Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas

We’ve piloted MV Simple Life from Warwick, RI all the way to Key West, FL. We might as well make the 70 mile trek to the last seven tiny islands referred to as Dry Tortugas. US Highway 1 ends in Key West but the FL Keys continue West into the Gulf of Mexico. The last stop, Dry Tortugas, is a national park and is home to Fort Jefferson.

We awoke at sunrise, had breakfast and let go of our mooring. The winds were picking up but the predicted sea state was something we were OK with. We put Mallory Square in Key West to our stern and began motoring South. Very quickly into the journey you realize that there is no cellphone service outside of Key West

The first clump of low-lying keys that you pass of to starboard are part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

What is very cool is that there are half-dozen or so homes on Ballast Key.

You could clearly see one of the homes as we passed.

The next set of islands are the Marquesas Keys.

We had planned to use an anchorage just along the western shore of Tin Tin Key. However, in-route we decided to go the whole 75 mile distance in one shot.

You can see the Marquesas Keys in this video.

On our journey, we passed many sea turtles flippering their way against the waves.

The water color in this area is just amazing greens and blues.

When the cloud shadows move over the top of the water you’ll see distinct shades of blue.

Along with sea turtles we saw manta rays on the surface. I attempted to catch it on video but alas it dove as we passed.

The wave heights were beginning to pick up and you can see MV Simple Life is surfing at times in this following sea. When a wave would lift our stern our speed would increase about 1.5 knots we compared to our speed when we would slide down the back of a wave.

We had to keep our speed up to try to keep up with the following sea and at times our speed hit 10.5 knots. Keeping the speed up also meant a shorted duration in a following sea. After about 9 hours we could see Fort Jefferson off to starboard. Also noteworthy is Loggerhead Light on Loggerhead Key

We quickly raced around the narrow channel and found a spot to anchor in the small harbor. Shortly after anchoring many small commercial fishing boats appeared and two anchored alongside us. I found it interesting that with the anchorage full, the fishermen decided to tie one boat off the back of the other anchored fishing boat.

This allowed the two boats to fit where only one could have using the traditional every boat rides on it’s own anchor.

There is a sea plane that takes visitors to the island and we watched as it raced over the surface prior to takeoff.

It had been a long day but I brought the dogs ashore as I checked out the small island. On my way back in the dinghy I noticed the sun was going down so I raced the dinghy out to where I could get a good video of it.

If watching the camera view bob up and down as I bounce in the waves makes you dizzy,…here is a static picture.

At night, sitting in the aft cockpit and looking up at the most amazing starry night. I must have seen twice as many stars in that black sky than ever before. As they wind howls over the boat and the stars rock in the sky you sip your beer and feel very small in the universe. It really is moments like this that will stick in my mind.

Before retiring to my cabin, I decided to put the underwater lights on and to my surprise there we big fish, maybe 2 footers, swimming just a foot below the surface.

The morning came and unfortunately things were pulling us back to Key West. I rounded out of the entrance channel and we took the waves head on for our return trip

Just as we were arriving back in Key West we passed this sport fisher towing a small commercial fishing boat. It’s a long way home at tow speed.

I leave y’all with a reminder to never go too long before staring up at the stars.

Key Largo South

We awoke early in the AM and took one last look at downtown Miami before departing from our anchorage off Key Biscayne.

Downtown Miami 1

This fine yacht was next to us when we left.

Key Biscayne Hatteras

The Border and Customs Patrol boat passed us like a bullet.

3 Customs and Border Patrol

We passed through narrow cuts in the mangroves.

There were many hazards to watch out for. This broken daymarker piling was snapped off at the waterline. Someone attached a green pole to make it a bit more visible. I can only imagine what it must be like to slam into one of these pilings so hard that you shear it off. Ouch!.

5 Piling Broken

The bigger challenge in the Keys is water depth. It’s so shallow that you have to vigilant about staying out of the ‘skinny’ or shallow water. At times we saw depths in the 5′ range just inches below our full keel.

5-4.jpg

I think a captain wiser than I would say… “Thou’s  Speed Over Ground shall not exceed a water’s depth”.

As we arrived into Key Largo we past the Anchorage Yacht Club to port

6 Anchorage Yacht Club Key Largo

and a bar to starboard.

7 Key Largo Bar

As we continued.. the water was an amazing shade of bright green.

Kelly enjoyed the breeze as the temp was somewhere in the 80s. Just a great day.

9 Kelly

We originally thought we’d stop and anchor somewhere mid Key Largo but we  instead did almost 10 hours South. The wind was blowing hard and we needed to find somewhere to anchor that would offer us some protection from the wind and waves. We picked a little shallow cove that we found a good spot to drop the hook. It was so shallow that as I backed down on the anchor @800 RPM and the sandy bottom was being kicked up by our thrust.

11 Set Anchor Shallow

Tonight as we await the moon’s rising we are making plans for Boot Key tomorrow.