Blue Turtle Cruising

Keys bound—Dry Tortugas, June 29, 2014

On our third day, we awoke early at our Jewfish Basin anchorage with our boat listing to port. We’ve had our boat list before, but since Randy replaced our cracked water tank, it solved the problem. In the past, our listing issues had to do with missing a water tank or taking on fuel. Randy and I discussed what could be the issue and decided it could be a fuel tank/water tank imbalance or the way we packed the boat with provisions (lots of cases of water, beer, etc). We also discussed what could happen if it were an imbalance in fuel which would be to run out gas. We thought about heading into Key West to be safe, but we really wanted to go to the Dry Tortugas and we weren’t really that worried about it, so we moved on.

The water was calm and it was a beautiful day. I worked in another boat workout and the boys decided to try out our new fishing rod holder. They put on an artificial lure on the big grouper rod and placed it in the rod holder. Thirty minutes later, the rod bent and we had a fish on! It must’ve been a big one because 5 seconds later, the rod holder broke taking the fishing pole with it into the water. It was gone! Nice rod too and *brand new* rod holder…first time using it EVER. One second I’m running down below for the camera, the next, Corey and I are looking at each other like “did that just happen?” We were so bummed!  Corey decided to throw a line in with a lighter weight rod and lure and shortly after hooking up again. He’s used to fishing backwaters, and was psyched about this offshore fish putting up a good fight. He was hoping for dinner (a Mahi Mahi) but it ended up being a Bonita (not a very good eating fish) so he threw it back. Still, it was very exciting and it was a beautiful fish!

Corey caught this bonita on the way to Dry Tortugas
Corey caught this bonita on the way to Dry Tortugas
Corey's catch
Corey’s catch

We finally got close enough to the Dry Tortugas to actually see LAND! When we got within a mile from Garden Key (the main Key with Fort Jefferson), our engine sputtered a few times and stopped. We we adrift in the Southeast Channel with no power! Immediately, I radioed the Dry Tortugas ranger station letting them know that we were adrift and where. They responded that they would be out to get us within 15 minutes. Randy opened the hatches and went into the extremely hot engine room trying to figure out what was the issue. He started the generator and it, too, ran out of fuel. This told us what our problem was: a clogged fuel line. We have two 250 gallon fuel tanks (one on each side) and the engine and generator draw fuel from each tank. One of the fuel lines got clogged and so the engines drew fuel out of only one tank, so essentially we ran out of fuel in one tank. Once the rangers arrived, we explained what the issue was and they happily agreed to tow us into the anchorage area to give Randy some time to work on the issue.

Being towed into the Dry Tortugas by the park rangers
Being towed into the Dry Tortugas by the park rangers
Being towed into the anchorage area
Being towed into the anchorage area
Frustrated with the engine issue, but so happy to be in the Dry Tortugas
Frustrated with the engine issue, but so happy to be in the Dry Tortugas

He got the fuel line unclogged and the generator started (thank God!) so he began working on the engine. We already had an issue with the engine starting batteries not providing enough power and now he had to bleed the fuel lines on the engine to get rid of any air sucked in while running out of diesel. Finally, we got to the anchorage and tied up to the only mooring ball (for Gov’t use only) at the suggestion of the park rangers. It was a frustrating evening because we finally made it and we knew what the issue was, it was just a matter of Randy bleeding the lines and dealing with the starting batteries not charging. Our engine is very stubborn in this respect and it takes a long time to start after a situation like this. Randy continued to try and start the engine the rest of the night with no luck. At least the generator (air conditioning) was working!

Randy was happy to at least get the generator up and running
Randy was happy to at least get the generator up and running
Our view Fort Jefferson on Garden Key
Our view Fort Jefferson on Garden Key
Once anchored, Randy and Corey put the dinghy in the water
Once anchored, Randy and Corey put the dinghy in the water

We had a beautiful sunset that evening and decided that no matter what, we knew were going to have a great time here.

Sun setting by Fort Jefferson
Sun setting by Fort Jefferson

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