Cross it Off the Bucket List
I am sitting in an anchorage at the Dry Tortugas and still can hardly believe that after five years of planning we are finally here. Bob loves forts and Fort Jefferson here in the Dry Tortugas is truly an impressive one. But before I describe the beauty of the place, let me first describe how we got here.
After Monday’s fiasco, diver Joe came to clean the bottom of the boat and around 11:00 am we were on our way.
We agreed with Paul and Edwina that we would first sail to St. James City, working our way down the coast in steps before crossing to Dry Tortugas because the current winds were too rough to make an overnight trip. We have never had as nice a trip down the ICW. We sailed across Charlotte Harbor and then proceeded to sail pretty much the entire way to St James under Gennaker only. Because it is now off season, there weren’t a lot of power boats. So, the ride was peaceful and calm. We arrived around 6:00 pm, anchored and went aboard Bahkita for hamburgers. A perfect day. We agreed to continue down the coast as again Wednesday night was going to be very windy. This way we would sail to Marco Island, and then from there to the fort instead of having a 146 mile trip to the Dry Tortugas it would be 104 miles with calming winds forecasted for Thursday night.
Bob, Sheila Sherri, Edwina and Paul at Rose Marina, Marco Island
We had a wonderful sail to Marco Island, again we didn’t use our engine until we needed it to enter the harbor. That entrance is the most confusing one we have encountered thus far. There are extra green markers that just complicate the picture and missing markers where there should be some. However, even under 25 knot winds and rolling seas we both entered without incident and anchored near marker G15. This time Paula and Edwina came to us for appetizers/dinner. The next morning, we went exploring and met our friend Tina’s childhood girlfriend Sherri, who works at Rose Marina. She graciously loaned us her car so that we could visit a great restaurant, Little Bar, for lunch. We sat out on the porch and I enjoyed a delicious groper sandwich. We did a bit of extra provisioning at Publix and then headed back to the boat and were out of the harbor, headed to the Dry Tortugas by 4:15 pm.
Active Captain chart showing the trip from Marco Island to The Dry Tortugas - 104 miles across the Gulf
The next 18 hours and 45 minutes were challenging. The forecast was for lessening winds as the evening went on such that by 8:00 pm the winds should have been around 6-8 knots. Unfortunately, the 15-18 knot winds continued until 5:00 am. This was combined with 3–5-foot waves on our beam which sent us rolling every 4-6 seconds. We were not in danger at any point, but it was not the calm easy seas we were expecting. If 10 is the most dangerous and life threatening and 1 is calm seas, I would rate this trip a 6 – not bad enough to deter me from doing it again but nothing I want to repeat tomorrow. At one point the sky began to cloud up and I was afraid that we were going to get some rain as well, but that didn’t happen. Bob and I started the trip with three hour watches on the wheel, but as the night went on it was more difficult to stay focused for three hours (especially hand steering in the rough conditions) so we shortened the watches to two hours.
We had a beautiful nearly full moon until about 5:00 am which really gave us a lot of light and the stars were unbelievable. When the moon set it was very dark which made it almost impossible to make out the horizon. We were using the compass, radar and GPS to steer so not being able to see was really not an issue. There were very few other boats traveling that night but Bakhita stayed close behind us and we talked on the radio to share the experience and keep each other awake.
First light came up about 5:45 am and about 8:30 am we got our first glimpse of the lighthouse associated with the Fort. i
Light house at Fort Jefferson - currently being renovated.
Then off in the distance we were able to make out the shape of Fort Jefferson rising out of the water.
More to come……