After our towing in, Randy continued through the night to get our engine started. We were lucky he was able to get the generator started. After a sleepless night for Randy, he awoke early and began again to get the engine starting batteries charged up enough to start the engine and finish bleeding the lines. After about a half hour, the engine roared to life and all three of us started high-fiving each other. YAY! The engine started and we wouldn’t have to be towed 70 miles into Key West! Randy did a check of the fuel again and we now had plenty of fuel. After unclogging the fuel line, the tanks equalized and we were no longer listing. Everything was right in the world again. We decided that for the first day in the Dry Tortugas we would explore Fort Jefferson and Garden Key and do a little snorkeling around the fort.
The Dry Tortugas National Park is part of Monroe County, Florida, and consists of seven tiny islands. Located on Garden Key, Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fortification in the U.S. and is part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. It was mainly used during the Civil War and served as a federal prison for prisoners and deserters. There are 3 ways to get the Dry Tortugas: on your own personal vessel like we did, aboard the ferry from Key West, or by seaplane.
The best anchorage for cruisers is on the southwest side of the fort and we were able anchor there and see the fort from our boat. It was such a neat place! There is no cell service or internet available since were so far out and it so nice being “off the grid” with no connection to the outside world for a few days. Park rangers and fellow cruisers were all very nice and helpful. We met a few folks from different boats where we wound up seeing them again in Key West a few days later.
Once we loaded the dinghy with snorkel gear and a cooler, we headed to the Garden Key dinghy area and beached it. After checking in at the ranger station, we began walking in and around the fort. It was a really neat 6-sided structure with amazing views of the surrounding clear blue water. I took about a million photos :). After touring the fort, we returned to the dinghy and got our snorkel gear and entered the water. The best snorkeling was around the South Coaling Dock Ruins which is right next to where we parked the dinghy. Visibility was excellent and the docks were abundant with live coral and schooling fish. We were in paradise!
Later in that afternoon, Corey and Randy went exploring to find another snorkling spot and they said it was pretty bumpy, but had a great time anyway. When they returned, we swam and relaxed in the water by Blue Turtle. We were treated, once again, to a gorgeous sunset that evening. Later that night, a storm moved in bringing with it strong winds. A commercial liveaboard dive boat broke loose and was dragging through the anchorage. Luckily everyone was on the radio and alerted and the boat was able to re-anchor. That was enough excitement for one night!