It's an oldie but goody, Burdines on the water in Marathon. I think of this place as the survivor, the place to go for lunch when my wife and I are feeling a bit nostalgic.
It's a bar and gas station for boats, it sits on the waterway from open water to the Boot Key Harbor anchorage which is the destination for anyone living on a boat looking for a cheap place to stop for a while.
You can see tons of boat at anchor or on city moorings crowded into the big oval of well protected water, probably the most secure anchorage in the Lower Keys. There's nowhere like Boot Key Harbor in Key West and I venture to say most boaters wouldn't mind if there were. Key West is a city of exposed anchorages and long dinghy rides to shore.
My wife and I found Burdines a couple of decades ago when we stopped off in Boot Key Harbor for a while. As I recall we had been to the Bahamas and we were thinking Marathon might be a place to stay thanks to the convenience of the lagoon in the middle of the city. Burdines was a convenient dinghy stoip on the way back for the ship's store where we bought stuff for our boat, and one is always "buying stuff for the boat."
I walked the docks with Rusty as I waited for my wife to get her lunch break from work and I was reminded what a pretty place this is, even if the people who live on boats work hard to spread their homely clutter everywhere.
More on that later to help digest what is always a solid lunch at Burdines. We always order the same thing. I have been getting the same green chili cheeseburger and my wife gets the greasy Ruben. The sandwiches are invariably solid and delicious and too complicated to eat without a knife and fork. The shared basket of fries are salty and delicious and too much for two people.
They make a delicious lemonade here or you can get a Red Stripe if you want the proper Caribbean flavor under the straw roof. We went for caffeine and had Pepsis which only come in cans, no draft here. Service is cheerful and prompt.
Oh and dogs are welcome. Rusty was perfectly behaved. He loves being a part of whatever is going on and he watched everything with his usual keen eye. They brought him water and he was polite enough to at least taste it.
The only sandwich I can think of that I eat with cutlery. If you want to go berserk you can eat a deep fried key lime pie which is a tortilla wrapped slice of key lime filling dunked in boiling oil. Delicious and appalling all at once.
We took another walk my dog and I while my wife high tailed it back to work. I persuaded my wife to go sailing in 1998. We loaded the dogs and took off from San Francisco aiming for Panama. It was an excellent trip and we had a great time but sailing is part of my past now. I don't want to end up using my boat as cheap housing. It may be ingenious to have a vegetable garden on deck but it impedes the use of the boat for its proper purpose.
Living in a marina is a lot like living in a trailer park, minimal privacy, shared shower blocks, low rent encouraging people to moulder on their boats. It's romantic to call yourself a sailor but in my book you need to go sailing to be a sailor. A boat that doesn't move rots. Admiral Nelson said that so it must be true.
I know what's like to have your life spill out and as hard as I tried to keep my boat trim and ready to sail it always got away from me so when I see the elaborate shore side life I understand. Though in the Keys this is just one way to hang on to the tropical dream and keep it affordable.
And you know what, I still feel the attraction to the romance of sailing. Even now I can remember the thrill of planning the trip, casting off and setting out hoping for decent wind, but not too much, excitement but not too much and an interesting landfall at the end. It's never like that, and I know it, but I can still taste the day dream of the perfect passage.
Besides Rusty would hate boat living and the sea. It's so much easier to be on land with the little tyke.
The romance of the sea, pure bullshit and always seductive. I think I need to read more Conrad.
We first came to Burdines by dinghy but there was no dedicated dinghy dock back then ( it was snowing and uphill both ways in the good old days).
There have been plans to develop the neighboring marina so they forced everyone out and the place has remained empty and is steadfastly deteriorating. Marathon has recently got several name brand chain hotels, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt are all in town and selling out apparently. I expect these docks will become something expensive and nice in the fullness of time.
Don't forget to tip. You know the joke about Canadians and canoes? Canoes tip. We used to tell each other that ad nauseam when I was a boat captain.
Desolate and decaying. The romance of the sea, it looks beautiful under the sun, the water rippling the rusty roof makes you think of some south pacific trading post...
Burdines fills me with nostalgia, memories of times past, when people I knew were docked here, the waitresses were middle aged women who made a life in Marathon and made me think of professional old time waitresses in cafes with rayon aprons and a cheery smile and a joke. They made life on the waterfront a community, and for a while it flourished at Burdines. They are gone, replaced by the usual Slavic imports living God knows where, who knows how many to a room, keeping the Keys working while the rest of us, the weak, beat an unwilling retreat to where life is more affordable.
It's just a place to get a sandwich and look at the water. The past is another country, they do things differently there.