Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dry Tortugas

Days on cruise:  287


Several people recommended we MUST go to the Dry Tortugas, a group of 7 small islands 70 miles west of Key West, and home to Fort Jefferson.


We considered and rejected the idea of going in our own boat, because there are no amenities of any kind: no marinas, mooring balls, fresh water, electricity, food or, most importantly,  any protection from weather at anchor. Sometimes boats go there and get stuck in wild weather for days before it’s calm enough to return. There were 4 sailboats and 1 trawler anchored there today. The trawler left at noon.


At  7:15 a.m. we went to the Key West terminal where the Yankee Freedom II fast catamaran resides and joined 150 other people on this 100+ foot boat (with 40’ beam) for the day trip to the Dry Tortugas.


The Yankee Freedom II was newly commissioned and went into service last September. She’s well laid out, comfortable, with friendly staff, good food (breakfast and lunch) and has folks on board who describe the history of the islands and Fort Jefferson. It’s about 2 1/2 hours each way.


The hexagonal-shaped fort has a moat all around.


Fort Jefferson sits on Garden Key, the largest of the Las Tortugas islands. Construction of the fort began in 1846 to defend the Gulf of Mexico and was stopped in 1889 without completing it. The introduction of rifled cannons which could penetrate the 8-foot-thick walls made it obsolete. The weight of the 16 million bricks used in construction was also causing the edifice to collapse as it sank into the sand.



We took a one-hour guided tour of the fort then wandered on our own afterwards. Snorkeling equipment was on offer from the Yankee Freedom II, but we’ve done so much Caribbean scuba diving over the years, and the water here was chilly (68 degrees), so we passed on snorkeling as wetsuits weren’t available. Folks who snorkeled thought it was terrific, and they saw lots of fish, coral, sea fans, urchins and more.


Today the Fort and 7 islands belong to the National Park Service, and there are facilities on site where Park Service employees live.


We had perfect weather for the journey with temps about 82 and blue skies, bright sunshine and turquoise water. There were 2-4 foot swells in the Gulf, but Cathryn applied a Scopolamine patch before departure so felt fine all day. We highly recommend this trip to anyone in the area as it was a most interesting and enjoyable day.

Key West Is Also About Excess

Not everyone comes to Key West for the food, historic houses, sunsets and touring Ft. Jefferson.  Duval St., the major commercial street, has lots of t-shirt shops, hookah shops, galleries, boutiques and trinkets. It also has over 60 bars including the ability to buy drinks and beer to go. It’s common for folks to walk down the street with a drink in hand, even in the late morning.


Some people end their day early as a result, seen above.


Some continue into the night, as above at Coyote Ugly where they encourage women customers to dance on the bar. Overall it seems the town works hard to live up to its reputation for partying. Based on what we’ve heard from the bands in the bars as we walk down the streets, alcohol seems to contribute significantly to the appreciation of the music.

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