Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Key West To Dry Tortugas
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Our story picks up again on New Years Day. When we left Key West, we had no cell service or Internet once we passed Marquesas Key, so I couldn't post anything until now, which is January 9. Yesterday marked eight months of travel. I have some catching up to do.
We finished washing Swing Set at the dock at Oceanside Marina on January 1, filled up our tanks with water and left the harbor to see what the conditions were like in the Hawk Channel. It was bumpy, and the prospect of getting salt spray all over the boat just after we washed it was not appealing to us.
I turned the boat around and made for the Key West Yacht Club, where we wanted to get a pump out and then look for an anchorage in the area just east of Stock Island. The Key West Yacht Club is very nice, but we didn’t see anything that looked like a pump-out station, and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to ask. After all, it was New Years Day.
We motored around the Stock Island Harbor, and if we thought there was plenty of derelict vessels in the Key West Harbor, this harbor was worse. There were some spaces where we could fit in, but someone had either “saved” them, by installing a mooring ball or some other cheap sort of float, or they were in close enough proximity to obvious liveaboards that we didn’t want to intrude. We don’t like getting the “stink eye.”
Salt spray or not, we left the relative calm of the harbor and headed west, back to Key West, to look for an anchorage to spend the night. First, we visited Conch Harbor Marina in Key West Bight and got a pump out and filled our fuel tanks. Then, we went over to the northwest side of nearby Wisteria Island and found a place to set a hook.
We watched the sunset in relatively calm water, and then Rosie made us a scrumptious dinner of roasted chicken, asparagus and cranberry sauce. By the time we sat down to eat, Swing Set was being buffeted around to a large degree, and we thought we had made a big mistake in picking the anchorage. But by midnight, the water calmed down again and it was actually very peaceful. The photo above is at daybreak, just before we set out west for the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas, our route being about 70 miles.
We had overcast skies the whole way to Marquesas Key, but the seas were tolerable on our southern route. We decided to press on to Fort Jefferson, the route planner telling us we’d be there before 4 p.m. I sat on the bow at one point, and some dolphins swam just beneath us in the azure blue water. Later on, I stopped the boat and took a dip in the 90-foot depth, just to get wet and cool off. Rosie had no desire to dive in. I didn't stray too far from the boat in case she got any "ideas."
The sun peeked out as we approached Garden Key and Fort Jefferson. We pulled in with three other boats and found room to set a hook without raising the ire of our neighbors. We had a modest dinner of salad and Spaghettios. Yes, Spaghettios. Then, it was early to bed. We had minimum protection from some southerly waves, but should get better protection when the wind shifts from the east later in the week. We’re right in front of the ferry dock to the fort, so we think it’s a good spot.
After breakfast, Rosie and I set another hook, and then I dove down on both of our anchors to make sure they were stuck. We have some shallow water just in front of us, and I don’t want us to go aground if the wind shifts while we are here.
While Rosie was mopping the boat down, I took the dinghy over and talked to one of the park rangers about what was required of us to stay here in the harbor. The fee is $5 per person, per week, to stay for a maximum of 14 days. I went back to the boat to get some money and then went back again to the ranger station to pay and sign in. I also started reading all of the rules. There are lots of rules, and I don't know how anyone can keep track of all of them. My feeling is that there are too many restrictions and we won’t stay very long. I have a firm belief that I will undoubtedly break a few of the rules, but hopefully we won’t get thrown in irons. One thing I realized, though, was if there was no park, or rangers, there at the fort, it would be covered with graffiti in no time.
I got back to the boat, and it was time for lunch. Afterwards, we left Holly on board, as no dogs are allowed inside the fort, and Rosie and I went to take a tour of the place. We walked around the entire perimeter on the top of the wall that surrounds the moat. Then, we went inside.
The parade grounds in the interior of the fort are in the background in this photo. You can see the powder magazine just behind Rosie. There are a couple of other buildings, but mostly just the foundations are standing. (Or not standing, as it were.)
This view is from the top of the fort looking east. Swing Set is just about in the center of this picture. You can see two seaplanes and the Tortugas Ferry in the picture, along with two other boats anchored near our boat.