Dry Tortugas - 4
13 June 2010
Day 15 - Fri 11 Jun 10
The ocean trawler got underway very silently in the predawn. The early morning sky was very pretty and I let Clyde come topside. Diane awoke right after dawn feeling better but not great. Weather permitting, tomorrow morning we start the long passage home. We have enjoyed many aspects of this cruise, but with the temperatures this hot, it will be nice to get back home to the air conditioning and our swimming pool.
Following a delicious breakfast, we dressed in our cleanest (least smelly) casual clothing and took the dinghy ashore to stroll around a bit. The beach was empty except for one swimmer, but the campgrounds were bustling with those who were vacating today. Inside the fort, we first hit the visitor center; it was air conditioned to a mighty cool and welcome temperature. I found myself reading the same material over again just to linger in the comfort.
We pressed on, however, and at least the self-guided walking tour kept us in the shade for the first portion. We had heard the excellent guided tour three years ago, courtesy of the ferry boat guide, but it was nice to stroll the fort at leisure in private. I also took a few more photos for this blog.
Next, we went back to the boat to change into swimwear for snorkeling the dilapidated iron framework from the old coal docks. Much coral have colonized the pilings and some of it is quite nice. There were tens of thousands of fish there, too, but 99.9% of them were less than 1.5 inches long. We swam through huge clouds of these tiny fish and the sensation was like driving through a torrential rainstorm; visibility of everything else was greatly obscured.
We did see one small nurse shark (maybe 5 feet long at most), a small grouper, and a medium-sized hogfish, and two queen conchs. Other than that it was pretty disappointing. We got back to the dinghy in time to change into dry shirts and then stroll over to the larger of the ferries for a deli sandwich lunch.
Back at Diva Di, we washed off the snorkeling gear knowing it was the last use of the cruise. This morning, we had cooked and otherwise prepared the meals we will have on the 24-30 hour passage home, so other than raising the dinghy onto the davits, we are ready to go. So far, the forecast 10 kt breeze from the southeast is only 3-5 kts, but at least they got the direction right.
Napping and typing took up a little time, but the winds are so light that the sun feels blazing hot. It was time to get back in the water and hang off the anchor rode at the bow in the shade. That was quite refreshing and just looking out over the fort and boats, and looking down into the water was very enjoyable, almost mesmerizing.
By 1700, the forecast wind had still not arrived, so we are hoping it will tomorrow. Even if it is too light to sail with, if it stays out of the east to southeast, it will keep the seas state calm and will not impede our motoring progress. There are many dangerous shoals (shallow spots) to our northeast, so we will head due north for about 5 miles and then be able to turn on a north-northeast course for home.
Near 1730, I dinghied over to New Hope with a beverage to see if they were interested in a chat; they were. We talked of this and that for an hour and I made my way back to Diva Di, whereupon I promptly went into the water and hung on the anchor rode in the shade. The crew on the boat next to us started a conversation and we chatted for a while, too. It is similar to land-based neighbors chatting from their front porches, but here we were all floating off our boats.
The bottom was very visible and I happened to see a five foot nurse shark swim by on the bottom just 15 feet below me. Within five minutes, I turned around to see a four foot barracuda just six feet off my left shoulder. He wasn't the biggest I have encountered, but surprising to turn around and see him so close.
After my cooling soak, I got back aboard to find Diane had reheated the crabmeat and rice dinner leftovers from two nights ago. It was delicious the second time, too.
We both had a short swim off the ladder after dinner and then I secured the dinghy on the davits for the passage home. Diane's intention is to get this unpleasant experience (24-30 hours underway) behind us as soon as possible. I think the part that bothers her most is traveling through the night, for the unease that night brings, and the fact that she will be required to alter her sleep pattern to stand watch. I truly believe this will be a piece of cake, but I will be prepared for whatever may occur.
Relaxing in the cockpit with a beverage, we were enjoying a decent southeast breeze, which we hooped would continue through the evening and next day. The tarpon were feeding as the light waned and then we enjoyed a nice, red sunset. Red sky at night - sailor's delight. There's scientific reasoning behind that, but I'll spare you.
Diane went to sleep early, while Clyde and I watched the sky grow dark and the brilliant stars appear. Eventually, he went below, I secured the hatch boards and drifted off to sleep.