Conch Life in the Florida Keys
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Boot Key Harbor Bridge
~ Boot Key Harbor Bridge ~
Re Metau - Conch Life in the Florida KeysInto the Ring
March 2009

Based on all the cruisers who had gone before, Boot Key Harbor sounded like the greatest place on earth. We were on a quest to uncover this miraculous location for ourselves. In the morning light, we motored up the conspicuously heralded channel, nine markers in less than a nautical mile - NICE. Even though the channel seemed only slightly narrower than the space between the mangroves to the south and the coast to the north, it was comforting; a far cry from the anxious searching for some sign in the far off distance that we’d experienced in the past.

The bridge tender responded to Don’s radioed request for an opening, assuring us that he’d watch for our approach. I became a little anxious as our 45’ mast neared the 24’ high steel structure. Did he go for a coffee break I wondered? Or worse yet did nature call in an abrupt and uncomfortable manner? Just when I was about to become completely unnerved, voila! The cantilevered section opened. We waved a thank you and the tender saluted us with his coffee mug.

Once admitted, we gazed into an enchanted forest of masts. This must be the place! We’d previously inquired about hooking onto a mooring ball, but it was a full house in the field. Incredibly, the harbor still allowed anchorage so we threaded Re Metau in with the other boats and set the Bruce. Coming from Key West where the anchored vessels were always catawampus, it took some time before we were assured this was not going to occur here. Like a perfectly choreographed troupe, all 300 plus boats in the harbor pirouetted in the same direction. It was an amazing sight to behold.

Boot Key Harbor Live Webcam


We turned on the VHF to catch the morning cruisers net, and were thus welcomed into the Boot Key Harbor band of boaters. Farewells and good wishes were sent to those who were departing, announcements were made, and then the airwaves were opened for questions. Help was requested and assistance was offered in rapid-fire succession. Next was the buy, sell, trade segment and goods of all manner were hawked at bilge bargain prices. The net was concluded with a trivia session, and a fair amount of clowning around kept every listener in good humor.

It was time to get the show on the road. We hopped into Dinky Duck and crossed over to the marina to find out more about this marvelous place. Oh, such joy we felt to encounter first-rate dinghy docks! A land dweller might ask what made them so special. They were long with cleats every four feet, so there was no need to juggle for room to tie up. In Key West the dinks were sometimes three deep at the dock and scrambling over them made one feel like a trained seal balancing on rubber balls.

Racing Pigs
~ Racing Pigs ~
The Boot Key Harbor docks were organized, hard tenders to the left, soft tenders to the right. They were wide, allowing for transport of goods from shore via the provided carts. They were floating docks, making it easy to disembark. Many a place required daring acrobatic maneuvers over barnacle covered apparatuses, concluding with an aerialist drop into the tender at low tide. And last, but certainly not least, a hose for drinking water was suspended from a nearby wharf, allowing one to fill the jerry jugs right from the dinghy. Performing the ‘Amazing Hercules Strongman’ act was not needed here.

We discovered everyone at the marina was charming and friendly, and most everything a seafarer needed was there; laundry, hot showers, and mail – oh my! There was a club house filled with a lending library, maps, and fliers for every service fathomable. There were other luxuries as well, free Wifi, TVs, videos, microwaves, ice, and an ATM. A Tiki hut, picnic tables, and a grill stood on the shore. Recycling bins, used oil reclamation containers, bike racks and free parking were provided, and once a week a propane truck appeared to conveniently fill up our cooking tanks. We were enthralled with all the facilities.

We inquired about a good place for chow, and were directed to The Stuffed Pig, a small local café just across the street. Here, we chanced upon an event that topped off our initiation to this magical place. It was apparently National Pig Day and we’d arrived for the restaurant’s 25th anniversary, celebrated with an unusual and delightful Pig Racing spectacle. There, on the back lot of the establishment, was a small oval track lined with bleachers. Five potbelly pigs, with names like Rolling Thunder, Tyrone the Terrible, and One-Hung-Too-Low waddled toward the finish line to the cheers of the pig rooting spectators. With the ballyhoo of a NASCAR Heat, the entertaining emcee provided a play by play account of each swine’s competitive strategy, interspersed with porcine puns. It was truly hysterical.

The phenomena of the attraction to this extraordinary place was thus revealed. From the perspective of a cruiser, we had to agree that Boot Key Harbor was captivating, so much so that we decided to remain for a bit. The whimsical island fun and the cruiser pleasing accommodations of the harbor made us believe that this was, truly one of the greatest places on earth.

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 “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” ~ e.e. cummings