Swing Set

Sep 28, 201308:44 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Familiar Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on Vaca Key

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Shortly after we get to A&B on Tuesday, we'll have waiting for us my medicine, a new cap for our rubrail that came off in Nassau (none were available, so the Sea Ray factory in Tennessee had to make one up), a decal from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for 2014, dog food and potty pads for Holly, new impellers for the main engines to replace the ones I used so I always have spares, four new pillow cases, three new couplers for our Kitchenaid blender that we destroyed making daiquiris in the Bahamas, a new trash can for the cockpit, and some zincs from BoatZincs.com because our hull zinc is about gone, or at least half gone, and I want to replace some spares I have already used.

It's nice to be able to shop from the boat and have things delivered to a marina where will we'll be. Makes living without a car bearable.

One thing about Marathon, though, is that taxis are cheap. It only costs $5 to go just about anywhere on Vaca Key. Tip the driver two bucks, and you're royalty. The ride is usually a junky mini-van, but so what? It's the Keys, man.

I changed the oil in the main engines yesterday, only a few hours overdue. Boot Key City Marina is a good place to do a job when you have to dispose of waste oil or coolant because the marina has a nice recycle station on site. Makes things very convenient.

To celebrate a job well done on the oil change (we are always looking for reasons to celebrate), we decided to hit a happy hour on Thursday. Our first choice was Sparky's, home of the 25 cent wings and peel-and-eat shrimp. The downside of Sparky's is that Holly wouldn't be able to go. We wisely made a call to confirm they were open (It's the Keys, man) and were told they were also closed for remodeling. This info was true, as we found out later. The owners were gone for vacation, and instead of laying off the staff, they keep them on to do repair jobs and touch up around the restaurant. I think that's considerate of them as employers.

Our second happy hour choice was Porky's, home of half price beers and cheap appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m., at the bar only. Holly was welcome at Porky's, too.

There was already a smattering of customers entrenched at Porky's when we arrived via taxi at around 4 p.m. We took two stools at the bar, leaving ample room between around us, so that Holly wasn't too nervous. Porky's is basically an outside joint with a roof over it, and not fancy in the most liberal sense. The Overseas Highway is just a few yards away on one side, and the dock where numerous charter boats are lined up are on the other side. The building, if you can call it that, is a mishmash of construction, seemingly held together with the staples that are used to tack thousands of dollar bills to anything sturdy enough to hold them.

We took possession of two very cold Bud Lights, complete with coasters and cooly cups, for the mere price of $1.50 each. "Would we like to see a menu," was the question posed by our young bartender, still in possession of a fair amount of baby fat and sporting a tight, low cut T-shirt. She learned her trade well.

We declined the menu for the moment and were well into our second beers when a lone woman more or less stumbled into Porky's, looking for a seat at the bar. I know a barfly when I see one, and this woman fit the bill, and my suspicions were validated when she announced to anyone who would listen that she had been drinking rum and cokes since 8 a.m. that morning. I cringed when she took a seat right next to me.

Any attempts to avoid conversation were dashed when she spied Holly and left her seat to meet her. Holly took to her right away, and I suspected that she had pot on her somewhere in the skimpy outfit of hers, and I was right. Holly apparently likes the smell of pot and chums right up to anyone who is holding. I don't know where she learned that, and I'm not being sarcastic.

We ordered some appetizers: chicken wings and fish fingers, for five bucks each, and both items were delicious. I guess we made our new friend hungry, so when the bartender asked her if she wanted to see a menu, she said yes. No sooner had she gotten the regular menu than I offered her the "bar menu" featuring the happy hour specials. She was extremely grateful, ordered the chicken wings and nibbled on three wings in between stories of her exploits. "I don't eat much, I just drink," is what she told us. We couldn't guess.

A guy came in to play some music, and our friend went over to talk to him and we got to meet some other patrons at the bar, one being another sailboat neighbor in the harbor who knew the fella we met the other day with the new wife. He told us that the guy has moved his boat four times in the two months he has been in the harbor. We're not sure if we felt better about it, but at least we didn't feel totally responsible about them moving away from us.

All in all, we had a nice time at Porky's and it was dark before we got back to the boat. Anyone seeing us climbing aboard the boat at the late hour might have thought we were barflies.

Friday was grocery shopping day. We stocked up at Publix and hauled our groceries back in a taxi. But first, we went to breakfast at the Conch Diner, a place we also liked on our previous two visits. The Conch Diner has been in Marathon a long time, and perched out in front of the place is a pile of junk, which I supposed, used to be a small boat of some kind. The wood is completely rotted off and really what's left is a pile of Styrfoam and some drooping railings. After taking our coffee order, I mentioned to our waitress that they ought to pay somebody $20 to have the "pile of junk" out front hauled away. I may as well have told her that her grandmother was ugly.

"That's been out front for over 35 years," she said, "and some people like it."

I told her I could see the appeal if it still resembled a boat, but I maintained that it now just looked like a PILE OF JUNK. She walked off after taking our order, shaking her head and muttering. I don't want to know what they did in my omelet.

I was going to take a picture of the item in question, but there was another "event" when trying to leave our waitress a 15% tip. I won't get into it, but as things went, walking out front to take a picture may have prompted our waitress to grab a shotgun and have a go at us. Some people just can't take constructive criticism, or advice.

Honestly, I hate advice and mostly never heed it, unless I solicit the advice in the first place, but whenever anyone finds out that we are "new" to the area, they are compelled to tell us everything they think we need to know or do, based on what they know. I wish I could find a way to tell them to save their breaths without offending them.

Speaking of "piles of junk," we see plenty of boats that fit the description, and folks are living on them. I need to take some pictures. It's not just the sailboats, either. We saw a houseboat the other day that was loaded up with so much crap, there was hardly any room outside on the boat to even sit. But yep, there was a woman sitting in a plastic chair gabbing away on her phone, sucking on a cigarette, surrounded by piles and piles of rusty junk. I don't know how the boat was even floating. We don't live that way, and I hope we never do.

Yesterday, I mixed up some gelcoat and touched up three spots on the boat that had gotten nicked in some way or another, just trying to stay ahead of the game on a 17-year-old boat. Swing Set doesn't look much different than she did when we started out a year and a half ago, and especially after spending a year in saltwater.

I found a new cleaner at Home Depot, called Formula 88, that removes the diesel soot from the transom, and it's only $3 per bottle. Roll Off is about four times that, and it plain doesn't work. Formula 88 is also working on the dinghy, too, and nothing has been able to remove the dirt from it until now. We like to keep our dinghy clean, too.

This morning, we're going to unhook from the mooring ball and take on water, then go to Marathon Marina and fill up with diesel. We want to leave first thing Monday morning to head for Stock Island Marina Village, where we'll spend one night before taking our slip at A&B Marina in Key West Bight for the next two months.

Stock Island is the low rent district of Key West, and boat slip prices reflect the difference. We're committed to two months at Stock Island Marina Village after we leave A&B Marina. It's a new facility, and the pictures look pretty nice. If we like it, we may stay longer, but we can do anything for two months. There is a canvas shop on site, and we need some upholstery work done, so we'll probably do that over the winter. The floating docks there will allow a thorough waxing of our hull, and we'll be able to keep Swing Set sparkling clean with all the water we want to use at dockside. We'll get spoiled.

If we don't like it after two months, we're not sure what we'll do, but while we're in Key West Bight, I'm going to be doing some networking and line up some potential slip options for February, if we need them. But we need to find something more affordable than the $2,400 per month we'll be paying in slip rent for the months of October and November.

We need to adhere to our budget, so that we can attend more happy hours and meet more interesting people.

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