Tuesday, February 10, 2015

6/15/14-6/26/14: Ft. Myers to Dry Tortugas to Key West: 220 NM

Sailing at Sunset near Key West

Docked at the Legacy Harbor Marina in Ft. Myers.  Great place to stay and reasonably priced.
Our route

Pete and Kristen joined the adventure in Ft. Myers. We decided to have lunch before we packed up the boat and chanced on Grimaldi's Pizza.  Who would have known you could get a pizza as good as any New York pizzeria right here in Ft. Myers.  It was delicious.

Our first anchorage leaving Ft. Myers was in the Caloosahatchee River off of Miguel Key.  It turned out to be quite nice.  We were up early the next morning and had a great sail down to Marco Island with offshore winds and flat seas.  We anchored by Coconut Island and had a nice swim.  Then we motored up to the Piggly Wiggly and did a bit of provisioning.

Coconut Island Anchorage
We had to make a decision, go to Shark River and do the Glades or jump straight over to the Dry Tortugas from Marco.  We decided on a straight shot to the Tortugas only after setting sail for the Glades.  Thunderstorms over the Glades made the decision for us.
Our Anchorage at Coconut Island the morning we departed for the Tortugas.

Kristen tells me of her sailing days on the lakes back home and of always bringing good luck with the weather whenever on board. I hope the magic continues...

Brother Pete enjoying the Miquel Key anchorage.

We set out for the Dry Tortugas with thunderstorms in the area.  We had a four of five hours of uneventful nice sailing.  But we were eventually chased down and engulfed by thunderstorm after thunderstorm that brought torrential rain, lightning, and high winds that lasted through the afternoon and into the early morning.

Thunderstorms line up and plague us all afternoon and night.

Captain Pat dealing with the stormy conditions.

We were nailed by six thunderstorms that afternoon and night.  We were all suffering a little from sea sickness. Kristen had crawled up into the forward bunks and lay there in her protective cocoon.  Pete was hanging with me in the cockpit as best he could for support.  I was getting buckets of rainwater poured over my head as the rain hit the sails and ran down and funneled just above my head.  At one point during the night I had an encounter with a shrimp boat as I tried to determine its direction and speed and pass without incident. It took nearly an hour to pass as we were going within a tenth of a knot difference in speed.  It was all very surreal as exhaustion was becoming a problem.  At 3 AM, caught in another violent thunderstorm, I threw in the towel.  I could go no more.  So I turned the rudder a bit to angle into the wind and waves and went below and collapsed into my bunk.  The passage was turning into one of the most uncomfortable to date. I roused at daybreak and began figuring our position and a way into the Dry Tortugas.  We were only 15 miles out at that point. We picked our entry and motored our way to the most remote national park in the lower 48.

Our first look at Ft. Jefferson and Garden Key.  Our anchorage is just on the other side of the Fort.

Ft. Jefferson as it sits on Garden Key.  Its strange to see such a structure "floating" out in the middle of the ocean.

A view from our anchorage

Mary Annie sits to the right at anchor off of Garden Key.

We anchored just off of Garden Key with a great view of Ft. Jefferson.  We were at the Dry Tortugas for three days and had a chance to explore the Fort, snorkel at Loggerhead Key, and do a little fishing in the area.  We met a family with two girls who snorkeled Loggerhead with us.  It was a very nice day snorkeling with amazing variety of fish.  We also witnessed the processing of Cuban refugees who had just landed on the island on a small boat.

A half swamped Cuban boat that at least 6 Cuban political refugees arrived in.

Mary Annie sits at anchor behind the Key West Park Ferry that arrives daily

Float planes fly in daily

Views of Fort Jefferson

George the Crocodile swims with swimmers.

We left for Key West after three days and had a glass smooth motor all the way.

Sunset during our amazing crossing from the Dry Tortugas to Key West.  Around 10pm the moon rose over the horizon and I veered sharply to keep from hitting it thinking it was a ship.

Into the Grey

Pete and Kristen enjoying the smooth ride.  Quite the contrast from our passage from Marco Island.

Key West Anchorage

Touring in Key West

Key West anchorage near Wysteria Key
Pete and Kristen fly home and Darryl flies in.  Next destination: Abaco Bahamas.