Friday, May 2, 2014

Cruiser Summer Camp

Did you ever go to summer camp as a child?  I used to go just about every summer that I can remember.  My parents would drop me off at Camp Shawandasse on Lake Mathis for at least a week of “roughin’ it” with other kids my age and with similar interests.  Boot Key Harbor reminds me in many ways of those hot summer days on the lake.

Jezabelle enjoying a light rain
I was so excited to get here if you remember.  Now here we are more than a month gone by, and though we are more than ready to leave… it’s only because there are new adventures on our horizon and not because we haven’t had fun… Looking back over our time here, I have difficulty remembering all the things we’ve done to fill our days.  But somehow, it always seems like we fell exhausted into our bed each evening after sundowners and dinner.

Marathon City Marina
Everyone who comes here soon falls in with the routine.  Upon arrival, each boat is given a goodie bag filled with information that Cruisers find useful.  We all go through a short orientation about where things are and what is expected of us… just like summer camp.  We are told where the showers and laundry facilities are, and issued key cards for those.  We put money on our laundry card because the machines don’t use cash…

Interesting sights at the dinghy dock
We are issued a tag for our dinghy and our bicycles so that they can be identified as ours, and our departure date is recorded on them as a way of making sure that only paying guests use these facilities.  It’s all very organized and tidy.

One of the many bicycle racks
Every morning there is a Cruiser’s “Net” on VHF channel 68.  The Net is organized by a volunteer Controller who manages the net traffic and it’s always very informative.  You can learn about the weather, make comments or ask questions, buy/sell/trade/give things away, and answer trivia questions.  The Net is where you learn about all of the things going on in and around Boot Key that would be of interest and it is an invaluable source of information and assistance.

The Pump Out Brigade
The pump out boat comes around once a week to empty our sewage holding tanks.  Our day is Thursday.  Each Thursday morning, we make sure that our deck caps are accessible and that the pump out boat has nothing in his way… or he will skip us and we will have to pay $5 for him to come back another day!  Just follow the rules, and nobody gets hurt!

Disposing of our engine oil
Everything a Cruiser could need can be found here.  If you need to change your engine or generator oil and filters… you can dispose of the waste here in the proper receptacle.  If you need propane, that’s available too, just a block away.  West Marine and several other purveyors of marine paraphernalia can also be found within walking distance.  There is a Home Depot (that carries marine goods ) and two grocery stores nearby.  

Manatee hang out beneath the dinghies
The dinghy dock is right near the showers and it is odd for us not to run into someone we know every time we pull up.  Another meeting place is the main hall.  Just like summer camp, the hall is a place where everyone can meet up for activities or just plug in their computers to use the free wi-fi.  There are TVs available with lounge chairs, which is nice… but they are only available until 5:45 each day.  There is a lending library with bookshelves lined with free books.  Take one - leave one is the rule and Bruce has found several interesting titles among the books offered there.  

SSCA Pot Luck at the Tiki
There is a tiki hut out on the water where Cruisers can meet formally or informally.  We attended one pot luck hosted by SSCA that was reportedly one of the best attended ever!  If you aren’t a member of SSCA, you should really consider it.  Although they will help non-members in need, it is nice to support this wide ranging group of Salty men and women who are always willing to lend a fellow sailor a hand.

Cruisers gather at the tiki to share information about the cruising grounds they’ve visited so that others can be better prepared.  The Harbor is also full of talented musicians and the tiki provides a venue for them to share their music with all who wish to listen.

Each evening at sunset, you will hear the sound of conchs as the sun slips below the palm lined West bank of the harbor.  If you’re lucky, there will also be bagpipes or maybe a sax or trumpet playing taps or some other melancholy tune...

Life is just so easy here.  There are no worries about weather or tides or running out of anything.  Everything you would need is right here.  After our many months of endless travel, it has been nice to just relax and regroup before moving on. But… the need to move on is calling again.  We feel time slipping away and  the need to be gone before Storm Season pushes us out of the nest.

This weekend we are making our preparations for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.  We are nervous and anxious, but the promise of the turquoise waters and blinding white beaches is growing closer.  Doing the things that prepare us for the crossing provide a distraction from our nervousness.  We’ll be topping off our fuel and water tanks, stocking up on groceries, washing all of the laundry, packing our ditch bag, clearing the decks and securing everything below that could go flying in the event of a squall…  We are plotting waypoints and reviewing anchorages and making notes…
Leaving Boot Key Harbor and Marathon brings on feelings similar to those I felt back at Summer Camp… saying goodbye to friends we’ve met and hoping to see them again, maybe next year.

Lots of Dogs on Boats Here

Crab Traps Retired
These are the culprits!

Manatee Stealing a Dinghy

We met up with so many wonderful ladies from the WWS Facebook page and their families...

McKissick Journey and LahoWind

More WWSs!

We dinghied to Sombrero Beach many times

Bait Stealing Bird

Breakfast at the American Legion

Turned into a planning meeting

The Tiki at Low Tide

SSCA Luncheons every Friday


The Old Seven Mile Bridge

Endlessly carrying water to fill the hungry tanks...

Solar Installed!

Bahia Honda Beach

Making my own tortillas...

Kayaking the wilds of Boot Key

Ahhh the Happy Hour!

Open Mic night at Dockside

Sun Dogs not just one day but two

Parrot Fish in the harbor!

Water Run at Low tide

Colorful crabs

Literally running into friends at the dinghy dock

Yes, vacuuming up fallout from a haircut

Finally it's warm enough to swim!

Cap'n Jack

My flower from Cap' jack

Taking care of regulations after being stopped by the warden

Now we're legal!

Rays and dolphin cruising through the harbor



  1. This post just oozes relaxation and tranquility.

    Best of luck on the Gulf Stream crossing.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

  2. Love your story! We launch next Thursday. Still 50 degrees here in Michigan. But we're goin in!

  3. Sounds like you're feeling better ... who wouldn't after some time there?! We can't wait to get to Boot Key Harbor, and stay a while. It looks great! Thinking of you and knowing that your passage to the Bahamas will be great!