Saturday, March 30, 2013

To the Dry Torgtuas and Loggerhead

Dear Friends and Family,

Grab a comfy seat and a cup of coffee (or tea), settle yourself in….this is a long post.

The trip from Charlotte Harbor to the Dry Tortugas went very well, without any hiccups or problems. The guys handled  the sails like pros. The water was choppy our second day (8th) and caused Sanibel to rock, therefore, I was unable to remain below deck. I had to sit in the cockpit for the majority of the trip. I created about a fifteen minute video of the trip. If you are so inclined to watch it here is the link:     And here’s an underwater video Jimi took off of Loggerhead Key:

We pulled in to the anchorage area at Fort Jefferson around 2pm on Saturday (9th). There were a few sail boats already there, a large ferry with tourists from Key West and a sea plane. Considering the guys were up all night sailing, they napped for a while, as I settled the cabin and began working on the video. On Sunday (10th) we spent the entire day touring the old fort, which is a wonder in itself. The 1800’s structure and the history kept our interest all day. We walked the roof, the second floor and the first floor, as well as the mote wall. I encourage you the read about the area on the net. It is located about 70 miles off of Key West . The only ways out here are by a ferry boat costing $180 to spend a few hours on the 10 acre island unless you camp overnight for an additional $3 per night or by sea plane for $280. Of course you could do as we did and buy your own boat to come out. Due to its seclusion not many people are able to come out here. One stretch of the fort has been made in to apartments for some of the volunteer workers. For example the guy who works in the gift shop stays out there four days a week and the hired National Forest Rangers work and live ten days on the island and four days on Key West. For visitors there is no fresh water, trash receptacles, limited bathrooms, no food, internet, or electricity. You really are out there on your own. The water is a clear teal color and very clean. The wild life is abundant, which includes a bird sanctuary and all the usual sea creatures. The bird sanctuary is closed right now due to nesting season. As you will see in the video, we had a visitor Pelican who landed on our bow during our arrival. He stood at attention as he was welcoming and guiding us in. The next two days we had another visitor. A large white bird napped on our deck (whom we named Henry Vern). The first day he was right by our cockpit and would look up at us once in a while and then tuck his head back under his wings  to sleep. The second day he claimed the bow just inches from the windlass. When Jimi had to adjust the anchor line he was within inches of our big bird and neither seemed to mind. I just can’t believe he stayed there with the loud noise coming from the anchor chain. I also stood on the bow with my camera to snap his picture and he didn’t care. He obviously knew we were no threat to him and other then massive amounts of bird poop he was no threat to us. Our third visitor was not so lucky. We found a fish about nine inches long in our dinghy one morning. He was already dead, so Jimi gave the fish to Henry Vern. Henry Vern was so happy and ate the fish taking it from Jimi’s hands immediately. Henry Vern pooped a lot, which our guest Ray offered to clean up without hesitation. In fact, Ray scrubbed our entire deck something that Jimi and I should have done long before. Later and throughout our stay we had more bird visitors off and on, as well as more fish who jumped into our dinghy.

We weathered a dinghy ride to Loggerhead Key. When I say weathered I mean it was bad. The winds were high and the water was rough. I was certain I would not make the return trip, but had no choice and the three mile ride back wasn’t as bad. We walked the island and took pictures of the old lighthouse. Jimi and Ray did some snorkeling, but it wasn’t warm enough for me and even Ray had to come out of the water after a short while.

One evening a large fishing vessel entered the anchorage area stopping at every sailboat wanting to trade fish for beer or rum. We didn’t have any extra beer or rum and turned them away, however, they proceeded to give us some freshly caught Yellowtail anyhow. We felt obliged to give them something, so Ray sacrificed a package of filet mignon. We had fish with rice and carrots for dinner. Yum.

The weather was  good and the water was beautiful, but I have to say this “island time” is hard work. After two days, I was wiped out and came down with a head cold which, after five days has finally cleared up. No fun! Now I am left with an irritating cough. Ugh
Ray took a sea plane back to Key West on Tuesday (12th) because the forecast meant we would not be able to sail away for three or four more days and he needed to return home. We held out at Fort Jefferson until our chance to leave. I kept busy with digital scrap booking, cross stitch, organizing our new photos, reading, and baking homemade bread…..ok my first attempt at making bread was a flop….uh, no not a flop, but in fact a brick totally suitable to be used as a weapon. When it went into the trash all we heard was a loud thud of it hitting the bottom of the trash can. My second attempt was pretty good although it seemed the recipe is for a slightly heavier bread then we would prefer. I know exactly  what I did wrong the first time. I used to make homemade bread all the time, but had forgotten how sensitive the yeast is. That smelly stuff must be treated with extreme care. I’ve since made a couple more loaves with great success. Soon I will attempt to make bread with our pressure cooker, but I have to get some supplies when we get to a grocery store.  Jimi knocked several ‘to dos’ off his list: some reorganization, he worked on the HAM radio, which by the way we made contact with Ray’s father back in Englewood, who is a HAM user (that was exciting), installing hooks, scraping barnacles from Sanibel’s bottom (thanks goodness we’re talking about a boat and not a person – he he) and other misc things here and there. The down time was good, but we also spent a few more days exploring the fort, looking for marked ship wrecks (never found them) and taking lots of pictures with my new camera.. ..and while the down time was good…we were so ready for new sights.

Let me update you on my hair saga. One of the first things I did when we arrived at Fort Jefferson was wash my hair and this time put it in a pony tail directly on top of my head. The first attempt was ok, but not short enough. It was still matting in the back and my bangs were too long to keep out of my eyes and too short to go behind my ears. So, I had Jimi do the ole chop-chop. I felt the weight lifted immediately. It felt good, short so the wind doesn’t blow my hair in my face, easy to wash and care for, the amount of long ‘lorie hairs’ found EVERYWHERE has diminished significantly and best of all it doesn’t matt at my neck….in fact, I haven’t had any tangles at all. The bad news is where the heck did all this curl come from. The last time I had short hair, I was in my early twenties and it was so straight that I had to use a curling iron every morning to fix it (I got my pictures out to show Jimi). I’m not complaining about the curly hair, I mean it’s fixed everyday without doing anything to it….but if you could see it you might agree that I look like a crazy person. Ha ha…I might be a crazy person and don’t know it. Still I will go to a hair dresser to have it fixed up a little when I am able and still I am super happy with it. The rest of the world will just have to live with looking at the crazy curly blonde haired woman.

Seven days after Ray left, we saw our window to leave with winds coming out of the southeast making it a nice sail straight over to Key West. We spent all day on Monday (18th) preparing for a 3am departure assuring we would get in to Key West during day light hours. We loaded the dinghy on deck and pulled anchor with intentions to anchor on the North side of the Fort. This would make it easier for us to leave in the dark. We attempted to anchor several times before we finally found a spot with soft enough sand to catch. We thought things were good, as we cleaned the cabin, buttoned things down, made fresh bread and a pot of coffee, when out of nowhere the wind shifted coming from the North; winds blowing and rain coming down, which would normally be serene except we were not in a good place. We had to relocate and back to the anchorage area it was. Where did this weather come from? Because it was not forecasted AT ALL.  At this point we weren’t sure we would be leaving that night….so when? Ok enough was enough…..when we woke up Tuesday (19th) morning, Jimi said we’re leaving and we did. Our sixteen hour trip brought us in to the Key West anchorage area between 1 and 2 am. The weather was rainy, windy and chilly. Jimi captained the helm most of the way; I helped when he needed me to. We averaged a good six knots; however, about two hours from Key West the winds began dropping and our speed began slowing. From 10 nautical miles out at 5 knots per hour our speed dropped about 1 knot per hour every hour, so when we should have already arrived we were still 4 nautical miles away doing 1 knot per hour……really…..still four hours until our arrival? We bit the bullet, dropped the  sails and started the engine. Ahhhhh this is better at 4 knots per hour we were in the anchorage in no time.

During our trip one of the shrouds from the mizzen mast started flapping in the chaos of the weather and hit our wind generator breaking three of its six blades off.  Jimi had to scramble to the top of the mast during all the ruckus to prevent the entire loss of the wind generator. That was scary for me and I’m sure him too. He has already readjusted the three remaining blades and hopefully it will still work with only three blades. In addition we tore a small hole in our main sail. Jimi is in the process of fixing it now.

We are safely anchored in Key West now. We’re not sure if we will stay here a few days or leave in the morning. Regardless, we’ll make our way to marathon, Florida where we can re-provision for the trip to the Bahamas.

Love everybody,
Lorie & Jimi

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