Aubrey and the kids were less than happy with my marina choice and I can attest to the fact that things often look a certain way on a website (or Google Satellite Maps) and turn out differently when you see them in person. The Mangrove Marina wasn’t the place for us and we decided quickly that we needed to go. I think the decision for me came when I took my morning walk to the bathroom in my jammy pants without a shirt. I got heckled by the morning crew of mid 50-70 year old Florida Key men who hang out at the dock drinking coffee. I’m pretty sure I got a cat call or two and I reasoned that if I felt uncomfortable with these guys then my wife must want to jump out of her skin. We discussed it over coffee at a cute little place in Tavernier called Moka. I definitely recommend this place for coffee!
This is the way things work for dock fees. You pay for the slip in a daily, weekly or monthly fashion at a certain rate. Monthly gets the best price and nightly (transient) is closer to the equivalent of getting shellacked. Electric and water is included in the transient slip fee but electric is usually metered and paid separate for monthly slips. Around here, only 10% of the slips are rented on an annual basis and the marinas have to keep open 90% of their slips for temporary residents. The annual contracts are cheaper still, but highly sought after.
Transient slips cost $50-100 per night whereas monthly rates are based on length of the boat at around $19-30 per foot per month.
Most marinas offer some way to pump out your sewage (my Saturday chore). Most marinas that we’ve been offer a pump out boat that comes around and may charge a monthly service fee for a fee of $100. The one time pump out fee is usually around $50, which sucks- literally. Most marinas also offer a do it yourself pump out station, which means that you have to move your boat and have a near collision with others for the sake of not having your vessel smell untidy. We got into a bad situation in Clearwater where our tank was full and the boat smelled like the men’s bathroom at the Greyhound station. IT wasn’t good so we evacuated to the manual pump out station where I evacuated the sewage. It was one of those days, clearly, in Clearwater. I didn’t seal the pump to the boat that well because you have to hold it tight by pushing. Bad stuff spattered all over the place. There was no fee at this particular location but let’s say that I paid the price.
Most marina’s offer a laundry room where it costs your time and about $4 to wash and dry a full load of clothes. Many of the dryers don’t do a good job and some line drying is necessary before you put your linens back onto the boat, which is a bummer. I envy the larger boats that have combo washer/dryer units to take care of this chore but Miss Lone Star has nothing of the sort aboard. Most marinas have shower and bathroom facilities, which don’t sound that appealing on the surface, but they are (as long as they are nice). We’ve had access to both types.
Some marinas have a lot of rules and politics, strangely enough and others are run down and somewhat scary. Docks have a heirachy of self-governed leadership from some of the older residents or the local know it all’s. We have had dock neighbors that we wanted to throw into the water and others that will likely be friends forever. Some docks are barren of boats and others are very social. We prefer the nice social kinds of docks and look forward to meeting and getting to know our neighbors. The management of the docks can make or break your experiences, regardless of you stay for a night or several months time.
Some marinas have a lot of services onsite or within walking distance and others do not. We’ve received countless rides to stores and other places from people who live on docks, as we were traveling without a car for a month. We have also been to close to creepy people in some instances. In our experience, we felt like we paid too much money for the transient slips and the value was not really there. I personally wished that we anchored more often as we transited to our destination in the Keys.
We found Plantation Yacht Harbor in Islamorada Florida and I can’t say enough about our dock! We love it here and I have nothing but good to report, based upon our last two weeks stay here. I found it on the Waterway Guide and I thought it would be really pricey for all of its amenities. In reality, it was less than $100 per month more than the first marina that had a bad feel for us. We pay about $800 per month plus electric for our slip but each boat has a pump hose that can be used anytime without moving your vessel. The marina is spotless and well maintained. Fuel is sold at the cheapest price in the area, which amounts to a $.55 per gallon savings. We haven’t filled up in a few weeks but fuel prices in the Keys are scary- $4.28 per gallon.
We live on one of two docks at the marina that has about 40 boats. The marina is owned by the city and it sits behind a huge 40 acre city park, beach and pool (that we haven’t visited yet). We are walking distance from a cute shopping area with artsy tourists shops and a awesome Cuban Coffee place that won’t allow me to pay for my coffee. We like to walk over most mornings and visit with our friends for awhile. The kids sweep the shops and do odd jobs for little trinkets and some spending quarters. There are about 5 live aboard families on the dock. Everyone else just uses their boats on one or two days out of the weekend for fun. We find that the mix is good for us and we’ve got to know everyone really well. Our neighbors really make our experience great and we love the friends that we’ve made.
It is so warm and friendly here in the Florida Keys that I wish I came years sooner! We’ve made more friends here in a couple weeks than we did in a year living in Austin. We know every one of our neighbors by first name and we’ve hung out, ate and had a glass of wine with everyone at least once or a dozen times. We’ve helped people with problems and they’ve helped us. We borrowed things and been lent things we needed.
Our kids are loved by everyone on our dock and Bianca has even found steady work as a dog walker/trainer, believe it or not! They are being taught Spanish by our friends and she’s picked up a great weekend friend in a little girl that visits her Aunt. She loves riding her scooter in the park and told her Mom recently, “if you see a pink blur going by it’s me- pink lightning!” The quote was worthy of Stepbrothers, the movie. Blake is renowned as “The King of The Dock” for his unbelievable fishing abilities and his reputation is starting to be known farther than just our dock. He is known on others as well. His catch for today was (4) nurse sharks totaling around 120 pounds and (8) Mutton Snappers. He caught some bait fish that his mom cut up for him but he doesn’t even count those smaller things in his totals. The largest shark today was around 60 pounds, which he landed himself on his trusty snoopy pole with 12 lb. test line. He baits his own hooks but I still have to take the hook out for him and it is better that way because the sharks are strong and whip their tales. I can’t believe that he hasn’t been pulled in yet but he always wears his life jacket.
I was going out to the scuba shop today about Noon and I heard his Mom tell him, “take you nap and when you wake up you can fish for the rest of the day.” She made good on her promise and he was at it until I called him in at 8PM, pouting,