Blue Turtle Cruising

Finally some decent weather in the Dry Tortugas!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 8-10, 2017

Thursday – Weather forecast is looking better

After 4 days of cloudy skies, high winds, and rough seas, we finally had a decent day forecasted. Although Thursday morning called for SW winds near 20 knots and seas at 5-7ft  it was to calm down throughout the day and into Friday. We had a morning shower in the a.m. and then the boys left to go fishing in the dingy. In the afternoon, after the ferry left, we all went ashore. Corey fished while I hiked the fort for more photo-taking. After that, Randy and I snorkeled the coal docks. The weather was finally beautiful—sunny and calm—which made for an amazing sunset.

Walking through the archways
Communication arches
A fort with a view
View of one of the powder magazines
Hot shot furnace for heating cannon balls to fire at wooden ships
Second story view of the north beach
View of mote, mote wall and north beach
View of north coal docks
Traverse Magazine on top level
Top level view of Bush Key
Rodman canon on top level of the fort
Top level view of fort
View of anchorage and dock house
Blue Turtle in the anchorage

Bird nesting ground at Bush Key
View of anchorage/camping area from the lower level of fort
Dock house with National Park Service emblem
Check-in area for boat permits and marine weather info
Finally a beautiful sunset
Setting sun and Loggerhead Key (far left)
Fishing boat cruises past Loggerhead Key
Tarpon porpoising near the coal docks

Friday – Let’s go diving!

Our Friday forecast was variable winds 5-10 and seas at 1-2ft. We pulled up anchor and headed out to go diving to our first spot, Off Ramp (N24°40.156 W082°54.506).  In past years, Off Ramp has been a beautiful dive but it was disappointing this time around.  Because there was a swell in the water, it was difficult to dive because it is so shallow. There also wasn’t much to see there this time and so we cut the dive short to head to our next spot.

Davis Rock (N24°41.209 W082°54.440) is a spot very near Off Ramp and we grabbed the mooring ball.  We geared up again and headed down. Because of all the wind and rain the water had been stirred up quite a bit for the past week which causes the visibility to not be as good. Nevertheless, it was still a beautiful dive and we saw a tons of fish including a goliath grouper.

After Davis Rock, the boys talked me into riding out to Tortugas Bank so they could try spearfishing again. Since there was a lot of swell there and I was cold, I decided to sit this dive out. The spot we were on was called “Dantes Inferno” and the boys didn’t have any luck this time around. On the way back to the anchorage, we cruised past Loggerhead Key to get a closer look and a few photos.

That afternoon, we decided to take Sophie ashore for a walk and to check out the weather forecast. This would be the first time Sophie stepped paws on land since we left Key West. We walked her around the perimeter of the mote wall which exhausted her little legs.

Getting ready to dive
Goliath Grouper at Davis Rock
Corey gets in close to the grouper
Beautiful and interesting coral heads
Colorful angelfish
Relaxing on the bridge after our dive
Checking out Loggerhead Key
The lighthouse and dock on Loggerhead Key
View of Fort Jefferson
Heading back to the anchorage
Sophie’s touristy shot of her at the park sign
Walking around the fort on the mote wall
Sophie says, “is it happy hour yet?”
Boys and Sophie on the north wall
Sophie “doing time” on the prison bench
Corey on the south beach doing a back flip
Sea plane waiting for it’s visitors

Saturday – Weather outlook not so good

On Saturday, the wind and seas picked up again and our weather outlook wasn’t looking very good for our departure on Tuesday. We decided that Sunday’s forecast of east winds 10-15 knots and 2-4ft seas looked better than the forecast through Wednesday so a decision was made to leave early. With Saturday being our last day at the Dry Tortugas, we stayed active at the fort. After lunch, Corey dropped me off by dinghy on Garden Key so I could get a little exercise running/walking around the mote wall perimeter while he went fishing for yellowtail snapper. Randy stayed aboard Blue Turtle tending to last minute engine checks. I radioed Corey to come pick me up and we both went aboard the ferry for a fresh water shower before the ferry departed.

Shortly after the ferry left we heard a call on the radio to the park rangers announcing two Blackhawk helicopters coming in to land. Randy, Corey and I were planning to head to the north beach to snorkel so we stopped by the helicopters to check them out up close. One of the pilots was there answering questions for folks so Randy asked about the Blackhawks. We were told by the pilot that the helicopters were actually called Pave Hawks which were the Air Force’s version of the Blackhawk but since the Blackhawk name is more common it’s just easier to announce it as such on the radio to avoid confusion. After checking out the helicopters, we snorkeled the north coal docks for a while. When we were done, we relaxed on the mote wall for a happy hour beverage soaking up the last bit of our Dry Tortugas trip.

Cormorant hanging out on the coal docks
View of north beach from the water
Pavehawk coming in for landing
Air Force Pavehawk landing at Dry Tortugas
Pavehawk with Loggerhead Key in background
Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas
Approaching the south coal docks
Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas
Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas
Randy and Corey checking out the helicopter

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