I will try to paint a picture of the mooring situation at Marathon City Marina. I write this for folks who have not been here and might someday.
We finally have a mooring ball in the coveted mooring field at Marathon City Marina. As you may recall we started at number 31 on the waiting list when we arrived two weeks ago. We spent the first week at Marathon Marina on on of their new slips and enjoyed our time there. The last week we spent outside the harbour to the west of Boot Key. The holding is OK out there but you are exposed to everything without East in it. Your set is affected by the tidal current and there can be slop and wake.
Prior to the city/state installing mooring balls the harbour was completely open to anchoring. They installed moorings that can accommodate 226 boats up to 60 feet. Marathon is home to transient boaters waiting for a weather window to continue their cruise either to the Bahamas or the Caribbean. It also is home to many boaters who use their boats as winter homes or permanent homes. Finally, the harbour is home to ‘liveaboards’.
You are probably thinking, just anchor and wait until a mooring comes along. At the present time the anchorages inside the harbour are pretty full. Moving into the anchorage would likely mean compromising your anchoring norms for something less than comforting. This is exacerbated by the condition of the anchor rodes etc of some of the anchored vessels. Some of the liveaboards are anchored on two hooks, some one and scopes vary.
We are liveaboards but our boat moves, is well maintained and is as safe as I can make her. Many of the liveaboard boats anchored in the remainder of the harbour are in rough shape and luckily for some are unable to move on their own. Whether by choice or necessity local folks live on these boats. Sprinkled among these anchored boats are derelict vessels sunk or simply abandoned on questionable tethers.
We were lucky. I was able to maintain my anchoring comfort zone by leaving the harbour to anchor outside. The West side of Boot Key is protected from the North to the SE. Yesterday when we finally got the call we were one of 16 boats out there, it was getting crowded. At present the waiting list is near 40 again. We were able to stay out there for almost a week because the wind stayed from the East and we had some protection.
The wind forecast for yesterday and last night was for the East winds to pipe up to 20 to 25 kts ( 37 to 46 kilometers per hour ). Boats previously relatively comfortable outside are driven to move into the harbour and drop their anchors among the previously described vessels. They wouldn’t sleep much. I however slept pretty well hanging here on S-12.
In order to get on the list for a mooring ball, one must present in person and you will be added. When you get to the top of the waiting list they will call and you have two hours to respond to take the ball. In our case yesterday we were number two on the list but number one was unavailable, either they moved on or died waiting…
While on the waiting list if you pay almost the same amount as for a mooring, you can use the facilities; tie up your dinghy, dump trash, shower, laundry etc…
Adding to the frustration of being on a stagnant waiting list, vacant balls appear to be available. The marina protects moorings legitimately paid for by boaters should they go for a sail or leave temporarily. For example we could pay for a mooring for a month stay for 16 days and leave without checking out. That ball would lay vacant and unavailable until our booking ends.
The policies and procedures they use have evolved and appear to work in their eyes. But there are vacant moorings and there are boats some with small children and ‘older people’ in risky anchorages waiting…