Monday, February 24, 2014

Over the Reef

After attending an art show on the street near the Truman annex, we cast off for a day on the sparkling waters of the Keys.  At first the wind was so light that the current actually took us backwards!  However, it filled in nicely; and we enjoyed a wonderful sail towards the reef and the open Atlantic Ocean.  Kim really seemed to be enjoying the almost perfect weather.

While crossing over the reef, the water was an incredible bright blue.

Patches of coral appeared as darker areas in the bright blue water.

One could tell immediately when we crossed over the reef into deep water because of the dramatic change in color to a gorgeous deep indigo blue.

With 8 knot breezes and gentle seas, we were able to enjoy sailing and observing the ocean from all points of the boat.

It was a great day to discuss whatever came to mind while enjoying the sound of the water on the hulls.

Our sail was enhanced by the sighting of several dolphins.  Kim was especially excited when she spotted a sea turtle with a shell at least 3 feet long.  Unfortunately, it dove before we could get a photograph.  After five hours on the water, the conclusion of our sail was made more exciting when a cruise ship turned turned around right in front of us as we entered the harbor.

While she was here, Kim met with a high school friend, Sara Signore Hallett, and her husband Joe, who live right here in Key West.  They enjoyed lunch together and caught up after not seeing each other since graduation.

Naturally, we visited Mallory Square and enjoyed the antics of the Cat Man.

Of course, no trip to Key West would be complete without seeing Brian Roberts entertain

After performing for 90 minutes at the Pier House beach bar, Brian sat down and ate lunch with us.  He is a truly down to earth person and a great guy.  Kim seemed to enjoy his music.

We capped off the day with some shopping , and Kim even enjoyed a swim at the Galleon Resort Pool. Tonight we will once again go to the roof to enjoy another Key West sunset.

Kim Wings in to Key West

Just after five p.m. I stood on the deck and watched my daughter Kim's plane fly in to Key West.

At the same time, she was taking my picture here in Key West Bight.

Her first night here we enjoyed a fine meal at Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant.

We also strolled around town, enjoying the very active night life at places like Sloppy Joe's.

We have enjoyed sunsets, like this one from the roof top deck of the Galleon Resort and Marina.

We had an especially good time at the Hemingway Home.  To get there, we had to pass this fabulous Banyan tree which spread over two lots on Whitehead Street.

We also passed the beginning or end of US Route One, depending on one's perspective.

After a long walk, we finally arrived at the former home of Ernest Hemingway.

We took a guided tour of the home, which we found to be both informative and entertaining.  The house is pretty much as it was back when the famous author lived and worked in Key West.

This is the room where Ernest Hemingway wrote nearly three quarters of his work.

Apparently, a typical day was write all morning, fish all afternoon, and drink at Sloppy Joe's all evening.  According to Joe, the Key West light house, located close to his home, guided Ernest home from his bar.

There are 45 cats at the home, all descendants of the 6 toed cats that Ernest kept for good luck, just like the one enjoying a literary life in the bookstore.

Just after we finished the tour, we met cruising friends Jim and Bonnie from SV Dana.  We had met them in Chesapeake City, and then enjoyed their company again in Annapolis, Manteo and Oriental.  After introducing them to Kim, we spent a little time catching up at a local watering hole.

Hopefully, we will be able to spend more time visiting when we reach Marathon.

Stay tuned, the further adventure's of Kim's visit to Key West will follow.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dry Tortugas

On February 7th, Sue and I visited the Dry Tortugas. Because we didn't want to deal with the sea of crab and lobster pot floats, or the prevailing easterlies to return, we decided to take the Yankee Freedom.

The ferry is sitting at the dock on Garden Key in front of historic Fort Jefferson, a huge brick fort which literally takes up the entire island.

Fort Jefferson is part of the Dry Tortugas National Park, which includes 7 small, low islands 70 miles west of Key West.  The fort was built to protect the natural harbor here, so that pirates and potential enemy nations could not use it as a base of operations against the United States.  Begun in 1846, and abandoned unfinished by the army in 1874, Fort Jefferson is the nation's largest masonry fort.  The fort's only use was to serve as a prison for union civil war deserters, as well as for for conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.  Those lucky prisoners replaced the freed slaves as the labor force for construction of this massive fort.  They worked in the tropical sun with little water and sparse rations, with many dying of disease.

Today, one can visit on ones own boat, the ferry, or from a sea plane.

Once ashore, one is greeted by the front of the imposing structure.

The only entrance to Fort Jefferson was entered after crossing bridge over a moat.  Today the moat is well guarded by a 12 foot salt water crocodile which came ashore seven years ago during a storm.

The moat completely surrounds the fort, protecting it  from amphibious assault, and from the ravages of the sea.


Inside the walls are the ruins of barracks for the troops, as well as green areas and other military structures.

In this photo one can see the remains of the enlisted men's barracks.  In the background is the magazine, and an oven for heating shot.

Soldiers could heat the iron balls by placing them at the high end of the shot oven.  By the time they rolled out the other end, they were hot enough to set fire to the ships they struck.

The wood which formed the rooms of the fort disappeared during the time that the fort was abandoned, leaving only the brick structure.

Fort Jefferson is three stories high.  Steps to the second and third floor were located at the six corners of the fort.  The circular staircases were designed so that only one man could climb them at a time.  By circling clockwise, right handed invaders would not be able to point their rifles up the steps as they climbed them, but the defenders above would not have the same handicap, making the stairs easy to defend from above.

Of course, Fort Jefferson was never attacked, but did function as a prison.  Her most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who made the mistake of setting John Wilkes Booth's broken leg after Booth shot President Lincoln.

As one can see by reading the plaque, Dr. Mudd was pardoned after serving only four years.  His work in trying to contain the yellow fever outbreak which killed the army doctor and commander of the fort, as well as many soldiers and prisoners, earned him his freedom.

The Dry Tortugas is so named because of the complete lack of fresh water on the islands, which is exemplified by some of the vegetation found on the islands.

There is a lighthouse on the fort, but it is no longer in service.  The coast guard does maintain a lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, which is the largest of the seven remaining islands.

The Dry Tortugas National Park is a breeding ground for many varieties of sea turtles, and also many bird species.  Bush Key was separated from Garden Key by a navigable deep water channel.  Photos used by the park service show this channel; but it is completely closed off, and now Bush Key is connected to Garden Key by the sand which filled in the channel.  Bush Key is currently closed to visitors because it is teeming with breeding birds like terns and boobies.

We really enjoyed our visit to Fort Jefferson, not only to soak up its historical significance, or even to behold the magnificent Frigate birds soaring overhead, but also because the waters of the Dry Tortugas National Park are incredibly beautiful.

We highly recommend that everyone make the trip to this wonderful national park.