We joined a group of other sailors with boats similar to ours, called the Conch Cruisers, who enjoy this type of cruising. There were 14 boats (all MacGregors on this trip) that would launch in Key West, sail for 2 days to the Dry Tortugas with a stop each way at Marquesas Keys. We would stay at the Dry Tortugas for two days. Upon our return we would visit Key West and snorkel at a local reef.
As the Dry Tortugas have no provisions, we would have to have enough food, water, ice, fuel etc. for a stay at sea of about 7 days. Three weather days were built into the schedule in case we ran into bad weather or predictions while on the trip.
Click on any of the images for the full size image. Some images are video captures and will not have larger images.
More Pictures from the Conch Cruisers on the Dry Tortugas trip can be seen at http://www.mycyberbuddy.com/ConchCruisers/Photos
Also, visit the web site for the Conch Cruisers.
Day one actually began at the Comfort Suites in Deerfield Beach Florida. We had stayed the night there along with the crew of Tigger Two, another boat on the trip. In addition, in the morning, the crew of “Next Boat” and “Olivia 2” would meet us at the motel. From there, we would continue the road trip to Key West together.
We left at about 10 AM thinking we had plenty of time. We stopped in Marathon Key for provisioning and a bite to eat. A couple of additional stops were made to fuel the vehicles and boats. Time slipped away quickly. By the time we actually arrived at the marina, it was 6 PM. We still had to rig and launch the boats. And, it would be a 1 hour or so sail or motoring to the anchorage.
By the time the boats were rigged and launched, and the cars / trailers parked, it was starting to get dark. There were 6 boats in the marina ready to go. The crew of “Nextboat” said that they would take off if we felt comfortable navigating on our own. I myself had never sailed or motored at night but “Tigger Two”, with a GPS chartplotter, assured us that there would be no problem. “NextBoat” and two other boats therefore took off.
When we were finally ready to take off, I heard some other boats coming into the marina. It was “Nextboat” and the others returning. They had not been able to find the channel markers in the dark and had run into some 3 foot depths that concerned them. They took off again for another try. We made final preparations and followed “Tigger Two” through the channel. “Olivia II” was with us as well. We had no trouble getting out of the harbor and on our way. We still had to make it around Key West to Wisteria Island where the anchorage was.
All went quite well until we came to the Key West channel. At about the time we were to enter the channel, a Disney Ship decided to leave the Key West port. That ship essentially took the whole channel. So, we circled and waited for it to depart. It was quite a sight, especially at night.
When the ship was gone, continued to the anchorage. It was a good thing we had the chartplotter to guide us. It was so dark we could not even see the island just a few hundred feet away where we were supposed to anchor.
We had a large anchor and “Olivia II” and “Tigger Two” were unsure of their own anchors so we rafted up on our anchor, “Tigger Two” to starboard, “Olivia II” to port. With all pretty tired, it was not long before we called it a night. The photo shows the 3 boats rafted up as the sun rose the next morning.
I thought we had a 0800 skippers meeting, as did most of the others. I was awaken however by the local water taxi at about 0700. They were there to pick us up. Who had called them? We sure had not. Three of us, myself, Kip Hamilton and Jack Vose, threw on some clothes and jumped into the water taxi. None of us had time to have a cup of coffee or even throw water in our faces. The water taxi continues around and picked up several of the skippers from the other Conch Cruisers boats in the anchorage.
We had a quick meeting on shore with our Commodore, Chip Giles, going over the itinerary and last minute instructions. Chip really did a great job in organizing the trip. Then it was back to the boats to prepare to weigh anchor.
We got back to the boats and had very little time to get ready. We pulled anchor at 0930 and motored south, down the Key West channel. At about 1030, we raised sails and made the turn to the west. The winds were ESE at 5 to 10 knots. The seas were calm. We had absolutely perfect sailing for nearly 7 hours. This was sailing at it’s best!
Julie went into the cabin and prepared a hot breakfast of egg beaters and ham. This was the first of what would be a number of great meals from our galley. Julie performed well in the galley even when the seas were not quite as calm.
Along the way we saw a couple of sea turtles. These were pretty large creatures that would swim along the surface, pop their heads up when they got close, and dive when they saw us. We would see these all along our journey.
The winds died at about 5:30 so we motored the last 30 minutes or so to the southwest side of the Marquesas Keys where we would anchor for the night. After anchoring, we got in the water for a quick dip. We noticed that there was quite a current so we did not venture far from the boat.
“Olivia II” anchored a short ways up-current from where we were. Jack and Kelly jumped into the water and decided to swim over to us for a visit. We yelled to them that the current was strong and that they would probably have some trouble getting back. But, they persisted. They arrived and we chatted for a few minutes. Then, they attempted to get back. As suspected, they could not. We lent them our swim fins. Jack was able to make it back but Kelly could not. Chip Hindes from “Nextboat” had inflated their dinghy and had the motor attached so he motored over with the dinghy and took Kelly back to her boat.
The Marquesas Keys are a small group of islands that form an atoll. The atoll being a group of islands that form a circle with a natural harbor in the center. We had to have an early start in the morning and the center of the circle is tough to navigate so we anchored outside of the circle in the southwest corner.
We had our dinner, which was some left-over lasagna brought from home, and organized the boat a little.
I have been asked by a number of people “What about showers?” Well showering on board amounts to a “sailors shower” in the cockpit. Basically you can sit at night in the cockpit with a bucket of a little water and Lemon Joy and wash with a sponge. When finished, you use a one-gallon garden sprayer to rinse off. This actually works quite well and is rather refreshing. Lemon Joy is great. You can do dishes, wash yourself, you hair etc. and it even works if washing with salt water. (Thanks to Jack O’brien of Gostosa III for this tip.)
We went to bed shortly after sunset and anticipated a quiet night with an early departure scheduled for 0615. Early to bed and early to rise would be the general rule for the trip.
We didn’t know the excitement to come shortly after midnight…
Day three for us began shortly after midnight. Where we sleep in the cabin, I can see out and up to the top of the mast. I was awakened by a strong wind noise and the boat rocking. I realized that we were having a storm.
I jumped up and looked out of the companionway. It was dark, very dark. With the cloud cover, no stars, no moon and no lights from shore, it was pitch black. You really get a sense of what dark is out on the water. I could see anchor lights around us so I knew we were still in the middle of the fleet. I could also see where people were shining spot lights to see where other boats were positioned around them. I went down into the cabin and got our spot light as well. Being careful not to blind other sailors with the light and ruin their night vision I scanned the water around us to see if we were in danger of hitting any other boats. A few of the boats did not have anchor lights. The wind was really gusting. I wished I had put on our main sail cover as parts of the sail were catching the wind.
I decided to turn on the radio and see what was being said. There was plenty of chatter on the radio as all tried to see where the other boats were and get a roll call to see who was having trouble. I heard “Nextboat” say that they saw “Olivia II” go by at a high rate of speed but did not know where they ended up. We tried to raise “Olivia II” on the radio but due to battery trouble, their radio, and anchor light were out. I remembered then that they had an FRS walkie-talkie that we had used while trailering down to Key West. I turned on our FRS radio and was able to raise them. They had ended up grounded on the beach. They were safe but were not going anywhere. And they were not alone on the beach.
By 0100 the storm was essentially over. Chip Giles announced the tally from the roll call, “Ten boats held at anchor. Three on the beach.” We knew we had our work cut out for us in the morning and that we would not get the 0615 start we had hoped for.
At daylight, the work began for getting the beached boats off. “Olivia II”, “Synchronicity”, and “Gostosa” were on the beach. The beach was not a very pleasant beach. It was a soft mud that was essentially quicksand. As the boats were freed, we began heading out of the anchorage. “Tigger Two” was having some boat comfort issues and announced that they were turning back to Key West. “Mylalamar” had crew that was ill and turned back.
We put up sail at about 0800 and began a real nice sail towards the Dry Tortugas. As we were sailing, we had one of the boats pass us, it was “Tigger Two”! They had resolved the problems and resumed the trip. It was another beautiful day for sailing. This would be a long day as we had a good distance to go. Mid afternoon the winds diminished. We sailed as long as we could but had to try to make a minimum speed of 4 knots to safely make it to the Dry Tortugas during daylight. No one wanted to try to negotiate the tight, unlit channels there after dark. We finally had to motor. We motor sailed for a while. At 1515 our first tank of gas ran out. It was our 7.5 gallon tank. We had conserved fuel by running below hull speed.
This day marked a special sailing event for us. It was the first time we sailed where we were out of site of land in any direction. It is indeed a special feeling. The water was clear, the sky blue and the seas calm. Wow.
As we motored those last miles I decided to inflate our dinghy. Since the motor was running, the generator would power the inflator instead of the batteries. And, the sails did not need to be tended, the autopilot was steering, so basically I had nothing better to do. It was a bit cumbersome trying to handle the dinghy on deck and it did a good job of blocking our vision while it sat on the cabin top.
At 1700 we arrived at the Dry Tortugas. To get to the anchorage you must go north of Bush Key and Garden Key, circle around and pick up the channel markers in the south west corner of the islands. Fort Jefferson was our destination. You could see if from miles away. It was sight to behold, a massive brick structure that encompasses the island. The anchorage was in the southeast area of the fort. Bush Key, Garden Key and Long Key formed a nice little harbor. The boats in our fleet made up about half of the boats anchored there. All in all, it was a nice quiet anchorage.
The fleet anchored, got dinghies and boats prepped for the stay at the fort. We swam a little but had been warned by another boat that they had spotted a bull shark.
“Nextboat” and “Wildhair” had their dinghies operating early and made a trip to the fort. They met one of the park people there and arranged a special tour of the fort for our fleet. They came around in the dinghy and announced that we would have this special tour in the morning at 0945.
We cooked chicken on the grill ( I burned them) and had a nice meal in the cabin. Julie snorkeled a bit with Kelly and we had a quiet evening. As luck would have it, the winds picked up after we arrived. The winds stayed up during our entire stay. This made it nice in the cabin and kept it cool. At one time I took my wind meter and measured 14.8 knots going through the cabin. The winds were also churning up the seas outside the anchorage. We would experience that in a couple of days.
“Olivia II” was anchored near by. I yelled over to Jack “Did you set your anchor?” Meaning did he back his boat under power to be sure his anchor was set. “Naw” he said, he was sure it was ok.
This area is actually formed by 3 keys; Garden Key, Bush Key, and Long Key. Bush Key is off limits from March to September as a bird sanctuary for about 100,00 sooty terns. The birds were quite active and would at times fly about en masse. They would also sit on our anchor line and even the base of our furled headsail. This meant that the forward deck had to be washed occasionally.
Again, we turned in early. I slept for a while in the cockpit. There are no bugs in the Dry Tortugas so sleeping outside, especially in the heat, was a pleasure. In fact, since there has been little rain, there were no bugs on our entire trip, including Key West.
Our weather was pretty much the same each day; 90s during the day and 80s at night. I actually got a little chilly in the wind and went back into the cabin to sleep in the middle of the night. We slept well most nights.
When we woke the next morning, the fort was lit beautifully from the rising sun. I took some video to try to capture the moment.
I looked to where “Olivia II” had been anchored and noticed they were gone. I looked further and saw that “Olivia II” seemed to be tied up to “Mariah Skye”. Sure enough, Jack had drug anchor again. This time they had ended up in some old pilings from a long-gone dock near the shore. This had happened in the winds at about 4 in the morning. Apparently they had a pretty rough time and sustained a little damage to the gelcoat. Bert on “Mariah Skye” lent them a larger spare anchor he had to help prevent further incidents.
We had breakfast and got in out dinghy at about 0900. We headed to the shore and looked for the “fountain” where we were to meet for our special tour. Our host was Chuck, a National Park Service employee stationed here. Stationed here? In paradise? Getting paid to stay here? We all wanted to know how to get his job.
Chuck showed us what the normal public sees but took us for a “backstage” tour to show us how their current operation on the island ran. There are 12 people stationed on the island. He even took us into his home in the fort to show us how he lived. It was very interesting. We then took our own walking tour of the fort. I won’t go into detail here about Fort Jefferson and it’s history as there are many web sites dedicated to it.
When we finished with the fort, we went to one of the beaches on the island and did some snorkeling on one of the reefs. It was great. We headed back to the boat where we grilled sausage for dinner. At dusk, we had a Conch Cruisers social at a picnic area on the beach. Here we had a chance to party for the first time with the other cruisers. Chuck, our fort guide, also joined in on the festivities. There were plenty of snacks, drinks and good company.
As it got darker some of us became a little concerned about getting back to the boats. The wind had been pretty steady and the waves, even in the harbor, were getting larger. As we headed towards our boat I asked Bert from “Mariah Skye” to keep a watch on us as I was unsure of the reliability of our dinghy motor. I also overheard Luke of “Dream Chaser” ask Bert to watch out for Jason and Eric of “Synchronicity”. Jason has a prosthetic leg and they were headed back to their boat in a dinghy without a light or radio.
We got in our boat, got the motor started, and headed out. The waves were coming up over the bow of the dinghy so we were taking on a little water. I thought I heard Julie yell over the noise of the engine. But she said it was coming from somewhere else. It was difficult to see around us in the dark. Then I heard “Help Help!”. Just then, Jason and Eric’s dinghy came into view and crossed directly across our bow, almost colliding. Jason pulled up beside and yelled “Take my leg, it cannot get wet!” He handed the leg to Julie. As he did I noticed that his hard dinghy seemed to be half full of water and looked more like a bathtub. He sped off in the dark. We continued to head back to the boat. When we reached our boat I jumped in and called “Synchronicity” on the radio to see if they had made it back to their boat. They had. We decided to get the leg back to Jason in the morning.
Apparently, others had heard the cries for help and notified the Park Rangers. There was some confusion as to who was missing. It took a little time for the Rangers to figure out what had happened and call off the search.
Now finally, it was time for bed. This night, Julie decided to sleep some in the cockpit.
LoggerHead Key is a small island about 7 miles from Fort Jefferson. It has a famous lighthouse that has been running there since 1858. We left at about 0900. We motored out of the channel then raised the head sail to sail the rest of the way. We could see that the seas had become a bit rougher due to the winds that had been pretty constant. Our first stop was about a mile southwest of the island to snorkel at the wreck of the Windjammer Avanti. The three-masted ship struck the reef in 1907. The Avanti lies in shallow water with a section of the bow sticking out above the water.
There is a mooring at the wreck but we had several boats so one took the mooring (“Synchronicity”) while the rest of us anchored.
The water was a bit rough but once you get in, other than keeping track of each other over the waves, it was not too bad. The wreck was interesting but we did not stay too long as we seemed to be sharing the site with a 7 foot shark.
We pulled anchor and moved to a cove on the west side of the island. Chuck had told us it was safe to go there. We just drove our boats up on the beach and placed our anchors in the sand. This was really something. On the west side, we were sheltered from the waves driven by the easterly winds. This was really paradise. The only way to get here is with your own boat. No tours, no seaplanes, just private vessels.
Once up on the beach we all chatted a bit about how great this place was. Some walked down the beach, others to the lighthouse, others went snorkeling, and some just sat taking in the moment. We took our snorkeling gear and headed down the beach. We had heard there was a reef towards the other end of the island. We got down there and headed out into the crystal clear water. Sure enough, in shallow water just off the beach, there was a nice long reef that kept our attention for quite some time.
After finishing our snorkeling, we headed up to the lighthouse to check it out. We wandered around the area for a while and came to the light keepers residence. Actually, it was the kitchen area of the original residence. The remains of the original residence could be seen nearby. There, out on a picnic table, were the two residents of the island. They are National Park Service Volunteers. One was named Sandy. Sitting with them were Fran and Brian, crew of “Olivia II”. (Fran is Camo Jacks mother, Brian her husband). We joined in for a while as Sandy continued to talk about the island. She was also telling the story of 30 Cuban Refugees that had landed a few days before, June 17. She showed us where she had them all sign her guest book. We added our signatures just below theirs.
After listening for a bit, we headed back to the beach. Julie wanted to snorkel some more, I just wanted to sit in the water.
After a while, we reluctantly decided it was time to head back to the anchorage at Fort Jefferson. As we headed back, into the waves, we realized how rough the seas had become. This was to be a small taste of what was to come.
Back at the anchorage, we had our dinner, hamburgers on the grill. Then, I attended a skippers meeting on the beach. At the skippers meeting we discussed the winds and weather. No one was able to get a weather report. We even asked the Park Service office but they did not have current weather. Chip Giles told us that the section of sea between the Dry Tortugas and Rebecca Shoals, some 15 nautical miles, was known to be rough at times. He told us that some had made it out as far as the Rebecca Shoals in an attempt to get to the Dry Tortugas but had to turn around if it was too rough.
We decided to pull anchor at 0700 the next morning.
When the meeting ended I headed back to our boat but had trouble (again) with the dinghy motor. Kip from “Tigger Two” ended up towing me back to the boat.
We then readied for bed.
I spent a portion of the night in the cockpit again.
We awoke at about 0600 and started preparation for departure. At 0700 we pulled anchor and headed out through the channel in a line with the other Conch Cruisers. When we had cleared the channel and rounded the north side of Garden Key, we encountered some rather rough seas. I estimated 6 to 8 foot breaking seas. It may have been even greater. They seemed to get rougher as we made our way away from the island. The radio was pretty quiet as all attempted to navigate their boats through the ever-rising waves. This was not much fun. At one point, “NextBoat” called out on the radio and said they would not be adverse to turning around and staying another day to see if things would calm. “Wild Hair” responded by saying “It’s only another 15 nautical miles before it should get better.” Fifteen nautical miles? That would mean another 3 hours of this pounding.
About the time I was feeling like I could handle it, we saw the crew of “Tigger Two” waving at us frantically. They were pointing towards the front of our boat. I saw that our fender holder had somewhat collapsed in the rough going but I was not concerned as the fenders were clipped in and would not fall off. But when I did not respond with any concern they grabbed their radio “JuileAnn JulieAnn! Your anchor has broken loose! It is beating up your boat!” What? I looked at the bow, which was spending much of its time under water now. The anchor was not in its holder. I had heard a banging noise but with the crashing in the waves I wasn’t sure what it was.
I put the autopilot on and ran down in the cabin. I grabbed the first life vest I found. It was Julie’s. I should know to grab my own but didn’t. It was too small but I put it on anyway. I told Julie to stand by the helm and that I was going to have to go up to the bow.
I lay flat on the cabin top and crawled on my belly up to the bow holding on to at least one line at any time as I inched my way forward. When I finally reached the bow I held onto the bow pulpit with both hands and tried to steady myself for a moment and catch my breath. This was tough to do as the bow was constantly dipping down into the waves such that I spent about half my time under water. I really thought, “This is it. I’m going to fall off and no one will be able to find and recover me in these seas.”
As I was there, out of the corner of my eye I spotted something. I turned and could not believe what I saw. It was a dolphin swimming along the starboard side of the bow.
Once at the bow, I now had to figure out how to get and secure the anchor. The anchor weighs 20 lbs. And it is attached to a length of chain adding to the weight. With my left hand holding onto the bow pulpit, I used my right hand to try to pull up on the anchor, timing it between hits with the waves. Several times I got it up only to have to drop it again. I realized that there was no way I could get the anchor back into its holder. I would have to try to pull it up on deck and catch it under a lifeline. After several attempts I was able to get it up on the deck. I’m still not sure how I did it. I’m not sure I could recreate it. Once up on the deck, I jammed part of the anchor under the port lifeline. I then took a dock line that was fastened to a forward cleat and, with one hand, tied several half hitches to lash the anchor to the lifeline and bow pulpit. I turned myself around and belly crawled back to the cockpit. When I got back, I told Julie “I never want to have to do that again.”
There were several lessons to be learned here.
1. Make sure the anchor is secure before leaving port.
2. Know which life jacket is yours and put it on before it is needed.
3. When encountering a problem like this in these seas, turn the boat around for a smoother ride while trying to fix something.
The seas remained rough for some time. We lost parts from our Magma grill. The dinghy motor mounting came loose. “Tigger Two” completely lost their dinghy motor. Others lost things as well. “Tigger Two” also broke their rudder.
When we reached the anchorage point in the early evening we had our first real meal for the day. We had not eaten through the rough part at all.
One thing I noticed was that the cockpit area was covered with salt. You could just scrape a bunch of it off in areas. The spray that was kicked up in the rough water really deposited quite a bit of salt.
At the anchorage, Chip Hindes of “NextBoat” swam over to “Tigger Two”, took back their broken rudder pieces, drilled holes in the larger piece and swam it back to “Tigger Two”. This then served as a temporary rudder. How wonderfully resourceful. This is just an example of the helpfulness of all these fine folks.
We settled in for the evening. I slept in the cockpit that night. When it got a little chilly I used a towel as a blanket.
I awoke at a little after 0600. I looked around and saw some activity on the other Conch Cruisers but not much. As we approached 0700 I heard someone say “We depart at 0700 as planned.” Wait a second; my schedule said we had a wakeup call at 0800. Now we’re departing at 0700? Did I miss something? Apparently there was indeed some miscommunication. Chip Giles said later that he thought he had mentioned a 0700 departure at the skippers meeting in the Dry Tortugas. He may well have, but some or most of us did not catch it. Anyway, we pulled anchor at 0700 and headed out. As we rounded the southern part of the island we heard a radio call from “Nextboat”; “Hey, where did everyone go? I though we had a wakeup call at 0800.” (Hmm, I guess I was not the only one then.) Chip further mentioned that he was low on fuel and was not completely confident he could make it back. I knew our fuel level was good so I radioed back that I would hold and wait for him. “NextBoat” joined us shortly and we continued on, under motor, into the easterly wind.
We caught up to the rest of the fleet a short time later unexpectedly. As we approached we noticed something unusual. Several boats were circling around one of the boats. We stayed clear thinking it might be a man overboard and did not want to have unnecessary boats in the area. It turned out to be something else. “Wild Hair”, our commodore’s boat had dismasted! We found out later that a turnbuckle on the forestay had failed and his mast came crashing down. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and no major damage was done. Chip Giles performed a temporary repair and we were once more on our way. The seas were a little rough so Chip decided to remain close to the shallow water near the islands in the hopes of finding calmer water.
We continued motoring until we reached the Key West Channel. There we made a turn to the north and raised the headsail to take the easterly wind. We took the channel back to the anchorage off of Wisteria Island. We first made a stop at the Key West Bight Marina where we took on fuel and bought ice. We also bought a cold drink, really cold, first one in days. At the marina we rented a key to the marina showers. We then headed out, back to the anchorage. We anchored, packed a bag with a change of clothes and other necessities and called the water taxi.
When we got to the dock in Key West, we went to find Dave and Dianne Bartlett on “Mac Odyssey”. They rented a slip in the marina and we thought it would be a good place to leave our bag. We visited for a few minutes and promised to return for drinks later. We then headed to the West Marine store to see if we could get replacement parts for the Magma Grill. They did not have the parts needed but Julie asked for some restaurant suggestions and got several.
We decided on a place called Pepe’s on Caroline Street. It is a great little place with character. And the food was excellent. We both had a fresh shrimp and crab salad sandwich. I think we also went through 3 pitchers of iced tea.
After our lunch, we walked around and headed to the ever-popular Duval Street. Julie bought a couple of small items but mostly we just walked around.
After our walk, we stopped at the marina store, and bought some cold beer to put in the cooler on “Mac Odyssey”. We dropped off the beer, picked up our bag, and went to the showers.
We finished dressing and headed to “Mac Odyssey” for a little socializing. Dave and Dianne were great hosts. Several folks stopped by and we stayed there until it was time to head to our Conch Cruisers dinner at Turtle Kraals. All the cruisers met there. We all shared the stories of the past few days and solidified the friendships that had begun on this trip. After dinner we went to a bar for a little more socializing. We then had to catch the water taxi, which made a special after-hours trip for us at 2300.
We headed back to the boat and called it a night. I slept in the cockpit again.
There is a reef about 7 nautical miles south of Key West. There are several small keys there. One is Sand Key. These keys have mooring balls to tie up to, as you are not allowed to anchor. This is to prevent damage to the reef.
The wind was from the east, as usual, and we would be sailing south so we would be on a nice reach to sail to Sand Key. At 1000 we pulled anchor and headed south with a group of 6 boats. “Olivia Two” had headed out the day we reached Key West. Jack had to get back to work. “Tigger Two” decided to head back today. “Wild Hair” was working on the repairs to their boat.
We raised the head sail and headed south. When we cleared the southern end of Key West, the seas were a little rough. But, the sail helped to stabilize the boat. It was much smoother than motoring. “NextBoat” called on the radio and said they were headed back, it was too rough for them. As it turned out, they had raised full sail and were overpowered. They discovered later that they should have raised just the head sail.
The sailing turned out to be the highlight of the day. The rocking of the boat, the steady winds, perhaps 15 knots, made for a great sail.
We reached Sand Key and picked up a mooring. This was our first mooring pick up. Julie handled the helm while I went forward with the boat pole to snag the mooring line. Julie has gotten really good at the helm.
We tied up to the mooring and swam out to the reef for snorkeling. The water was pretty rough. The snorkeling was ok, but not great. I suppose it was hard to compare after having been to the Dry Tortugas. Besides, the rough seas reduced the underwater visibility and there were not as many fish as we had hoped for. When we encountered a large shark, Julie suggested that maybe we should go back to the boat.
Once back at the boat we though we might just stay there for a bit. But, the water was so rough it was just knocking us around. We radioed to the other cruisers that we were going to head back.
We left the mooring and raised sail once again. Again, it was a great sail back. We saw a couple of schooners out while sailing back.
We anchored back at Wisteria Island and prepared for the evenings festivities. We called the water taxi and took it back to the marina dock. Once again, we went over to “Mac Odyssey” for a pre-dinner social. This time it seemed that everyone showed up. I have some video of everyone getting off of Dianne and Dave’s Boat.
We had dinner this night at The Hickory House on Stock Island, right across the street from the marina we launched from. Chip Giles had arranged transportation. (Chip thinks of everything). Chip had his car, as did Luke, and Luke’s mother. Using the three vehicles, all were escorted to the restaurant. What a great place. A nice, quiet restaurant, on the water. They had a small jazz band playing while we were there. What a superb meal. And once again, we could not have been in better company. We would have stayed even longer, but we had to beat a 2230 water taxi time limit.
We said our good-byes as we would be leaving in the morning.
We headed back to the boat. Once again, I slept in the cockpit.
We got up fairly early as usual. Julie prepared our last breakfast and we got underway. We first had to stop at Key West Bight Marina to drop off our shower key. (There is a $100 deposit).
We then headed down the channel and turned east. I had made a mistake in selecting the harbor on the map and we navigated into the wrong channel. But, we recovered quickly and found our way to Ocean Side Marina. We met “Sumbuddie 2” there. Jerry and Sandy were also taking their boat out this day.
We docked, got a taxi to the trailer lot, recovered the boat and prepared her for the trip home without incident. The only thing we ran into was that we came in at low tide. The ramp has a concrete stop to keep the trailer and vehicle from sliding into the water. I backed in all the way to the stop but I really needed another foot or so to get the boat easily onto the trailer. I had let the ballast out as much as I could with the blower. I though we might have to wait for the tide to come in. I was finally able to winch the boat onto the trailer.
We learned so much.
We had a couple of scary moments but nothing that was regrettable.
We could not have traveled in better company. Everyone on the trip was fabulous. We made some great new friends and hope to travel with them to other interesting places in the years to come.