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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wagaman

Circumnavigating Vaca Key by Dinghy

I think when most people hear that we live on a boat and travel full time, they have this image in their head of us sipping Mai Tais and blissfully skipping through life in tropical places framed with palm trees and sunshine. While we do have those days occasionally, the truth is that while this lifestyle is completely amazing, there are many days that we are simply sitting in the boat in front of our computers working our 8-5 jobs, riding bikes to get groceries with our back packs, using laundromats to get clean clothes, filling water jugs and carting them back and forth to the boat for fresh water to shower with, getting rained on while we take the dinghy to and from shore to let Bella out, wiping down the condensation in the boat in the mornings to prevent mold growth, etc. Sometimes the only boating we do is "BOAT"ing (Breaking Out Another Thousand) to fix something that went awry with one of our systems.


But yesterday did fit the stereotype, and we had the BEST day!


We started out the morning by going for a walk to try out a new restaurant called the Stuffed Pig. The restaurant itself is just a typical old diner but they have a super cute back patio where you can dine under a canopy in the garden and the food was amazing! They also allowed us to bring Bella with and she happily soaked up everyone's attention and affection while we were there. We literally had 5 or 6 people walk up to our table just to pet her!

After breakfast, we hopped in the dinghy and drove down to fuel up. On the way there, we heard someone yell, "Wagamans!" and to our surprise, turned around to see a familiar face from home! It was a guy named Robbie who worked at the Safe Harbor Marina back in Michigan where we kept our boat before we left! Robbie was our go to guy for everything because he is great at his job! What a small world that we would randomly run into him on the water on the other side of the country!! We stopped and talked with him for awhile and he said that now he works at the Safe Harbor back home in the summers and another one of their marinas down here in Marathon in the winters. What a great gig! We always get our fuel at the Safe Harbor here so it's crazy that we have never seen him there over the past 3 months!


After chatting with Robbie, we stopped and fueled up the dinghy and Dustin bought himself a tickle stick that he had been eyeing for his birthday present to himself. LOL Before your head goes in the gutter, a tickle stick is part of a lobster catching kit! We met some people on New Year's Eve that had gone lobstering and it sounded fun so we will be trying that out sometime soon!


With our full tank of gas, we decided to go do some exploring!

As soon as we left the harbor, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins frolicking in the boat waves! 3 of them swam in synchrony towards us and a few others played on the sides of the dinghy. Seeing dolphins never gets old!

We headed into a tiny, secluded channel into the mangroves out on Boot Key.

Boot Key is no longer accessible by car because awhile back, a hurricane took out the drawbridge that went out there and they never repaired it so now it is just a half bridge to nowhere with a huge gap in the middle. We had heard that there are a lot of squatters/homeless people that live out there and commute by kayak or rowboat so we didn't know what we would find, but were curious nonetheless, so we continued! We kept peering into the thicket of mangroves not entirely sure what to expect and all of a sudden, we spotted a huge abandoned submarine up against the tree line! It was old and rusted out in parts but one of the hatches was open with a ladder going down into it.

Not going to lie, I was very tempted to have a look inside but the thought of what kind of snakes or spiders might be lurking within kept me from following my curiosity.


We continued up the river as far as we could go and found many old abandoned looking buildings, and some that appeared to be inhabited, despite their state of squalor. There were also several old boats tied to the mangroves and some had cats running across it, suggesting that people might live on it.

We decided to turn around before we starting hearing banjo music and headed back out into the ocean.

The water out on the ocean was absolutely gorgeous yesterday and was the most beautiful hue of turquoise! It has been very gray and cloudy here for the past few weeks so being out in the sunshine and seeing the beautiful water made us feel alive!

Marathon is commonly mistaken to be a key but actually, it is a city rather than a key. The city of Marathon is actually made up of several keys along a 10 mile stretch. We are on Vaca Key and have never been down to the other end of the island because it is quite a jaunt from where we are, so we decided to take the dinghy down on the Atlantic side to check it out. It's about 5 or 6 miles. We dinghied down to Vaca Cut, which allows passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. This is definitely the nicer end of Marathon and is full of lavish, waterfront homes.

We cruised up a few of the canals admiring the real estate and were lured over by one home in particular that is still being built. The home had a very unique style and the front of it almost looked like a globe or the front of an antique dive helmet!

Next door, there was a huge power catamaran parked in its own massive boat garage and the top of the building was built to look like a ship!

We decided to take the Gulf side back home just for something different and went by the aquarium on our way. There was a huge sign that says "Hand feed sharks!" so now I want to go back there and do that!

When we were approximately half way home, all of a sudden our motor just stopped. Our motor has always been extremely reliable so we were totally perplexed! We started getting a little nervous because technically we could've just drifted out to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. I mean theoretically that wouldn't have happened because we have oars and could've rowed into shore but we were more concerned about how we would get the dinghy back to our boat and more importantly, back to Bella who was on our boat, since we were on the other side of the island still. After Dustin took the motor apart and we said a few prayers, he realized that the vent in the gas tank had been closed and after venting it, the motor started right up! Whew, thank you Lord! Thankfully, it worked just fine the rest of the way home.


We soon came up to Marlin Bay Resort and Marina. Some people who we've been following on Facebook and who have also been following us, were docked there. We decided to dinghy over and say hello and finally were able to meet in person! Scott and Lauren from Dreamer and their adorable little dog, Sulley (from Sulley Does the Loop).


We finally rounded out our "3 Hour Tour" by heading back into Boot Key Harbor and fueling up, again, since we had gone so far with our last tank. We had the best day, full of adventure!


The map below shows everywhere we took the dinghy yesterday. The blue/teal dot is where we keep Trouvaille in Boot Key Harbor and the blue X is where our motor quit working.




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