If at first, or second, or even third you don’t succeed… try again! As previously mentioned, I have planned three times to take Beatitude to the Dry Tortugas, and I’ve been thwarted each time. The first two times were when I took 7 or 8 days off to cruise when family was coming to visit. We were hoping to make a quick run to the Dry Tortugas and stay a couple of days, then return to Regatta Pointe. That would require extreme luck with the weather, something which we did not have on either of those occasions. So, we altered plans each time and made a still wonderful trip to Sanibel and back. The third time was just this past few days, when we had originally hoped to go from Marco Island to the Dry Tortugas and then on to Key West. However, a family emergency derailed that train.
Not to be completely denied, I changed tactics. Instead of taking Beatitude the seventy miles from Key West to the Dry Tortugas, I hopped on the Yankee Freedom III, the National Park Ferry that takes would-be adventurers on that trip daily. Instead of a roughly 12-14 hour one way trip aboard our floating home, this trip took around two and one half hours, clipping along at a pace of around 25 knots. The pleasure of visiting the Dry Tortugas was only diminished by the absence of my beautiful wife, without whom even the most delightful experiences are like eating an unseasoned dish. There is something missing.
Nonetheless, I am grateful to be able to visit this elusive group of seven islands. Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce De León, gave these islands their name in 1513. He and his men took 170 sea turtles from them, thus the name “Las Tortugas.” The word “dry” was added to the charts later to notify other mariners that there was no fresh water to be found on any of the islands. The U.S. Government spent 30 years in the 1800s building Fort Jefferson on one of the islands, though it was never finished. It was used as a prison for a while, housing Union deserters during the Civil War. It’s most famous prisoner may have been Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln assassination.
My four and a half hours on Garden Key (the island upon which Fort Jefferson was built) were spent exploring the ruins of the fort and snorkeling the waters immediately surrounding the fort. The day was bright and sunny and the water was nice and refreshing. The snorkeling was great fun, however its pleasure was lessened by the hundreds of Moon Jellyfish in those waters. It was virtually impossible to avoid being stung by the boneless, brainless, and heartless members of the bloom (not being harsh; just the facts). 🙂 I was stung four times in my brief time in the water.
So, although I was unable to visit the Dry Tortugas in my own vessel, at least I was blessed with the opportunity to visit under other circumstances. I was actually quite surprised that there were no cruisers or sailboats anchored there during our visit. As we were approaching the islands, a sailboat was leaving. Other than that, if we had visited with Beatitude, we would have had the place to ourselves.
If I am successful in my production attempts, I’ll soon post a video of my time in the Dry Tortugas.