A Beacon for Boaters

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It’s not just a lighthouse; it’s a landmark. The Faro Blanco light has beckoned boaters to Florida’s Marathon Key for seven decades.

Back in the 1950s, Florida was emerging as a favorite playground for America’s fishermen and boaters, some of whom took a keen interest in the Keys. At the time, Marathon Key was billing itself as the “heart of the Keys.” Already a sportfishing mecca, more and more recreational boaters were drawn to the Sunshine State’s warm waters, pleasant weather, old fishing camps, mom-and-pop bait shops, boat rentals and roadside eateries. A growing number of motels and modern marinas increased the appeal of the area.

At Faro Blanco, boaters had access to dockage, fuel and a restaurant, all watched over by a distinctive white lighthouse. (Faro Blanco means “white lighthouse” in Spanish.) The wooden structure was designed by Lester Barret and built around 1950 by contractor Archie Rackley, according to local sources. Upon completion, marina founder and owner Jim Kelsey moved in with his family.

That was the first of many roles for the lighthouse over the decades. Along with its use as a private aid to navigation, Faro Blanco has been a bait-and-tackle shop, a fuel dock with a prominent Gulf Oil sign affixed to its tower and a dockmaster’s office. The facility also went under the name Davis Docks at one point.

It was Florida weather that almost did Faro Blanco in. In 1960, hurricane Donna swept over Marathon Key causing heavy damage to the island and the 10-year-old lighthouse. Later rebuilt, the structure was largely destroyed (and finally condemned) in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Wilma.

That wasn’t the end of Faro Blanco light, though. A decade later, a marina developer stepped in to rebuild it. Today, the Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club sports a 125-room hotel and a 70-plus slip marina, along with its namesake lighthouse.

This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.

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