I am back at Burnt Store and will try to capture for you the beauty that is the Dry Tortugas.
Anchorage south of Fort Jefferson as seen from the third level of the fort. Can you find us??
Fort Jefferson is very impressive as you approach from the water. It is six sided with a moat almost all the way around. It was built from 16 million bricks that were shipped in from Florida before the civil war and Maine once the civil war began and Florida joined the confederacy. It was never used as a fort in battle but was seen as part of a defensive strategy to prevent others from even thinking of attacking US shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. It was used as a prison and for a number of years housed Dr Mudd, who was accused of assisting John Wilkes Booth who broke his leg jumping form the theater balcony after shooting President Lincoln. He later attended to sick inmates and soldiers after yellow fever killed the single doctor and four nurses who were at the fort. He was pardoned by then President Jackson. The fort is not in good repair and there were signs all over warning the visitor of falling bricks. We were surprised to see nothing preventing a visitor from falling into the moat from the third level. We took a tour of the fort which I highly recommend, it gave us a lot of history.
Arches inside the three level fort
The moat as seen from inside the fort
Paul up on the second level - note no railings
The fort sits on an Island (Garden Key) where there is also room for camping. You have to take everything in and out with you as there is no water and no trash facilities – very primitive.
The camping areas is also right out in the open without a lot of shade. It reminded me of a squatters/homeless area – not my idea of fun camping.
Loggerhead light house
The group on Loggerhead
Edwina on the dinghy with the fort in the background
Loggerhead Key sits just to the west of the fort and hosts a beautiful but nonfunctioning lighthouse. We went over with Edwina and Paul on their dinghy which is bigger than ours and has a 9.9 horse power engine compared to our six. We met a ranger who gave us a bit of the scoop on the Island and then headed over to the western side to “Little Africa”. This is an area that is marked off for snorkeling where you don’t have to worry about a dinghy or larger boat hitting you. The island is 1.8 miles all the way around – can’t get too many steps in this way but boy is it beautiful.
I had not been snorkeling since we were in Marathon and was a bit apprehensive. It was wonderful. The water was warm enough that I didn’t need the skins I had purchased for the occasion. The coral was vibrant blue, purple and yellow. We saw sergeant majors and yellow snappers along with barracudas. The reef was just amazing.
After a while we agreed to check out the windjammer ship wreck that is located a mile south of Loggerhead.
This is all that was sticking out of the water to find the wreck!
We went looking for a mooring ball but instead found a portion of the ship sticking up out of the water. Edwina was the first to jump in off the dinghy and check it out. Once she confirmed it was the wreck, the rest of us followed, always keeping one person in the dinghy so that they could come to us if the current proved to be too strong for us to get back to the boat.
The wreck was eerily beautiful – see for yourself
We had ideal weather the entire time we were in the Dry Tortugas. Warm during the day with just a light breeze that didn’t interfere with snorkeling and a cool breeze at night which made for easy peaceful sleeping. The anchorage is big enough to accommodate 15-20 boats easily. We saw power and sailboats big and small come and go during the three days we were there. A young couple from Port Charlotte was there on a 30 foot boat they had raised from the dead with a 3.5 year old. It reminded us of when our kids were very young and we took two week vacations with them on the boat.
We agreed that Sunday afternoon we would leave our anchorage and head back around 4:00 pm sailing for Marco Island again – 100 miles was enough for us at one stretch. We started the trip with two knots of current against us but it settled down so we were able to motor at over 7 knots.
Sunset over the Fort
The water was smooth, quite a contrast to the trip westward. What an amazing night. The moon came out a bit later than I expected and was partially covered by clouds. Then the moon broke out of the clouds . big and round and was a crazy shade of red. Paul came on the radio and said, “I think there is an eclipse!” During the next hour we watched as the shadow of the earth passed over and blocked out the moon. What an amazing site.
Dark cockpit once the moon was totally obscured
Once the full moon was blocked it got very dark and we were able to see explosions of light in the water following the boat - bioluminescence. It was hypnotizing but unfortunately we couldn't capture it with the camera.
Six miles off Marco Island our cell phones began to work again. We had had radio silence for three days. The shooting in Buffalo, the continued instability in the market, Roe V. Wade, greetings from friends all started rushing in. Back to reality and more to come…………….