Entrance to Ft. Jefferson
Dry Tortugas NP. The whole fort is surrounded by moat and the Gulf of Mexico.
Wednesday morning we were up at 4:00 AM. After a quick cup of coffee, we loaded our stuff into the dinghy to head for shore and the bus stop on US 1. We were halfway to the marina when the outboard quit and wouldn’t restart. Kerry had to row the rest of the way to the dinghy dock, not the way we hoped to start our adventure. Luckily, we had left a little early and were able to make our 5:30 bus with time to spare.
The bus ride to Key West was uneventful and mostly in the dark. Not too many people riding the bus that early, so we were even a little early arriving at Publix in Key West. We caught our connecting bus and arrived at the harbor in time to check in. However, upon checking in, we discovered that they had messed up our reservations, having left one of us off. Luckily, they had a cancellation and we all were allowed to board.
It was a beautiful day, calm and sunny. The 2 ½ ride to Dry Tortugas was pleasant on the fast cat, Yankee Freedom II. Breakfast was served almost immediately upon getting underway.
with fish in his pouch, trying to swallow
During the ride, crew members spoke on what we would see, a little history of Ft. Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas, and gave instructions on obtaining snorkel gear for those who intended to see the surrounding reefs from the water.
Dry Tortugas National Park consists of several islands surrounded by reefs and shallow water. Fort Jefferson is on Garden Key and is quite impressive. It was built of 16 million bricks, all of which had to be brought to the island by ship in the 1800’s. It was never fully armed, although it did have many cannons lining the walls of the fort. There was no fresh water on the islands, so they had to build a water desalination system that was sound in theory, if not in practice. There is a lighthouse on the wall of the fort and another on Loggerhead Key, a little distance away in the haze.
I toured the fort, got my national park passport stamped, and bought a patch while Kerry, Sara and Trevor went snorkeling outside the fort. I walked around taking pictures and even got a few shots of them snorkeling from the second level. At one point a pelican
dove into the water near Trevor, startling him. I could hear Sara laughing through her snorkel at his reaction, a funny trumpeting sound (Sara’s laughter, not Trevor’s reaction.) They were glad to have brought their wetsuits as the water was 69 degrees. All three of them had underwater cameras, so once we get them developed and loaded, I hope to post some of those pictures.
The ride back to Key West was pleasant, but everyone was tired. There were lots of nappers on the boat. We got back to the harbor around 5:30, took a taxi back to Publix, then caught our bus back to Marathon. We were all exhausted, and went back to our boats to eat whatever we could find for supper before turning in.
It was a great trip, beautiful scenery, and I’d highly recommend it.
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