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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Destinations > Florida & SE US East Coast > Florida - Keys
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Old 07-30-2010
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Question Dry Tortugas

Anyone sailed to Fort Jefferson? Can you tell us about your trip? Thanks.
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Old 07-30-2010
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Well.............OK...................since you asked.

From stuff sent to family and friends:

4-13-10 Tuesday

So we left Key West today and sailed to Boca Grande Key which is almost to the Marquesas of Jimmy Buffett fame. We made way nicely too with a following breeze of 15-20 knots – that is force 4-5, pretty nautical sounding huh? The first reef recommended for this boat is 20 knots and we had two in the main and one in the jib, good enough for 25 or so and were comfortable at 5.5-7 knots of boat speed. This was a short hop to lessen the distance to the Tortugas tomorrow. It will be 10-12 hrs solid tomorrow with predicted winds 23-25 so we will have some seas to contend with.

We got here around 11ish and so wiled away the rest of the day doing almost nothing but gawking and reading. Well, I serviced the anchor winch which took all of half an hour or so. Such is life aboard. But like I said, tomorrow will poke at us a little with the wind building.

This key is a pretty open roadstead with a wicked tide rip that makes for a cross swell that has us rolling a little but not like it was at Looe Key a few days ago. More wind though.

We saw some dolphins off the stern again just after sunset and before dark but no high-tailing it with the ruckus from last night. That stuff last night is just something they don’t show you at Sea World huh?


4-14-10
Off toward Dry Tortugas at 0715 with a double reefed main and double reefed jib. This is more reefing than the wind calls for, it being only high teens to 20 but it is more comfortable with speeds averaging around 6 knots or a little better. By noon we have had winds in the mid 20s and the highest boat speed was 12.2 knots surfing down a wave. Pretty dang exciting to novices like us. We saw a small shark, a few turtles and some dolphin. The dolphin were behaving normally, as in diving under the bows and eyeing us.

Earlier in the day an egret of some sort landed aboard and looked pretty tired. He stayed with us till anchored in the Tortugas and then still did not want to leave. I pushed him away and he now has a new home. He only pooped in the cockpit one time and that was when he got in the way during a jibe. Poor thing must have been pretty dehydrated.

The water is beautiful getting a deeper, darker blue with more depth. Some areas we crossed like The Quicksands were only 15 feet or so but in some places it was 85ft. Magnificent color. I hope it shows up in the pics.

We had the anchor down at 1545 after one try where it did not grab. Wind 23-26 knots. Man that feels strong. You all know that the force of the wind is the square of the speed so a 20 knot wind feels four times stronger than a 10 knot wind right? Well, that is sort of like the “feels like” temperature one hears on the “tube” or nowadays I should say the “screen” for you young”uns. So when the wind goes to 30 like it did this evening, well, like wow man! Hard to stand on deck in that for sure. Then add the rocking and all and, well, like wow!


4-17-10 Saturday

Today we leave the Dry Tortugas for the 90 odd miles to Marco Island. This should be through the night putting us near land some time the middle of the next day. The wind is from the ENE but supposed to go SE later in the day so that should make the course close hauled to a close reach for the first day. That is the plan so that we can make our easting since the DT are so far west in the gulf. More on that later.

We were up with the sun this day and started up the motor after the coffee was made and…………no water output. Oh yea, Yesterday I cleaned out the raw water strainer and forgot to open the seacock afterwards. Open it up and yep, no water. Oh well. Changing the impeller at anchor is a lot easier than the last time, last year, when I did it out 20 miles in the gulf! So off we go 45 minutes later. Hey, the last time I had to get out the manual and look at the pictures and all to get the job done. Figuring out the rotation is key you know and that took a while too as different motors have the pumps mounted differently and you don’t want to put the fins in folded the wrong way. No sireee bob! So, not problem as I looked at what was left of the fins and their orientation before I took it out. Smart huh? Kinda like lookin’ at the odd body part that has to be put back in at some point later. Ya just don’t want to put it in backward or something ya know?

So off we go beating to windward waiting for the wind change that I know you all already know never happens. So about mid day this oh-so-observant sailor decides “we ain’t goin’ the right way” and decides to use the motor to help things along and allow another 20 degrees or so of windward performance. It is called motor sailing and is quite common as the usual course one has set and needs to follow is into the wind doncha know. So now instead of only being able to make a course of roughly north, which means in 2 or 3(or frickin’ 4) days we could make Tampa, we can sort of make toward Ft Myers. Did I mention we changed propane tanks a few days ago and thus have two more weeks of refridgeration? Not now we don’t! When I changed the impeller (pretty lucky that happened) I noticed the tank was about empty. The cause? Yep, operator error and not tight enough so it is leaking overboard. Now only a day or two left of refridgeration. That sucks as the beer ran out yesterday too.

Now where were we. Oh yea. The wind is now from the NE just about almost exactly, directly, from Marco. Oh the sailing life! So after 12 hours of bashing, some green water over the bows, realizing that I did not close off two vents that need closing when the green water comes aboard and being generally really tired we just hove to for the night. The bashing stopped and only the regular splashing occurred as we slept and made a sedately 13 miles NW through the short, loud, bumpy night. NW is not the direction we want to go (Texas) but dang if SE would be much better especially since there are towers out there to run into in the dark. Yes, towers and yes DARK. Thin moon and clouds equals pretty frickin’ dark 50 miles off the coast. And there are a bunch of towers, one being not too far off. Now, I don’t know what they are there for but the chart says “Tower” and also something about Navy training area or some such thing. I suppose they are there so if a plane loses it’s way it can fly by, grab a gander and figure out which way to go next. Same for the subs and ships I suppose. We just did not want to bump into one in the middle of the night. Yes we were well out of the shipping channels and I am, after all typing and boring you with this stuff.



4-18-10 Sunday

Up and at-em at sunrise. Oh so the wind is still being blown directly from Marco or nearly so huh? Yep. Great. Only 47.9 miles, per the GPS to Marco Island. Sufice it to say that for today we motorsailed all day (7-5:30) with no breaks and constant on and off storms coming off shore at us. I ran the boat hard with turns for 6 knots and barely making 4.5 and when a 3-series of waves hit 1-2-3 the boat speed would go to 2. Then it would slowly pick back up before more green water etc. But you know about a bad day of sailing and work and all that stuff right?

Well, at 1730 we were tied up to a T-dock at a nice place with flat water. We walked to a resteraunt called The Snook Inn here on Marco Island. You all should know of the place I am sure because it has it’s own seprate out building that is a gift shop where a cute sweatshirt costs only $65.00. Sorry I could not get you all one. In fact no one got one. Feel better?
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