary. We felt spoiled because they had a car; a vehicle with 4 wheels going over 15 mph. They previously stayed in their RV in Marathon visiting Herbie’s Chowder House; naturally they wanted us to try out the restaurant. We did and were not disappointed. Herbie’s has been part of the Keys dining scene since the 1940s making it the oldest operating restaurant in Marathon. We drove around a bit to find the infamous miniature Key deer found only in the Keys. One adorable creature came right up to Teresa as she held out her hand. He licked her hand allowing her to pet his small head and back. Most evenings ended in a lively game of Mexican train. We also taught all our guests at different times (Bob & Vicki, Henry & Mary, and Lindsay & Andy) the new game called Up & Down the River learned from another looper, Max, on Lazy Susan. We met Max while staying in Dunedin during the month of December. Watching nightly amazing sunsets as the harbor twinkle lights come on is always a highlight and something we look forward to witnessing.
On the way to Key West, the four of us saw Fat Albert (also known as TARS – Tethered Aerostat Radar System)—the blimp used to monitor sea and air traffic in the area. On the way back, a storm approached and the blimp was lowered down to ground level. You can see the blimp for many miles throughout the Keys. Bob & Vicki also drove us to Lobster Trap Art Gallery located in Islamorada featuring funky, eclectic, Keys variety with picture frames created from actual crab pot/lobster wooden boxes. I’d highly recommend this on your list of must-see galleries. They also featured local artist paintings and photography.
There is a great beach here (Sombrero Beach) rated high on the list of best beaches in the Keys. We’ve traveled to it by dinghy several times boasting clean, white sand with the perfect pull up for dinghies. Not many shells, but the water is oh so beautiful greenish-blue and warm. Another nice beach is Bahia Honda State park which also has an area good for snorkeling. Both beaches complete with coconut palm trees and an abundance of white sand with floating sea weed concealing a multitude of treasures.
Boot Key Harbor cruisers meet on the VHF radio every morning at 9:00 am. Many mornings we turned on the VHF to channel 68 to get local news and updates. On the net, there is news of local events, a time to ask for help, Buy-Sell-Trade or Give Away, trivia, and ends with final business. One of the mornings, a boater offered a like new inflatable kayak. We now own a bright green/neon tandem kayak we’ll use to explore some of the more remote areas on the trip! The net and gathering area at the city marina foster a wonderful sense of community for boaters here.
Manatees have visited the marina and swam right by our boat. One stopped to sample the water spray from a boat next to us. They are fun to watch, but very slow and have a face only their mother could love. Many jelly fish float around the boats. They have a magical way of twirling topside, then they spin on their side dipping lower in the water then re-surfacing again. Fascinating to watch them especially for us northerners. I am amazed at all the unfamiliar bird and wildlife present. Almost every day it seems as though we spot a different species and need to consult our bird resource pamphlet. Egrets, ibis, many types of herons, pelicans, to name a few can be spotted in the Keys and Florida. Not to mention, jellyfish, dolphins, and a wide variety of iguanas (big and small). Note: Teresa is not fond of the iguanas AT ALL (not matter how small or large)!
We are very thankful for friends and family, just being together, satisfied to enjoy one another’s company. Friends come and leave. If only for a brief period. ‘Tis a gift. It will be sad to leave this area and community of boaters. It is time for us to start moving north; we understand why some never leave. We have many more ports to visit and adventures to experience. At present, we await a part to complete an engine repair. Hopefully the part arrives as scheduled and then we plan to travel toward Key Largo starting Friday morning.
Sombrero Dockside Marina
Manatee visit –they like to play in the streams of water from boat air conditioners
Dinghy trip to explore Boot Key, kinda of scary back here…..
Scenes from Key West
Sunset at Sunset Grill
Key Deer – a naturally small deer; these are full grown
They are filming for Ford Lincoln Navigator cars in the area and one day they were filming on 7 mile bridge. The crew stages the equipment across the street from us in front of the country club. The girls were watching to see if Mathew McConaughey would be here for the event.