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 September Sea

Living Aboard

(Mooring Fields & Former Marinas)

Check It Out: Charmaine's Charmainisms (Advice & Tips)

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a chain of 1,700 islands (202 miles in length and going to within 90 miles of Cuba) extends southwestward off the tip of mainland Florida, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south; and Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to the north.  The Keys boast the only coral reef system off the North American continent, a system located on the Atlantic side, which is the third largest barrier reef in the world {following only Australia and Belize}. 

Mooring & Anchoring in Boot Key Harbor

Photo of existing mooring balls (blue) & those to be added (black) - the City of Marathon Boot Key Harbor Mooring Field.

As of April 2007 the new moorings (shown as black) east of the City Channel have been installed.

The City of Marathon Marina has all moorings charted and their latest publication shows what the new field will look like, along with existing moorings and color indicators showing the new ones to be installed [see above].  It's very simple to pick up a mooring here, if you've acquired one before season.  However, once all new moorings are in place, I'd say the long waiting lists will be a thing of the past.  They're laid out 75 feet apart, so even the not-so-seasoned sailor can easily grab one.  Approach the ball so you're heading into the wind (look to where other boats in that area are pointed) and approach as slowly as possible.  I mean SLOW.  Barely a crawl.  Decide before approaching which side of the boat you want to grab the ball from and have that understood.  The person on deck should use hand signals or verbal instructions to the helmsperson.  Most of the time people have trouble because they're going much too fast.  By the time I've lined myself up with my ball I'm usually in neutral and let the boat glide up to the ball.  How much you glide will depend on the wind or current.  When done properly you won't even have to go into reverse, but the person on deck has the responsibility to let the helmsperson know to slow down even more if needed to do so.  From neutral the ball will be grabbed and the person on deck will let the helmsperson know whether or not to proceed forward or go into reverse so he can hang onto the pennant without it trying to be snatched out of his hands.  Everything with regard to mooring balls is SLOW SLOW and SLOWER (except you want to quickly tie it off to your boat).  Then you can have your sunset cocktail!

(completed mooring field pic)

I have seen many a woman trying to lean over the bowsprit and grab a mooring ball.  Makes no sense to me, that's the highest part of a vessel.  Grab the ball with the boat hook from a position that is comfortable.  Remember that if you grab the pennant aft of the boat's bow, walk forward with it and go beneath all lifelines then tie it off.  Or, even better yet, the female should be at the helm and the male, if more physically adept, should handle grabbing and tying the mooring to the boat.  Again, be sure to go beneath all life lines and stanchions.  Thread your line through the mooring pennant loop.  Tie it off.  You can adjust later.  (Trust me, some people need to know this.)  You're sittin' pretty now!

In Boot Key Harbor beware of an area called "the flats," which is all sea grass (indicated in the above photo as "Shallow."  Throughout the Harbor there are shallower areas that many seem not to know about until they're sitting aground. I would caution any boater coming in here to definitely look at charts and give any warning buoy lots of room as the grass flats are quite shallow beyond the buoys. The controlling depth is 6 ft. (there are deeper areas as well), we draw 5'8 and have no problems... BUT we know the area very well (and before we became familiar with it, we read all the charts available).   So many people end up grounded in or near the flats.  Then, since the area is protected as its a wildlife habitat.  Fish & Wildlife have to be called in to come and assess any damage you've done.  This can be a very expensive grounding!  Just avoid the flats all together and you'll have no problems.

Boot Key Harbor seen from our mast while at Sombrero Dockside.  Taken by our son Bj Ladd.

One can also anchor outside of the mooring field.  You must stay 75 ft. away from the mooring field, 100 ft. away from developed shoreline.  If you look at the photo above the mooring field doesn't leave too much room for anchoring.  If you have a shallow draft you have many options.  It appears that most anchoring will be done in the areas not marked as "Shallow" and where no moorings balls are being installed.  That pretty much leaves the area immediately south of the channel (hard right) as you come into the Harbor after passing beneath the Boot Key Harbor Drawbridge.  Also, there is still a bit of an anchoring area directly east of the City Marina.

We spent over four years at marinas in Boot Key Harbor (see below for more about our former marina life).  Our goal, all along, was to get out of the marinas and out on our own, whether at anchor or on a mooring, or cruising.  The wait was due to broadband internet not being available unless you were connected to a land line; as we were when at our former marinas.  Verizon Wireless has high speed, broadband, Kick-Comcast's Ass - high speed internet which allows us to be aboard and work, but not have to have a land line.  So we're finally MOBILE!!  Woooo Hoooooo!

We absolutely love it out here.  The people are wonderful, which we already knew, but it's so much more quiet out here than being surrounded by tourists at marinas.  There's pretty much always a breeze out here... and when there isn't, we head outside of the Harbor and drop our anchor where we can get a breeze.  We have central air, but I haven't run it yet out here... no need so far.  We came out here as of June 1st 2006.  Wow, is it fantastic!!

More on living on anchor vs. marina life... later.

Life on a Mooring

Life on a mooring: "Grocery Shopping and the Dinghy; Fuel & other Provisions all via Bicycles."

We sold our car, our folding bicycles are aboard and now we're free as the wind to sail the horizon!

We're doing it, Mates.  Oh yeah!!

Former Residences

Sombrero Lighthouse Marina

Marathon, Florida Keys


The pool at the Resort

Our daughter Breighan stands with cherished family friend, New aka Mark (he calls us Mom and Dad).  New and Breighan are standing where we park in the lot across from our boat slip.  We absolutely love it here!  Sad for change, but getting over it quickly!  It's always so great when Breighan comes to visit.

Bill the Sweetie he is, built us a patio for our chairs and grill, right in front of our slip.  Our dock box is to the left of our comfy chairs.  These chairs are awesome.  They're very deep for sitting, and they have a pull out footrest. It's wonderful to have a big tree for shade right behind our patio.  You can see September Sea to left, showing our finger pier which makes it easy to access the boat.

September Sea nestled in her new slip.  Beautiful place.

We face east which is perfect for hurricane season.

The water you see coming out of the port side is from the central air conditioning.  Once, when we were living over at Dockside Marina, we were down below in the boat, preparing lunch, and we could feel someone had stepped aboard.  Usually, the only other person than we who live aboard, would be our son, Bj who also lived in Boot Key Harbor.  But this time, Bj was gone for a week away to the Boneroo Music Festival..  who in the hell else would have boarded our boat?

Bill goes to the companionway door and opens it... there is a young man, about 25, standing on our boat.  He's on the port side in the cockpit and he's unscrewing our hookup for dockside water.  I hear: "What the hell do you think you're doing?"  Bill never gets upset about anything, but this was serious.  The young man said that he had paid Dockside $3 so he could use water to wash his car.  He continued: "... and since you're finished using the water, you're just wasting it." (He referred to seeing all the water coming out of the side of our boat as proof that we were not only finished with the hose, but wasting (GASP) precious water.  Therefore, (in his weak mind) he was doing us a favor by taking the hose. 

Hahahaaaaaaa  Idiot.  Bill says, "Get the f#@! off my boat."

The guy continued trying to unscrew the water while protesting that it's his turn to use the hose.  Bill repeated again, this time more forcefully, what he had just (in no uncertain terms, mind you) said.  This time the guy was disgusted.  He flapped his arms in exasperation and left the cockpit.  When the guy got off our boat and was standing on the finger pier, Bill said, "Now stand there and listen." Bill then explained that a person should NEVER board a boat without the owner's permission.  He told him that if he ever needed to get someone's attention... then knock on the hull of the boat, just as you would knock on a front door of a house.  But you don't board the boat... ever.  NEVER.  NO WAY.

The guy says, "Well, in Norway we board people's boats all the time."

Bill says, 'Son, you may not have noticed that it's 95 degrees today... and you are NOT in Norway."

You can see the mangroves on the west side behind us.  Back in here we are very protected from winds from the SSE and East, as many hurricanes come from that direction.  We road out Hurricane Dennis aboard and it was no problem at all.  Winds of 80 mph were clocked and we barely moved inside the boat at all.  We used the pilings of vacant slips to spider web our lines and create a very safe haven for riding out Dennis.  We had full power until the day after Dennis, then it was off only a few hours.  Fortunately, we have our own power.  Hurricane Dennis was headed for Key West (60 miles west of Marathon where we are) and fortunately veered further west.  Damage in Marathon was minimal, mostly downed trees.  WOW we've survived yet another hurricane scare.  (Puts another notch in September Sea's belt.)  Since then, we've endured Katrina and Rita too!  You can read about our hurricane experiences during 2004 (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) and 2005 (Dennis, Emily (by proxy), Katrina, Rita. and Wilma) in our "Hurricane Chronicles."  I've just been putting together the Chronicles for the historic hurricane season of 2005, but there's plenty to read there right now to get an idea of what we experienced and our advance preparations.

Show above, our Resort's pool and poolside Tiki Bar.  They also offer a weight room and two lighted tennis courts.  I'm in heaven.  Somebody pinch me!  The Resort will be under new ownership as of August 1, 2005.  Yes, in the mix again.  Hopefully we can withstand all the renovations planned and stay here at least until we are ready to sail south.  Christiansted, St. Croix, we're coming soon!  Can't wait to meet all of Bj's good friends there.

Below, good friend Peek-a-Boo Peggy, dancing excitedly about our new digs.

Peggy (now residing in Panama), how we miss you, Darlin'.

If you'd like to see September Sea's interior click here.

Sombrero Dockside Marina

The picture below shows how close the parking area is at Sombrero Dockside in Marathon, in relationship to the docking areas. The boat slips are immediately on the other side of the wood dock walkway (where the dinghies are).  Parking for this area begins past the famous "Lizard Lounge" area of Dockside (white roof where people are sitting).  Below to right, Famous Boot Key Harbor.


Famous Boot Key Harbor

& Dockside Marina

April 1st 2005: September Sea will leave Dockside Marina Bar & Grill and relocate at nearby Sombrero Resort Marina.  We absolutely loved living at Dockside the past three years.  Sombrero Resort amenities include swimming pool, Weight Gym and Four Tennis Courts (Two lighted) and a full service Tennis Pro Shop with the friendliest pro you'll ever meet: Tim Wunderkind.

Photos from our Dockside years are located at "Friends & Family."

Update: Summer 2008 we spent four months back at Dockside Marina.  It was the good old times once again as we hooked up to shore power to beat the heat.  Dockmaster Roy McAdams, my very favorite toe-head and left-hander (well, Bill, Bj, Breighan and both grandkids and the grandkids' mothers are lefties too... so Roy is just ONE of my favorite lefties) was there to welcome us back and give us a hand docking.  How wonderful it is to be back at the famous Dockside.


Below: Our slip at Dockside as shown from up the mast.  Our son Bj (2003) climbed the mast to change out our mast light to an LED (courtesy of dear friends Marlene & Reynold of m/v Erika in Boot Key Harbor).  While Bj was up there he took the pictures shown above of Dockside Marina, Bar & Grill and the one of Boot Key Harbor, from a bird's eye view. 

The Local Wildlife: Marine Animals