Back to the Dry Tortugas

Well, sort of! On the 3rd, Michelle lifted me up to the top of the mast in order to replace a damaged line. While I was up there, I took a few minutes to inspect the rest of the rig. What I found scared the HELL out of me! The new shrouds that I had purchased and installed 2 months ago were badly damaged and needed to be replaced.

Side note for land lubber friends: Shrouds are the wires that hold the mast up in the air, which is a VERY important concept for a sailboat!

The shrouds on Double Wide are 3/8″ 1X19 stainless wire (19 wires wound together making a single wire). On the port side, 1 strand was broken and on the starboard side there were 3 strands broken. I called the company that made the shrouds for me and the person I spoke with told me to go ahead on our cruise and he would make a new set for me and have them waiting for us in Fort Meyers.  With some trepidation we decided to leave for the Dry Tortugas the next morning.

Early in the morning on the 4th, we raised the anchor and headed out for Dry Tortugas. Within a couple of minutes of getting the sails up, the manager of the company that was making our new shrouds (JSI in St. Petersburg) called and said by no means would they be held responsible if the mast fell down due to the damaged shrouds! Within seconds, I had both sails down and we were motoring back to our anchorage in Key West!!! I have to give some credit to the folks at JSI for hustling to get us a new set of shrouds via next day air. On the 5th we put the new shrouds on and FINALLY on the morning of the 6th we were off for the Dry Tortugas.

The trip is roughly 70 miles and we made the trip in just over 8 hours (with some help from our engines), arriving just in time to witness another fantastic sunset in the anchorage off Garden Key. We were visited almost immediately by the Grouper we had seen on our stop over here a week earlier. Michelle was AMAZED at how big he was and named him B.A.M. (Big Ass Mother)! Whatever his name is, he is a great ambassador for the park and obviously takes his job seriously as he makes a point of visiting every boat that enters the anchorage.

The next day included a tour of the Fort and some snorkeling around the old fuel docks on Garden Key. After lunch we headed over to Loggerhead Key (3 miles from Garden Key) to snorkel on “Little Africa,” which is one of the best shallow corral reefs I’ve seen in the Florida Keys. We saw all kinds of fish and corral and I managed to get a couple of decent pictures.

Once back aboard Double Wide we motored back to the anchorage at Garden Key in time to meet our neighbors, Greg and Meg, aboard a cruising powerboat. They were returning to the states after 8+ years in the Caribbean. We invited them aboard for Margaritas and thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories of cruising the islands and Central America.

We decided that our next stop would be Everglades City, which is just over 100 miles away (16-18 hours). We never want to arrive at a new port in the middle of the night, so on the 8th we slept in and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed morning and left the Dry Tortugas at 12:15 PM.

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