Boot Key Harbor
If ‘special places’ has a definition, for cruisers it has to include Boot Key Harbor! Boot Key is a famous Florida Keys ‘hurricane hole’ – a sheltered basin inside Vacca Key, all of which comprises the City Limits of Marathon Florida.
How can you improve a sanctuary sailors have used for eons for protection from tropical cyclones? Install mooring buoys so more boats can take advantage of the safe harbor! In a display of wisdom not often seen from a ‘City’ 226 mooring balls were installed in this natural sheltered harbor. This aerial photo (courtesy of Courtesy of Paul J. Smith, (photo link) “looking north over the harbor”) shows the rows of mooring balls & boats packed into this safe location. The balls, spaced about 75-feet apart, carefully pack-in more boats that ‘conventional anchoring’ would allow. While moored here in March 2012, Cat Inn Around’s 48-feet length never felt crowded. They are not secured with old fashion, dubious blocks of concrete; these are modern mooring balls securely anchored to the seabed with a ‘helical rock anchor’ (photo courtesy of the City of Marathon.)
In another show wisdom not usually associated with government agencies, Boot Key has an inexpensive mobile ‘pump out’ service for just $5.00 per call (free with mooring ball rental). The service is sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and was funded by the State of Florida. On designated days, the mobile pump-out boat comes to your boat and vacuums out the holding tank(s). The captain does not even have to be there. The low fee encourages cruisers to take advantage of the service helping to maintain the pristine waters in the Keys. While it is a crime, with a hefty fine, to dump raw sewerage into the specially protected waters of the Keys, the City/State’s focus on high quality low-cost service is a better deterrent and a great use of our tax dollars.
The City offers many services with the mooring ball fees including showers, laundry and Internet services at their main building. They have a courtesy ‘dingy dock’ where cruisers can park their dinks and take advantage of near-by ‘walking distance’ shopping (Publix, West Marine, K-Mart, Home Depot.) Don’t want to walk; all cab fares on Vacca Key are just $5.00 per trip. In March 2012 we purchased a one-week package for $110. Then we decided we like the place so much we purchased a monthly rental for just $330 or just $11/day. (Current rates may be different current fees link.)
The mooring balls are issued on a first come, first serve basis and the City does not allow reservations. The harbor is usually pretty full during the Winter months and starts to empty in February/March as cruisers head for the Bahamas or northern cruising grounds. They hail of VHF 16 or call them at 305-289-8877. If you have Internet access, e-mail Anne (firstname.lastname@example.org) who mans the front desk and is especially knowledgeable and helpful.
The City has a live web-cam so you can see current conditions Live Web-Cam