A sunrise over Boot Key Harbor begins the day and this tale. Marathon is a city in the Florida Keys comprised of multiple islands. Between the largest, Vaca, and the least populated, Boot, lies Boot Key Harbor, one of the most protected harbors in the Keys. The City of Marathon operates a marina there, with over 200 moorings, a few dock spaces, and good shoreside facilities. The high prices of marinas in the Keys, combined with a location in the center of the chain of islands, makes the Marathon moorings quite attractive. And, as a town and community, Marathon has much to offer - restaurants, many boat parts and services vendors, a wide variety of retail including Publix, library, parks, beaches, and a bus to Key West.
The scuttlebutt among the boaters was that one restaurant that should not be missed was the Pig. Actually, its name is The Stuffed Pig, but it would be hard to tell as there are no readable signs so stating on the outside of the restaurant. The only visible sign lights up when they are open and promises cold beer at 5 am, which appeared to be their attraction. So wrong. It's the food, particularly breakfast.
A multi-page breakfast menu with a wide variety of traditional breakfast entries would entice but, there is so much more to this plain-appearing building with a dark, diner-type room in front.
Behind The Stuffed Pig, on the Florida Bay, is the Keys Fisheries - 1000s of crab and lobster traps, commercial fish fleet docks, fish processing plant . . . and a restaurant.
A neat upstairs bar with raw oysters and stone crab claws, and a fish market/open-air restaurant with picnic tables on a large concrete dock create a unique eating experience. Just two of many great food experiences in Marathon.
The Florida Keys inspire a laid-back attitude among the residents and, reportedly, the visitors if they stay too long. An example along US 1 is the road sign for a trailer park. Still operating, spaces all filled, the owners haven't gotten around to repainting their "Trailerama" sign since it was erected in the 1950s. This ultra laidbackness is often termed "Keys Disease" and is why some visitors never return home.
The unmistakable, loud Aaawk of a Great Blue Heron sounded outside the boat. Then, a white bird flew by. Egrets have a much different voice and use it rarely. Was this bird confused or imitating, like a Mockingbird?
Neither. It was a Great White Heron, a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron that only lives in the Florida Keys. There is even a National Wildlife Refuge named after the Great White Heron, located not far from Marathon.
The Turtle Hospital receives injured and diseased turtles. They treat and rehabilitate them in hopes that they will gain sufficient health and strength to be released into the wild.
Rocky, a Green Sea Turtle, suffered a blocked digestive tract from eating shellfish due to the overfishing of the preferred lobster and crab. Treatment was successful. Rocky was released at Islamorada the week after these photos were taken.
Other turtles are so badly injured that they cannot survive in the wild. They become permanent residents of the Turtle Hospital, living in the large pool first built at the motel to house turtles. A continuous display of live turtles provides an education and attraction draw to encourage visitors to take a paid tour, which helps fund the operational expenses.
Friends and Family
Marathon has a huge boating community, increasing the chances of meeting old friends and make new cruising friends. Standing under the big angelfish - Glen and Jill, Bill and Mary Russell, and Jim Roberts. Robin Roberts is behind the camera. Robin and Jim are old DeFever Cruisers friends (Robin edits the DeFever magazine). Bill and Mary are new friends who slowly completed the Great Loop in 10 years - 3 summer months each year. They got to savor all the waterways have to offer. This group had just eaten at another boater favorite restaurant, The Hurricane, known for the $5 lunch and $10 dinner menu. (Robin Roberts photo)
Marathon's location on a major highway provided land-bound friends and family a chance to drive to join Last Dance and share the Keys experience. More like family, since she has been Jill's best friend since Junior High School, Pat and daughter, Robyn, made the trek south.
Jill's twin, Jack, and his wife Jennie spent a few days exploring the Keys and its eateries. When people find out that Jill is a twin, they ask "Are you identical twins?" She usually answers "I hope not."
Marathon's Sombrero Beach, Jack and Jennie
The famous, once infamous, No Name Pub, hidden down a long, residential road, is a part of old Florida History lore. Jack and Jennie joined the Last Dance crew in experiencing the history and good pizza.