A Travellerspoint blog

February 2004

Swimming and Sunsets - The Marathon Winter - Part 2

February


View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & 2003-2004 Winter in Marathon & 2003-2004 Marathon Winter & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

Map of our Day Trips from Marathon

Map of our Day Trips from Marathon

Monday, Feb 2nd (GroundHog Day)

We took the boat out to Sombrero Key Light and
Leaving the marina

Leaving the marina


picked up a mooring.
Approaching a mooring ball

Approaching a mooring ball


Sombrero Light is located roughly five miles south of the eastern end of the 7-mile bridge near Marathon. Sombrero Light is a weather station for NOAA. You can check the weather observations at Sombrero Key. It is only possible to visit by boat and it is not open to the public. The lighthouse has a number of moorings for dive boats or private boats. Sombrero Key itself no longer exists as it has succumbed to erosion. Under fun facts, one of the websites on the lighthouse says: "The keepers of Sombrero Key Reef Light have had more accidents than any other lighthouse in Florida." At least four former keepers drowned at the reef. That doesn't sound to me like it was such fun.
Sombrero lighthouse

Sombrero lighthouse


When I looked up the Sombrero Key lighthouse, I found it was constructed by George Meade. General George Meade is mostly known for his service during the Civil War. But first he had a lengthy career as an engineer. In 1854, the Lighthouse Board contracted with George Gordon Meade to build a lighthouse halfway between the Sand Key and Carysfort lighthouses. Since General Meade had built those two lighthouses, he was given the task of locating the site for the new lighthouse. He recommended several different styles of lighthouses to be built at this point including masonry, an iron structure with a masonry foundation and a completely iron structure. The first two structures proved to be too costly. The US lighthouses site says: "Meade had also suggested that the lighthouse be componentized. That way it could be built on shore to make sure all the pieces fit together, then disassembled and taken to the site where it would be put back together. The one thing that wasn't too well know was the effect of seawater on iron. Would it cause it to rust? The English had been conducting a test regarding this matter and had found that a process of galvanizing iron had protected the iron from seawater for over 15 years with no evidence of corrosion. Meade had lined up a company in Philadelphia to have the galvanizing work done." After the work began, a hurricane on August 29, 1856, destroyed the works at Coffins Patches (which was another name for the site), but the next year, Meade started again. He used 12-inch galvanized iron piles, which he sank 10 feet into the coral rock. He estimated that these piles should last 200 years before eroding to the point where structural integrity might be compromised. The lighthouse was first lighted on March 17, 1858. To distinguish this light from the flashing lights at Carysfort and Sand Key, the Sombrero Key Lighthouse contained a fixed first-order lens made by the firm of L. Sautter et Co.. This original lens was removed in 1982 and placed on display at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.

The Sombrero Key Lighthouse is the tallest reef light in the Florida Keys and the last one built by George Gordon Meade. Meade had estimated the cost at $118,405.60, but due to the damage caused by the hurricane, the actual cost had come to $153,158.81. This was one of the few lighthouses along the Florida coast which remained lighted throughout the Civil War. In the 1880's red sectors were added to the lantern to provide a red light over the most dangerous sections of the reef. In 1912, the kerosene wick-lamp was replaced with an incandescent oil vapor (IOV) lamp. The 160-foot tower has a focal plane of 142 feet above sea level - flashing a light five times every 60 seconds that can be seen 15 miles at sea. The current optic is a solar-powered (VRB 25), installed in 1997. There are two platforms on the light (which are not open to the public) which offered various accommodations. The lower one, 15' above sea level, was for storage, a workshop and a hoisted launch and lifeboat. The second platform, 40' above sea level, contained living quarters. A cast-iron cylinder leads from the living quarters to the lantern room to provide keepers with protected access. There was no room for families at this lighthouse - just the lighthouse keeper and his assistants.Hurricane Donna struck the lighthouse with 200 mile per hour winds. In 1960 the light was automated. This meant that keepers no longer had to stay at the light. Only one boat was kept at the light, and at least one of the keepers drowned.A model of this lighthouse (also labeled "Lighthouse at Coffin’s Patches,") is also on display at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.
Sombrero lighthouse

Sombrero lighthouse


I dove down to see whether the prop had a lot of growth on it and whether the zincs (zincs protect the prop from electrolysis in the sea water). were still in good shape. The prop looked OK but the water was so cold that I couldn't stay in there very long (I didn't wear a wetsuit because I wanted to be able to get down to the prop and the wetsuit would make me too buoyant without a weight belt and I didn't want to wear a weight belt without scuba tanks, and I thought it was too much trouble to use the tanks just to see the prop). Anyway, there was a lot of wind and current, and I was soon ready to get back on the boat.
Someone dinghying into Boot Key harbor

Someone dinghying into Boot Key harbor

Coming back to the marina

Coming back to the marina

Returning to our slip

Returning to our slip


Bob wanted to turn the boat around in the slip so he could wash and use penetrol on the other side. But it was too windy for that, so we just went in bow first like we had been. Both of us were pretty tired by then.

February car rental

February 3, Tuesday Bob rode his bike out to the airport to pick up the rental car, and I rode my bike over to Burdines.
Burdines bait sales area

Burdines bait sales area


Unlike Key West or the other communities along the Florida keys, Marathon is a city but it is not also the name of the key that it is on. (Marathon was named by one of Flagler's railroad builders who said that building the railroad was 'a Marathon'). The two main keys in the Marathon area are Vaca Key and Boot Key. The people and buildings are on Vaca Key.

Boot Key is mainly a dense mangrove swamp. If you know anything about mangroves, you know that it is impossible to get through a thicket of them. Since the mangrove areas are protected, they can't be cut down and the land can't be filled and built upon. So Boot Key is a privately owned wilderness. It has one road which goes out to Radio Marti, and then to the end of the key towards Sister's Creek.
Unused road

Unused road


After Bob got the car, I asked him to drive out to Boot Key to see what was out there. The answer is - nothing is out there, just like on the maps and charts. We saw an iguana sunning himself on the road,
Iguana

Iguana

You Looking At Me?

You Looking At Me?

Tandem bike

Tandem bike


It's a good place to bike as there is no traffic.
Road back to the bridge

Road back to the bridge


The only way to get to the Key is via a drawbridge. The drawbridge is over one of the inlets to the Boot Key Harbor. I got out on the bridge
Burdine's Marina from the bridge

Burdine's Marina from the bridge

From the bridge

From the bridge

Boot Key Harbor moorings

Boot Key Harbor moorings

Moored boats

Moored boats


and talked to the bridge tender a bit. According to a conversation I had with him, the bridge is required by the Coast Guard to be manned 24 hours because it is part of the ICW (and possibly also because Radio Marti is in operation 24/7). But normally it is only opened for boat traffic from 6 am to 10 pm. Unlike many other Florida bridges, it opens on demand. There is so little vehicular traffic on the bridge that there's never anyone to hold up for the opening. {The drawbridge appears to be gone now so there is no longer a way to get out to Boot Key except by boat}
Bridge tender

Bridge tender

Looking through the bridge

Looking through the bridge

Burdines Marina from the bridge

Burdines Marina from the bridge

End of the bridge

End of the bridge


That night, we drove out to MM 48.5 Faro Blanco Bayside 1996 Overseas Highway. Faro Blanco has two locations - one Oceanside and one Bayside. Faro Blanco sign

Faro Blanco sign


Faro Blanco Oceanside sign

Faro Blanco Oceanside sign


They were in flux at the moment. Their oceanside restaurant has closed, and so has Kelsey's which was the former fine dining restaurant on the Bayside. The only thing left is the Angler's Grill, which is upstairs over what used to be Kelsey's. We drove over to that side to see what was there, but did not go in or eat there.

So we ate at Burdines Chiki Tiki Bar and Grill, The hamburgers are nice and big but we were eaten alive by no-see-ums because there wasn't any breeze.
Boat passing Burdine's

Boat passing Burdine's

Sunset from Burdine's

Sunset from Burdine's


They supplied repellent, and I went and sat under the fan. Bob hated it.

Wednesday Feb 4th

We went down to Key West to go to the commissary (which is not open Sunday or Monday). Afterwards we went to the Navy Base
Part of a range on the Navy base

Part of a range on the Navy base


at Truman annex,
Playground on the Navy Base Annex

Playground on the Navy Base Annex


and ate lunch at the snack bar there, and I had a swim on the beach.
Ships off the beach

Ships off the beach


The beach is between the Southernmost Point and Fort Taylor.
Beach looking toward Ft Taylor

Beach looking toward Ft Taylor

Beach looking north

Beach looking north


There are bathrooms at the snack bar, but they assume that you are going to be using an RV to change clothes in to swim (this is one the overflow sites from the big RV park at Sigsbee) so there are minimal showers.

We had dinner at the Cracked Conch Cafe.
Cracked Conch Cafe

Cracked Conch Cafe


Conch is usually called cracked conch, not just conch for some reason. Since Bob got so sick in Chub Cay from eating conch, he's avoided anything with Conch in the name like the plague.
Conch tiles in the steps

Conch tiles in the steps


However, I was interested in this place (the Chamber of Commerce meetings are here) and persuaded him to go one night. I had
conch chowder

conch chowder


Pizza

Pizza


which was very good. I think Bob had a hamburger. The total with tip was $27.50

Their website says
"We use only the freshest seafood and finest ingredients. Start out your meal with our legendary Conch Chowder. Try some of our truly Conch Specialties - Conch Parmesan, Conch Joseph or our Cracked Conch Platter. Our Grouper & Dolphin are fresh from local waters. For the landlubbers, we offer Choice New York Strip Steak, Filet, Ribs and Chicken. And, on a lighter note, sandwiches and salads are always available."

Thursday February 5th

I had intended to go out to Pigeon Key, and have dinner at the Hidden Cafe on Grassy Key. But the Cafe didn't have any early bird reservation slots left, and Pigeon Key is completely closed this week for the art festival. They closed Pigeon Key from Thursday through Monday. Anyone who came on the old bridge other than via the shuttle or who wasn't an exhibitor or worker at the festival WILL BE ARRESTED. The Foundation feels that this is a very successful event, but I was just really annoyed.

So instead, Bob dropped me at Sombrero Beach,
Friends sitting on the beach

Friends sitting on the beach


and I went swimming.
Seagulls

Seagulls

Seagulls by Palm trees

Seagulls by Palm trees


Not very many people outside of the local community know about Sombrero Beach, which is one of the best beaches in the Keys (possibly Bahia Honda being better). It is free, and dog friendly (bags provided). Sombrero Beach has lots of interesting little decorative details in the construction.
Bench

Bench

Bird tracks in the concrete

Bird tracks in the concrete

Turtle imprints

Turtle imprints

Seashell Imprints in the concrete

Seashell Imprints in the concrete

Crab imprint on the sidewalk

Crab imprint on the sidewalk


Activities include swimming (no lifeguard but a buoyed line along the beach), and snorkeling Also there is a small playground.
Playground next to Sombrero Beach

Playground next to Sombrero Beach


There is an outdoor shower, water fountains, shaded picnic tables. and rest rooms which are handicapped accessible.
Child chasing a seagull

Child chasing a seagull

Leaving Sombrero Beach

Leaving Sombrero Beach


We had dinner at Herbie's MM 50.5 Bayside - Since 1972 - Herbies has 3 entrances - one on each side and one in the middle. Apparently if you get there 'late' (i.e. after 6) you have to stand in line in some kind of rotta. We walked in the south entrance where there were large picnic tables, and were put at the end of one of them with another party. The central area has barstools. Herbies does not take credit cards or checks. CASH ONLY. So I don't have a ticket to tell me what we ate, and I can't find the pictures of it either. But the whole thing with tip was $30.00. I think I had chicken strips and yellow rice which was a special for about $14.00. And we both had dessert.
Herbies

Herbies


Their advertisement says:
"Today at Herbie's, we offer you some of the same great food that was served back in 1972, when this was just a lazy spot for locals. Once only a raw bar where a cold beer could be had, we have gathered momentum and have become a place for everyone. Now a full-service restaurant, in the heart of the Florida , we offer you a menu of many choices, allowing you to get your wish at lunch or dinner."

Friday February 6th
8c017660-0b40-11ea-b834-b95f689d86b6.jpgSunset from our boat - Feb 6th

Sunset from our boat - Feb 6th


It was too hot to do anything so Bob pulled the boat away from the pier and washed the other side.

Then we had a Full Moon party here in the marina. It was a pot luck - lots of food
Lighted Umbrella

Lighted Umbrella

fImage006.jpgFull moon party

Full moon party

large_8363f500-0b40-11ea-b834-b95f689d86b6.jpgBlack cat on a boat in the marina as we were walking back to our boat

Black cat on a boat in the marina as we were walking back to our boat


Saturday February 7th

In the morning we could watch the moon set over Knight Key.
Moonset

Moonset


After Bob gets a few spots that he missed when he did the boat, we went to the Big Pine Flea Market again. On the way I got a photo of Fat Albert.
Fat Albert overhead

Fat Albert overhead


Look up and you can probably spot the radar blimp over Cudjoe Key affectionately known as Fat Albert. There are actually two of them, and they take turns guarding the Keys from 1400 feet up. Fat Albert can be seen from miles away in either direction.
Big Pine Flea Market

Big Pine Flea Market

The Knife Guy

The Knife Guy


Garden shop

Garden shop


We went to a garden shop on Big Pine and bought a plant for our daughter in Miiami
Plant we bought

Plant we bought


For lunch we went to Coco's Kitchen.
Coco's Kitchen sign from inside

Coco's Kitchen sign from inside


This restaurant in the shopping center serves breakfast (7:30-11:30am), lunch and dinner (11:30-7:30pm) Tuesday through Saturday. Their sign says a part of Key's History since 1969.
Two sides of the mural - God up on high on the left, and Coco's beach hut on the right

Two sides of the mural - God up on high on the left, and Coco's beach hut on the right


There is a mural on one wall which shows God up in one corner, a palm tree and a little beach hut labeled "Coco's". They have different Dinner specials for $6.50 every day.
-Monday is Cook's Choice
-Tuesday - Ropa Vieja, Shredded beef in tomato sauce with beans
-Wednesday - Taco platter - 3 tacos, 1 burrito, 1 quesadilla - regular or vegetarian
-Thursday - Chicken Fricassee
-Friday - BBQ Spare Ribs with beans
-Saturday - Cuban Style Roast Pork
We were there for lunch, and I had fried plantains.
Fried Plantains

Fried Plantains


Afterward I took photos of some chickens in the parking lot.
Hen and chicks in the parking lot

Hen and chicks in the parking lot


Then we went to the other site in the Key Deer Refuge.
National Key Deer Refuge sign

National Key Deer Refuge sign

National Key Deer Refuge map

National Key Deer Refuge map


The Key deer are the smallest of the 28 subspecies of Virginia white-tailed deer. Bucks range from 28-32" at the shoulder and weigh an average of 80 lbs. Does stand 24-28" at the shoulder and weigh an average of 65 lbs. They are found only in the lower Florida Keys - they were isolated by glaciers about 4,000 years ago. In 1957, the deer population was only 27 deer. Now they have rebounded and there about 800 deer, mostly on Big Pine. Currently, illegal roadside feeding contributes to road kills which account for 70 percent of the annual mortality.
Key Deer (far away)

Key Deer (far away)


When we drove out to No Name Key we actually did see a Key Deer in the flesh. Unfortunately my camera battery was running low, and I did not get a better picture. I know you can't see the deer in this pictures although it is a good picture of the road. The car ahead had stopped and was taking movies or video tape of the deer

We ate dinner on the Wreck Galley Grill out on Grassy Key because I hadn't made a reservation soon enough to eat at the Hide Away Cafe. The food was more ample, and the place was less pretentious.
Wreck Gallery Grille sign from the highway

Wreck Gallery Grille sign from the highway


Wreck Gallery Grille sign from inside the restaurant

Wreck Gallery Grille sign from inside the restaurant

Inside the Wreck Gallery Grille

Inside the Wreck Gallery Grille


I had an excellent
Prime rib

Prime rib


that was the Saturday special and Bob had an enormous
Shrimp Caesar salad

Shrimp Caesar salad


Waiter's photo of us at the Wreck Gallery Grille

Waiter's photo of us at the Wreck Gallery Grille

Lawn flamingos at the Wreck Gallery Grille

Lawn flamingos at the Wreck Gallery Grille


Sunday February 9th

We finally had dinner at the Rainbow Bend Resort's Hide Away Cafe Early Bird. We thought our friend worked there, but he had actually switched and was working at the Wreck Galley Grill. This is a very fancy, very expensive restaurant. The restaurant is at the back of the resort and upstairs. You have to park on the highway and walk in. They advertise that the only thing they overlook is the ocean.
View from Hide-Away Cafe

View from Hide-Away Cafe


Waiter statue that holds a menu

Waiter statue that holds a menu


Their specialties are meat dishes - beef, lamb, veal, duck and chicken. They do have seafood, but their meat is better.
Bob across the table from me

Bob across the table from me


If you make reservations, and are seated before 6 pm, they will let you order off of the "Early Bird" menu. This menu is half the food and is less expensive. For instance, I had the duck, (Hideaway's famous Whole Duck $25.95) and my portion of duck was a half duck instead of a whole duck.
Twice baked duck

Twice baked duck


My vegetables (mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus)

My vegetables (mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus)


Bob had
Tiny Surf and Turf Grilled jumbo shrimp and petit filet mignon $24.95

Tiny Surf and Turf Grilled jumbo shrimp and petit filet mignon $24.95


and his portion of steak was tiny and he had one shrimp. The deserts were not half price. Bob got
Bananas a la Hideaway $5.95

Bananas a la Hideaway $5.95


and I had Creme Brulee.
Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee


Beach at night

Beach at night

Looking back at the Hideaway Cafe sign at night

Looking back at the Hideaway Cafe sign at night

Rainbow's End sign at night

Rainbow's End sign at night



End of February Rental Car

11 February 2004
Wading bird at sunset

Wading bird at sunset


A big evening activity around here is to sit in some spot where you can watch the sun set with a sundowner (a drink). Some of the people here who do this on a regular basis say they have seen the 'green flash' several times.

The green flash can range from non-existent to spectacular depending on the atmosphere. In "standard" atmosphere it will be small and appear right at the horizon. If there is a temperature inversion it may look like a small flash just above the horizon. If you watch as the lower limb approaches the horizon you can sometimes predict the flash. If the sun forms "feet" as it gets close to the horizon watch for a green oval flash just above the horizon about 4 minutes later..

A high pressure system settling in over southeast with a combination of crisp clear skies and winds in the teens are have optimum conditions. The best sky and wind combination is crisp clear sky w/ very small % cloud cover (few IF any/ few better/ none optimal) and winds out of E in the mid-upper teens ..... the majority of green flashes are Oct-Dec. Conditions necessary to see the Green Flash are the "blaring ball" sunsets, clear crisp skies few if any clouds anywhere on horizon/winds east in mid-upper teens Viewing from Hawk Channel & not the gulf...

Explanation: Just as the upper limb of the sun drops below the horizon the acute angle of sunset the atmosphere acts as a prism breaking the light into a spectrum. The blues and violets get absorbed so green is the last color visible.

And even if you don't see the green flash, you usually get to watch a wonderful sunset.
11 February - Wading Bird at sunset from our boat

11 February - Wading Bird at sunset from our boat

Sunset - not the kind of sky for a Green Flash

Sunset - not the kind of sky for a Green Flash


I finally saw a manatee in the marina and could take some pictures.
large_e6d2ed60-0bc4-11ea-a651-f7bcf59efd36.jpglarge_e4152cf0-0bc4-11ea-a651-f7bcf59efd36.jpglarge_e4e9e210-0bc4-11ea-a651-f7bcf59efd36.jpglarge_e7ade410-0bc4-11ea-be59-dd4330e1556a.jpglarge_e631f270-0bc4-11ea-a651-f7bcf59efd36.jpglarge_00309532298720110308183248412.jpg
We also saw a pod of dolphins (including some that looked like babies-if you look at the photos you can sometimes see a tiny fin next to the big one) herding fish out in the flats off the stern of our boat.
large_3a1f6e70-0bc6-11ea-a681-0dd21d8c9c20.jpglarge_38d33f60-0bc6-11ea-be59-dd4330e1556a.jpglarge_395b0d00-0bc6-11ea-be59-dd4330e1556a.jpglarge_Image013-001.jpglarge_38747d90-0bc6-11ea-be59-dd4330e1556a.jpg
A couple who have a CSY 33 picked us up at the marina and took us to see their boat, and we all had dinner at Burdines afterwards.
Burdine's fountain

Burdine's fountain


This time the no-see-ums were not in evidence. We ate under cover instead of out on deck.
large_ccdc8110-0d71-11ea-8a9a-73138e1161ae.jpg

Marathon Marina Shenanigans

RosalieAnn at the Marathon Marina

RosalieAnn at the Marathon Marina


We decided to stay here for the winter because the marina was easy to get to and had space. They have a gas dock (the first one on the left as you go in Boot Key channel). Be aware that the price on the sign does NOT include the 7.5% Florida tax.

They are quite *** about including the bowsprit and dinghy davits in the length you pay for, even though it makes no difference -it is the same length slip in any case.They forbid the use of fenders on the wooden finger piers (on the pilings is OK).

They require a deposit of $150 for utilities - Electric is 10 cents/kwh and water is 3 cents a gallon and there is a minimum monthly charge for both water and electric. There is no way to check whether you are being overcharged (and we were) because they have the meters are hidden and are read by electronic device and there is no way to see what they find. Their new docks have phone connections at each. There is an expensive new restaurant. There's no dinghy dock, nor does there seem to be a free dock available for people that want to eat at the restaurant. They do not keep restaurant patrons from parking in the marina lot, and if we find no parking, and park in the commercial boat lot, the owner will have the car ticketed and towed.

There is now also a grudgingly offered internet connection in the store. The pay phones only work intermittently with PocketMail. They say that they will not forward mail after you leave.

Hot water for the showers on the west dockside go cold when washers are filling or toilets are flushed. The east side is separate so it's better to shower over there - all the washers are on the west side. The washers are open 24 hours a day for anyone to use - you do not have to have a slip at the marina. The washers are $2.00 each except for the big industrial one which is $3.50. This sometimes means there are no washers available because they are being used by local town folks because they are cheaper than the local laundromat.

They charged my credit card for the full December month's rental in October including $150 utility deposit when we weren't getting there until the middle of December. Sometime in the middle of February, we found out that while they pro-rate a part of a month when you come (the end of a month) by the day based on the monthly rate, they pro-rate a part of the month when you leave (the beginning of a month) by the weekly and daily rate. The bottom line for this is that we will get no refund for the end of March because the monthly rate for the whole month is less than the weekly rate for two weeks plus 1 or 2 days. These fiscal policies which seem designed to get the maximum amount of money for the minimum service are the reason we will not go back, even though the marina is clean and the workers are efficient and cheerful.

If the weather is bad, and you want to wait a bit to check out to see if the weather will get better, they will not extend the 10:00 checkout time past 11:00 and which time you have to pay for another day. This was not an issue for us, but Bob thinks it is practically criminal, especially as in the case I am thinking of the slip was empty for the following week so they didn't need the slip.

They do not tell you that if you get more than 2 pumpouts a month, the extra ones are $20.00 each. Pumpouts are done only on Thursday. This was also not an issue for us as we've just put in a larger holding tank, but some other people had greater charges than they needed to have.

Bob is pissed. He is talking about not going south next year and even selling the boat. I don't think he really wants to sell the boat, but I'm thinking that there's lots of places that we could go that we can't get to on the boat very easily.

Not going last year saved us an enormous amount of money, but I don't know that I want to save an enormous amount of money

For the month of March, see The Stressful Spring of 2004

Posted by greatgrandmaR 13:36 Archived in USA Comments (12)