Friday, March 14, 2014



Landing in the Dry Tortugas, FL
We made it! We're in the good ole US of A.

Our passage from Roatan Island, Honduras to land fall in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida took 97 hours of non-stop sailing and motor-sailing. We sailed past Belize, Mexico, and Cuba without stopping on some stiff winds and strong favorable currents from the Gulf Stream. This was our first experience traveling in the Gulf Stream current and in the Gulf of Mexico. Wow! We moved FAST. I saw 8.9 knots at one point.

The first 2 whole days and nights were pure sailing, but not of the relaxing type. Instead it was a wild ride. We had to close all the ports to keep sea spray from coming inside. We were dry though up in the cockpit in our hard dodger and new plastic enclosure. It was more than a ride, it was physically exhausting because we had to keep our bodies steady against the onslaught. This took a lot of work by those core body muscles that we rarely use. We picked a weather window with good wind at first so we could start out by sailing (save fuel) so all of this was expected. The final days we expected
the winds to drop down, which they did. So we finished the trip by motor-sailing.

My hands and soles of my feet were tender from gripping the hand rails so tightly while being knocked around and bracing my feet on the damp wood floor. Kinda like the beginning of the school year in elementary school and you overdo it on the monkey bars the first few days. My life jacket, which was always worn and tethered to the boat, rubbed my neck raw from the constant motion.

Whoa! The USA is certainly the land of the plenty. Plenty of buoys and channel markers that is. We were surprised not only at the quantity but also at how clearly colored (red and green) and different shapes (triangles for red and squares for green) so we could identify which color it was even with the bright morning sun in our eyes! Idiot proof! Within the first hour of arriving we witnessed the US Coast Guard installing freshly painted neon green markers on top of the buoys which were even more visible. That takes some monetary funding. We are used to looking for bamboo sticks in the mud and faded children's play balls or empty motor oil jugs being used for markers which is what we've seen for the last 7 1/2 years in Latin American waters.

Rounding the corner of the fort we came to the anchorage and saw the US National Park research vessel FORT JEFFERSON at the dock. Shiny as a new whistle – no rust! Now that costs a bundle! Soon the sea planes began arriving with visitors – and then the sparkling white ferry! Overhead, military jets performed aerobatic maneuvers for our viewing pleasure and we heard our first sonic boom in almost a decade! Yep. USA – the land of the plenty.
Goliath Grouper - almost as big as our dinghy!

So, below is a photo of us out in the anchorage (we're one of the boats with a mast) of Fort Jefferson National Park on the Dry Tortugas. What a great spot to stop and rest and explore! That big ship is the ferry that brings visitors over from Key West a couple of hours away.

The water was beautiful. When we finally lowered the dinghy we were visited by this GIANT fish - actually it is a Goliath Grouper and was about 5 to 6 feet long! Nope, I don't think I'll go swimming after all (and yes, we found out later that they do bite).

There were at least 4 of these monsters in the water. Why? Well, because they are protected here so they could grow to these sizes, but also because the local fishermen come into this harbor during windy conditions. As they filet their catch they toss the carcasses to these big guys. The groupers have learned to come in and take advantage of the easy access to food. Once the fishermen left, so did these big groupers.

The local pelicans were quick to notice that there were fishy handouts available and soon there was a flock hanging out in the water near the little fishing boats. Magnificent Frigate birds also tried to horn in on the feast - they are known thieves and are very agressive. Fights ensured and there was a lot of flapping of wings and squawking.

The feeding frenzy attracted the attention of the folks on several of the sailboats who also joined in the event. Here's a photo of our new best friend fileting some yellow tail snapper for us fresh from the sea. Yummy!

Greedy Pelicans
Thankfully, the Sooty Terns didn't join in the frenzy as they were way too busy with mating and nesting season over on Bird Key. From our boat we could see a constant "cloud" of hovering birds over the low scrub brush on the little island. Because this spit of land (it used to be a separate island, but storms have moved the sands to connect it to the fort) is protected during nesting season we didn't go close. But I did manage to get a photo of it from the top of Fort Jefferson.

Sooty Tern Bird Nesting Preserve
So we toured the fort and hung out in the anchorage for a couple of days to rest up for our last leg of the passage to Key West where we are now.

I'll leave you with a few photos of the sights from Fort Jefferson. Scroll on down.....
Jonesy at Fort Jefferson

Welcome home! I always wanted to go to the Dry Tortugas on my trips to KW. Someday I'll get to go.
Welcome home!
Welcome back to the US!
What an adventure you have every day.
Welcome home. I have loved reading of all your wonderful adventures. Enjoy FL. Darrlaa
Happy to read you made it safe, albeit the wild ride. How long are you back in USA for?

Great photos! I am glad to hear that your journey was a safe one. The sun and water look amazing. Our old Muscongus Bay does not look so inviting yet this year!
Welcome, my Friend!!! <3
Glad you made it back safe and sound. The ride across the Yucatan Straits was very uncomfortable for us as well. Take care and can't wait to hear from you.
Saundra s/v Island Sol
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