Blue Turtle Cruising

Key West bound and Dry Tortugas trip wrap up

After we spent 5 nights and 6 days in the Dry Tortugas, it was time to start thinking about heading to Key West. For the latter part of the week, we were expecting higher winds and wave reports. We decided to leave a day earlier than planned because the next day was calling for 3-5 ft. waves (no thank you!). So, on Friday morning we left our anchorage near the fort and headed out in 2-4 ft seas — it was a little lumpy but not too bad. Suddenly, our main engine alarm started to go off and Randy came down below to check on the engine. We couldn’t figure out what the issue was, so we turned around and headed back to Garden Key.

Once we were back in the protected area, we dropped our anchor and killed the engine. After the engine cooled a little, Randy and Mike, a guy we met while there (who was very helpful!), crawled around the engines to see if they could find the source of the problem. It turned out to be the oil pressure sender not being connected and they figured out a way to fix it. After the two-hour delay, we finally left the anchorage once more and headed toward Key West…

Dry Totugas trip highlights:

Overall, this years trip to the Dry Tortugas was amazing! Randy and I both agreed that we seemed much more relaxed about this trip and were also a lot calmer when things went wrong—and they did. We didn’t have any issues with our fuel lines clogging like last year, but several things cropped up as they almost always do on trips. One night, Randy noticed that there wasn’t much water being pumped out by the generator. The next morning, he was changing the raw water pump impeller—thankfully we had a spare! We also had an issue with getting an error on our inverter causing it to trip. We figured out that factory setting of the ambient battery temperature sensors was set at 70 degree. Since our batteries are located in the engine room, it is much hotter, causing it to overheat. We pulled out the manuals and figured out how to set the ambient temperature higher which fixed the issue. I think that with time, we’ve become better at remaining calm and diagnosing the issues. Randy is amazing and has really come a long way with maintaining and troubleshooting most of our trawler’s systems. This makes for a less stressful trip overall.

You may recall that last year we had a couple of boats drag anchor during a storm one night. Since we had mostly calm weather this year we didn’t have any issues with anchoring except for one of the last days there. One morning, Randy and Corey noticed that we seemed to be moving and decided to bring up the anchor to reset it. When it came out of the water, it was tangled in our chain. This would be the first issue ever that we’ve had with anchoring in 3 years. We think when I set the anchor some of the chain fell on top of it rather than behind it causing it to get entangled as we swung around. Randy and I untangled the chain carefully by tying ropes to it to make sure it didn’t fall too quickly when it was free of chain.

Our anchor tangled in the chain
Our anchor tangled in the chain

Last year, we took 3 days to get to the Dry Tortugas. Knowing that many boats opt to cross overnight to the Drys, we opted not to since it was our first trip. We also do not have auto pilot, so crossing overnight would be difficult to stay alert and steer the vessel. Our 3 day trip was mainly one short day (the first one) and two 10+ hour days which seemed like a lot of time. We hated to spend 3 days getting there when time is so precious to us. This year, we decided to make it in one day. Knowing it would take 18 hours to get there, Randy awoke at 2 am to head out with Corey and I relieving him at sun up. While this was also a very long day, especially for Randy, we all agreed it was way better to make it in one versus 3. The 3 day trip is nice, if you have the time.

I think the absolutely best part of this year’s trip is the diving. Since we only spent 3 days there last year, and the weather was a little windier and rougher, we really didn’t get a chance to explore the dive spots. We did get to snorkel the Windjammer (it was too rough to dive) and snorkel around the fort but that was it. This year, we had such awesome, calm weather we got to explore the Tortugas awesome dive spots. What was even nicer, was that there were mooring balls on all the sites we went to–making it easier to visit.

I have to also note that spending 6 days on anchor without cell service, cable and WiFi was absolutely bliss! While I do like my internet things, it was really nice to not have any interruptions. As a family, we got to communicate more and really enjoy our time together.

2 thoughts on “Key West bound and Dry Tortugas trip wrap up”

  1. Good morning!

    Just wanted to say how much I am “vicariously enjoying” your journey’s in the Blue Turtle. Watching you (the crew) learn how to handle the sometimes, tough lessons of being out in open water with limited resources is really interesting to watch.

    I’m thinking about how these same areas need to be thought through before we embark on our journey!

    Take care, be careful, never stop being the best of friends!


  2. Really enjoy reading about your adventures, and all the work you guys have put into Blue Turtle. Our Defever 38 has had many of the same improvements over the years.

    When we first started using a swivel on our chain rode, periodically the anchor would come up with the swivel jammed against the anchor shank, even when using a shackle to join swivel and anchor. This was caused by wind and/or current shifts. The fix was to add a short piece of chain (4-5 links) between anchor and swivel, then connect the chain rode to the other end of the swivel, thus preventing any side loading of the swivel. Problem solved! Now, after wind or current shifts, the anchor comes up as it should.


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