11 February 2010
I earlier described the three passages along the Keys; the ICW or inside route, the Hawk Channel outside but inside the reef and the Atlantic route. We intend to take the Hawk Channel the short 26miles from Lignumvitae Key to Marathon.
I've run quite a few Marathons in my humble but long, long distance running career; not as many as some of my esteemed colleagues like Steve Scott, Mike Stapenhurst, Terry Haines, Paul Lavoie, Tony Tremblay and others but enough that my knees, hips and ankles are now revolting from the terrible punishment of those events. Today, we go to a much more leisurely and painless Marathon.
The trip down the channel is easy, warm and pleasant. We try to sail but the winds are too light so we putter along, dodging the lobster traps; far fewer than in Maine but plentiful enough that you cannot take your eyes off the waters ahead.
There are quite a few boats out today but this so-called "Hawk Channel" is wide and there's lots of room. It seems a bit of a misnomer to call it a channel because to the south east, you cannot see any land but there is a reef (supposedly the third longest in the world) which lurks just below the surface on an approximate parallel path with the keys.
We swing into Marathon early afternoon and wend our way through a huge harbour and call the Municipal Marina hoping to get a mooring. There are 260 municipally owned and controlled moorings and many additional boats at anchor. Also there are several large marinas. In all there are probably 500 boats in this harbour. We are told, not unexpectedly that the moorings are all taken (in fact there's a waiting list of about 20), but that there is one dock space available which we eagerly take. We tie up alongside which is right in front of the Marina building and office. No sooner do we tie up that we entertain a steady stream of folks, many of whom we have met, or recognize our boat name, or are curious about where we came from or..... It fun but it's clear we'll have no privacy here. We register and it's a very efficient and welcoming place. They give you an extensive cruiser kit with lots of information and a very nice insulated bag. We're not thrilled to pay $2.25 per foot per night US, power extra but this harbour is a bit overwhelming and we need to get our bearings before figuring out where else to go.
It's calm and quiet tied up alongside but the marina lights and steady stream of cruisers heading back to their boats is a bit disruptive. But, we're not complaining and we meet lots of folks. One great reunion is with Tom and Lisa, former owners of Sea Sharp (then Blown Away). They hail from Mystic Ct, where we took delivery of Sea Sharp in 2004. We've kept in contact with them over the years and they've given us lots of good advice in our cruise down the Keys.
Marathon is a cruiser's Mecca. Many of the folks come here for the entire winter, pick up a mooring and don't leave until spring. It's got everything a cruiser could ask for including many events like softball, Yoga, lectures, pot lucks, a cruiser's web, inexpensive restaurants and every type of store and marine service imaginable. We don't like spending the equivalent of $100 Canadian for a tie up but we'll figure out what to do tomorrow....... Or the next day.
Besides the attraction of this place and the inertia that it instils in cruisers, there are many boats caught here because of the poor weather conditions for crossing to Bahamas. This is one of the places which cruisers congregate to wait for that elusive "window" which provides the right conditions for the potentially dangerous passage to the Bahamas. The weather has been so fraught with fronts and northerlies that many folks are stuck here, and with more coming in the prospects of available moorings is dim.
Anyway, we spend two days and nights in the Marina, talking to lots of folks, borrowing bikes to drive to he grocery store, going for runs and of course, Judy taking Chopin for great walks. It is much different from the very private and quiet anchorages we experienced coming down the Keys but not at all unpleasant. This in contrast to the physically and mentally deleterious effects of the other Marathon, the 26.2 mile run where you invariable "hit the wall".