Blue Turtle Trawler https://www.blueturtletrawler.com Life Aboard a 40' DeFever Trawler Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:10:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Finally some decent weather in the Dry Tortugas! https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/finally-decent-weather-dry-tortugas/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/finally-decent-weather-dry-tortugas/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:06:50 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6662 Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 8-10, 2017 Thursday – Weather forecast is looking better After 4 days of cloudy skies, high winds, and rough seas, we finally had a decent day forecasted. Although Thursday morning called for SW winds near 20 knots and seas at 5-7ft  it was to calm down throughout the day and into Friday. We had […]

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Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 8-10, 2017

Thursday – Weather forecast is looking better

After 4 days of cloudy skies, high winds, and rough seas, we finally had a decent day forecasted. Although Thursday morning called for SW winds near 20 knots and seas at 5-7ft  it was to calm down throughout the day and into Friday. We had a morning shower in the a.m. and then the boys left to go fishing in the dingy. In the afternoon, after the ferry left, we all went ashore. Corey fished while I hiked the fort for more photo-taking. After that, Randy and I snorkeled the coal docks. The weather was finally beautiful—sunny and calm—which made for an amazing sunset.

Walking through the archways

Communication arches

A fort with a view

View of one of the powder magazines

Hot shot furnace for heating cannon balls to fire at wooden ships

Second story view of the north beach

View of mote, mote wall and north beach

View of north coal docks

Traverse Magazine on top level

Top level view of Bush Key

Rodman canon on top level of the fort

Top level view of fort

View of anchorage and dock house

Blue Turtle in the anchorage

Bird nesting ground at Bush Key

View of anchorage/camping area from the lower level of fort

Dock house with National Park Service emblem

Check-in area for boat permits and marine weather info

Finally a beautiful sunset

Setting sun and Loggerhead Key (far left)

Fishing boat cruises past Loggerhead Key

Tarpon porpoising near the coal docks

Friday – Let’s go diving!

Our Friday forecast was variable winds 5-10 and seas at 1-2ft. We pulled up anchor and headed out to go diving to our first spot, Off Ramp (N24°40.156 W082°54.506).  In past years, Off Ramp has been a beautiful dive but it was disappointing this time around.  Because there was a swell in the water, it was difficult to dive because it is so shallow. There also wasn’t much to see there this time and so we cut the dive short to head to our next spot.

Davis Rock (N24°41.209 W082°54.440) is a spot very near Off Ramp and we grabbed the mooring ball.  We geared up again and headed down. Because of all the wind and rain the water had been stirred up quite a bit for the past week which causes the visibility to not be as good. Nevertheless, it was still a beautiful dive and we saw a tons of fish including a goliath grouper.

After Davis Rock, the boys talked me into riding out to Tortugas Bank so they could try spearfishing again. Since there was a lot of swell there and I was cold, I decided to sit this dive out. The spot we were on was called “Dantes Inferno” and the boys didn’t have any luck this time around. On the way back to the anchorage, we cruised past Loggerhead Key to get a closer look and a few photos.

That afternoon, we decided to take Sophie ashore for a walk and to check out the weather forecast. This would be the first time Sophie stepped paws on land since we left Key West. We walked her around the perimeter of the mote wall which exhausted her little legs.

Getting ready to dive

Goliath Grouper at Davis Rock

Corey gets in close to the grouper

Beautiful and interesting coral heads

Colorful angelfish

Relaxing on the bridge after our dive

Checking out Loggerhead Key

The lighthouse and dock on Loggerhead Key

View of Fort Jefferson

Heading back to the anchorage

Sophie’s touristy shot of her at the park sign

Walking around the fort on the mote wall

Sophie says, “is it happy hour yet?”

Boys and Sophie on the north wall

Sophie “doing time” on the prison bench

Corey on the south beach doing a back flip

Sea plane waiting for it’s visitors

Saturday – Weather outlook not so good

On Saturday, the wind and seas picked up again and our weather outlook wasn’t looking very good for our departure on Tuesday. We decided that Sunday’s forecast of east winds 10-15 knots and 2-4ft seas looked better than the forecast through Wednesday so a decision was made to leave early. With Saturday being our last day at the Dry Tortugas, we stayed active at the fort. After lunch, Corey dropped me off by dinghy on Garden Key so I could get a little exercise running/walking around the mote wall perimeter while he went fishing for yellowtail snapper. Randy stayed aboard Blue Turtle tending to last minute engine checks. I radioed Corey to come pick me up and we both went aboard the ferry for a fresh water shower before the ferry departed.

Shortly after the ferry left we heard a call on the radio to the park rangers announcing two Blackhawk helicopters coming in to land. Randy, Corey and I were planning to head to the north beach to snorkel so we stopped by the helicopters to check them out up close. One of the pilots was there answering questions for folks so Randy asked about the Blackhawks. We were told by the pilot that the helicopters were actually called Pave Hawks which were the Air Force’s version of the Blackhawk but since the Blackhawk name is more common it’s just easier to announce it as such on the radio to avoid confusion. After checking out the helicopters, we snorkeled the north coal docks for a while. When we were done, we relaxed on the mote wall for a happy hour beverage soaking up the last bit of our Dry Tortugas trip.

Cormorant hanging out on the coal docks

View of north beach from the water

Pavehawk coming in for landing

Air Force Pavehawk landing at Dry Tortugas

Pavehawk with Loggerhead Key in background

Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas

Approaching the south coal docks

Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas

Air Force Pavehawk at Dry Tortugas

Randy and Corey checking out the helicopter

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Poor weather conditions continue in the Dry Tortugas https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/poor-weather-conditions-continue-dry-tortugas/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/poor-weather-conditions-continue-dry-tortugas/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:39:54 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6604 Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6-7, 2017 While our hometown of Fort Myers was getting hammered with unusually large amounts of rain, we too were facing the same conditions in the Dry Tortugas. Since there is no wifi or cell service in the Dry Tortugas, it’s difficult to predict the weather. To get the forecast there, […]

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Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6-7, 2017

While our hometown of Fort Myers was getting hammered with unusually large amounts of rain, we too were facing the same conditions in the Dry Tortugas. Since there is no wifi or cell service in the Dry Tortugas, it’s difficult to predict the weather. To get the forecast there, you dinghy into shore and visit the dock house where you check in. There, they post a print out of the marine forecast for the next 3-4 days. In past years, it seems like they would update it everyday, but this time we noticed that they only updated it every other day in which case it was outdated many times. We knew we wouldn’t be diving or leaving the anchorage the next couple of days since the winds were going to be 15-20kts on Tuesday and 20kts on Wednesday with seas 3-4ft and 5ft respectively. Since the weather was going to be crummy, we decided to make the most of it at Garden Key and Fort Jefferson.

Gloomy weather over Garden Key

Posted marine weather forecast for boaters

Both days were partly cloudy and the sun would peek out only occasionally. Being stuck in the anchorage, we were lucky for the cloud cover and winds since it kept things on the boat and island cool. Normally, it can get very hot with sun and no breeze so we were thankful for that at least. Tuesday morning was spent walking outside the perimeter of the fort while I took photos. While the skies were white/grey and not the best for photo-taking, it was still nice that we got to explore areas of  Garden Key that we hadn’t before.

Randy and Corey near the fort entrance

Dry Tortugas ferry arriving for the day

Part of the camp ground near the mote wall

Warning sign for the crocodile (we heard that he’s been relocated to the Everglades)

One of many sea turtle nests

Park ranger quarters inside the fort

Pelican rests on rusted fort ruins

Two “prisoners” chained to a bench

Walking to the southwest beach

Bird-crazy on Bush Key, a Sooty Tern nesting area

A new angle on the fort

In the afternoon, we snorkeled around the mote wall checking out the large schools and bait fish and tarpon and then hopped on the Dry Tortugas Ferry for a quick fresh water rinse-off. This was a special treat since we would normally just stay salty the rest of the day (until our one shower in the evening) after being in the water in an effort to conserve our fresh water. When the ferry is docked at Garden Key, they shut down the composting toilets on the island and everyone on the island is to use the bathrooms on the ferry. Ferry staff is used to folks coming and going on and off the boat whether they are boaters, campers, or ferry passengers. Since the showers are right there, many campers and boaters use the fresh water showers whenever they can. After our snorkel and shower we walked the fort again, this time going inside and up the 3 levels. We had a brief period of sunshine that lit up the waters for better photos, but eventually the sun disappeared on us again. After walking the fort, we headed back to the boat where we had a quick squall push through the anchorage bringing 50 knot winds, according to one sailor who clocked it. It was pretty intense and interesting since 3 out of the 8 boats in the anchorage dragged and had to reset their anchor during the storm.

Sunnier view of fort from Blue Turtle

View of Loggerhead Key from Blue Turtle

Sea plane getting ready to take off

Different sea plane taking off

Corey gearing up to snorkel

Top level of the fort

View of anchorage from northeast wall

View of north beach coaling docks

Randy checks out the view

Moat wall

Top level of fort

Top of fort looking into the parade ground

Frigate birds fly overhead on the top level of the fort

Blue Turtle in the anchorage

Pelican rests on coal dock remains

Noddy terns on the coaling docks

Colorful kayaks on the beach, Blue Turtle in the distance

The dock house

Fort interior archways

Corey inside the large powder magazine

Cuban refugee boat

Gloomier view of moat wall

Bridge entrance to fort

Corey takes a break from walking

Back on Blue Turtle (before the storm) a sea plane navigates the anchorage

On Wednesday, the boys decided to go fishing from the dinghy on the other side of the fort where they caught 5 yellowtail snapper. While they fished, I worked out on the boat. When they returned from fishing they had the latest weather update and it wasn’t looking good. It seemed the same weather pattern would continue pretty much the rest of the week and into the weekend. There was one day (Friday) that looked promising for us to be able to get out and dive and we were looking forward to it.

Corey with a couple of yellowtail snapper

View of fort from Blue Turtle

Later that afternoon, the boys headed to shore because Corey wanted to fish from the dock. Once the ferry leaves for the day (around 3:00pm), you are allowed to fish from the dock. You’re not supposed to fish from the mote wall because it’s a swimming area, but since the ferry left taking most the people on the island with it and no one was swimming, Corey fished there as well. While the boys were onshore another afternoon squall kicked up in the anchorage, this time much longer and more powerful than the previous day. The storm lasted a little over an hour and the winds had to be around 60-70 knots. I was pretty frightened to be on the boat alone with Sophie and kept an eye on the mooring ball next to us to make sure we didn’t break loose. The whole time I kept thinking what if this isn’t the worst of it? Without radar and weather apps you really don’t know what’s coming. Thankfully, after getting battered for an hour the winds and rain calmed down and the boys were able to return to the boat. We must have had 5-6 commercial fishing boats come into the anchorage during the storm to take shelter because the amount of boats increased to around 18 or so, the most we’ve ever seen in the anchorage. Thankfully, everyone was ok and no boats dragged or broke loose. I was definitely glad to have the boys back on board because it was pretty intense.

Corey throws the cast net off the wall to catch bait fish

View of anchorage (from Blue Turtle) during storm

It was looking like we would have another day at the anchorage on Thursday with predicted seas at 5-7ft and 20kt winds, but the winds were supposed to lay down in the afternoon and bring some calmer weather for Friday. We finally had some decent weather coming and might actually get to get out diving.

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Spearfishing at the Tortugas Bank https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/spearfishing-tortugas-bank/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/spearfishing-tortugas-bank/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:53:56 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6582 Monday, June 5, 2017 Sukha and crew departed on Monday morning to head back to Key West, while our weather forecast continued to look grim. It was a cloudy, gloomy morning with SSE winds at 15kt and 2ft seas. We decided that this would be the best day to try to get in some diving since […]

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Sukha and crew departed on Monday morning to head back to Key West, while our weather forecast continued to look grim. It was a cloudy, gloomy morning with SSE winds at 15kt and 2ft seas. We decided that this would be the best day to try to get in some diving since the weather conditions the next few days were calling for higher winds and seas up to 5-7ft. The boys had been itching to try spearfishing the Tortugas Bank since we’d heard a lot of great things about it so we set off for the banks in the morning.

The Tortugas Banks are coral reefs located about 11 miles from Garden Key and 2 miles from the Gulfstream with banks that are used by groupers and snappers that support a major fishery. It is the closest spot near the fort where you are allowed to spearfish with several mooring balls marking various reefs. After an hour and half ride out to the banks, we arrived at the first mooring ball and grabbed it. It immediately began pouring rain and the swells rocked the boat as the boys were getting their gear on. I was trying to stay dry on the bridge with my camera and yelled out, “well, this is just awesome!” Corey informed me that the mooring ball we were on marked a spot aptly named “Awesome.”  Hmmm, coincidence?

Gloomy and rainy conditions at the banks

Randy lowers Corey’s gear down to the swim platform

Once the boys were in the water, Sophie and I went inside to stay dry. The dive was about 65ft and the boys were down about a half an hour. I watched as they did their deco stop on the mooring ball and when they surfaced, swimming toward the boat I saw that Randy had 2 large fish on the stringer!  Corey had shot a 25″ red grouper and Randy speared a 23″ hogfish. Both were beautiful fish and it made the swelly and raining conditions all worth it. On our way back to the fort, the boys called in the fish to the ranger station. We were told prior to heading out there that if we speared any fish we needed to radio into the rangers and declare the fish when re-entering the park. This is basically so we can “register” the fish with them and they know that we didn’t spear them within the park limits which is forbidden.

The boys ready to hunt

Randy swimming to Blue Turtle with their catch

Proud Kalisik boys with their “awesome” fish

Speared grouper and hogfish

Back at the anchorage and posing with their fish

Once we were back at the anchorage, we noticed 2 Air Force helicopters that had landed at the fort. We weren’t sure what they were doing there but we saw several uniformed and non-uniformed folks climbing into them. Some of the folks look like they had snorkel/swimming gear so we figured maybe it was just a training run out to the fort for some snorkeling. Once they were loaded up, we watched them take off – it was very cool!  For a gloomy, rainy day it was certainly eventful.

Air Force helicopters at the fort

Getting loaded up

Taking off

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Snorkeling the Dry Tortugas with Sukha and crew https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/snorkeling-dry-tortugas-sukha-crew/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/snorkeling-dry-tortugas-sukha-crew/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:47:24 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6543 Sunday, June 4, 2017 On our second day in the Dry Tortugas, the weather still wasn’t cooperating with high winds and seas that makes for poor diving conditions. With the winds coming out of the southeast, we decided to try snorkeling Little Africa since it is on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key and would possibly be […]

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

On our second day in the Dry Tortugas, the weather still wasn’t cooperating with high winds and seas that makes for poor diving conditions. With the winds coming out of the southeast, we decided to try snorkeling Little Africa since it is on the northwest side of Loggerhead Key and would possibly be protected from the winds and seas.  Captain Chris offered to take us all aboard Sukha and it was a lovely and comfortable ride there.  The Leopard 42 is a fantastic catamaran and absolutely great for snorkeling/diving. Randy and I both commented how, with 7 people (and a dog) on board it seemed there was still so much room to move around.

Sukha navigating in the anchorage toward Blue Turtle to pick us up

Leaving Blue Turtle with the dinghies tied to it

Our trusty osprey kite to ward off the birds

Sophie aboard Sukha

Captain Chris steers us toward Loggerhead Key

Corey takes over the helm with Cruiser giving the peace sign

Approaching Loggerhead Key

The Dry Tortugas lighthouse in the distance

Nice cruise aboard the s/v Sukha

When we arrived at Little Africa, we realized the mooring ball we normally used was missing. When we radioed the park rangers to ask about the ball, we were told that it was unavailable at this time and that the ball was for official use only. We’ve used this same ball the past 3 years and figured they must’ve changed it to official use only in the past year. Later, when we were back at the fort, we saw a poster with the whole park and mooring balls labeled. Sure enough, there was a mooring ball at Little Africa on the chart and it wasn’t labeled “official use only”.  Since there was no ball and we couldn’t drop anchor, Chris dropped us all off to snorkel while he idled outside the reef waiting to pick us up.  We could have used the mooring ball on the other side of the island and dinghy into shore and walk over to the reef, but we had left our dinghies tied up to Blue Turtle since we were planning to use the ball that was missing.  The reef, as usual, was amazing and the visibility was surprisingly crystal clear even though the winds and seas have been stirring things up the last week. We saw schools of huge tarpon and barracuda and the corals were so colorful (see our video below!). As always, Little Africa never disappoints and it’s world-class snorkeling just 3 miles from the fort.

Squinty-eyed selfie with Randy

Loggerhead Key and lighthouse

Colorful corals at Little Africa

Beautiful sea fans are everywhere

Colorful Queen Angelfish

After snorkeling at Little Africa, we headed back toward the fort and stopped at Bird Key Anchorage to anchor and snorkel the Brick Wreck. This is a smaller reef but there were a ton of fish on it. The visibility wasn’t as good but it was still a nice snorkel.

Brick wreck propeller is filled with corals and fish

Cole and Corey decide to try fishing the Brick Wreck while we were there

Back at Blue Turtle, Randy and I decided to take a walk around the fort so I could shoot some photos. We took the kayak to shore since Corey and Cole took the dinghy to try some fishing.  The grey skies didn’t really help much with taking photos but it’s always nice to walk the fort. After an early dinner, Randy and I headed over to Sukha for a cocktail and to discuss their plans for leaving the next morning for Key West where they were to pick up the rest of their crew before heading back to the Dry Tortugas.  Cole taught Corey, Cruiser, Tim and I how to play the card game “Golf” which was a lot of fun. After Chris grilled tenderloin for his crew plus Corey, we finally got to see the sun as it dipped into the clouds. We said our goodbyes and hoped to see the Sukha crew again in a few days.

A gloomy day at the fort

Interior of fort

Brick archways in the fort on the second floor

Visitors looking out over Bush Key

Blue Turtle and Sukha in the anchorage

s/v Sukha

Playing cards with the boys

The sun finally peaks out at the end of the day

Blue Turtle and the setting sun

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Marquesa to the Dry Tortugas: Weather watching and meeting up with Sukha https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/marquesa-to-the-dry-tortugas-weather-watching-and-sukha/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/marquesa-to-the-dry-tortugas-weather-watching-and-sukha/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 16:34:06 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6518 Friday – Saturday, June 2-3, 2017 Once we got our generator fixed, we were ready for the Dry Tortugas.  We had been watching the weather and it was forecasted to be a bit on the lumpy side (15-20mph winds and 3′ to 5′ seas) for our departure so we decided to head to the Marquesa […]

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Friday – Saturday, June 2-3, 2017

Once we got our generator fixed, we were ready for the Dry Tortugas.  We had been watching the weather and it was forecasted to be a bit on the lumpy side (15-20mph winds and 3′ to 5′ seas) for our departure so we decided to head to the Marquesa Keys to anchor for one night.

The Marquesa Keys are a small group of islands about 20 miles west of Key West. It’s a nice little anchorage that cuts down our trip to the Dry Tortugas by 20 miles and is a perfect spot to lay up when there are southeast winds. We enjoyed a quiet evening there and prepared to be up early to head to the Tortugas.

Arriving at Marquesa Keys

Corey heads to shore after we anchor

I manage to get in a quick workout with my TRX attached to the mast

Corey clocks the wind speeds

Relaxing on the bridge during sunset

Sophie has her spot on the bridge

Our trip to Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas was calm and uneventful. We left around 6am and arrived around 12:30pm after the 35 mile trip. Winds were calmer that day and seas 2′ to 3′, the weather was so unusual for Florida with grey, cloudy skies all day.  Once we arrived, we received a call over the radio from our friends aboard Sukha. We were glad to hear that they had made it and agreed to meet up later in the evening. Randy, Corey and I went for a snorkel around the fort’s coal docks and saw a huge Goliath grouper as well as tons of bait fish and tarpon. Later that evening, we headed over to Sukha where Chris grilled dinner for everyone and we discussed plans to snorkel and dive the next day.

Garden and Loggerhead Keys in the distance

Approaching Fort Jefferson

Corey is happy to spot land

Behind the scenes of the Blue Turtle photos…snapping pics of the fort as we come in

Fort Jefferson on Garden Key

Sea planes getting ready to take off

Sukha arrives in the anchorage

Sukha crew is happy to be there

View of Blue Turtle from Sukha

Enjoying snacks on the front of Sukha

Cruiser and Randy with the fort behind them

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Jewfish Basin and an early arrival to Key West https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/jewfish-basin-early-arrival-key-west/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/jewfish-basin-early-arrival-key-west/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:36:01 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6492 The morning we left for Jewfish Basin, Randy discovered a fuel leak in our generator. He troubleshooted the issue for a couple of hours before we left and discovered it was due to an injector line that might have had a hairline crack in it. Since it wasn’t leaking too bad, we decided to head on to our […]

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The morning we left for Jewfish Basin, Randy discovered a fuel leak in our generator. He troubleshooted the issue for a couple of hours before we left and discovered it was due to an injector line that might have had a hairline crack in it. Since it wasn’t leaking too bad, we decided to head on to our new anchorage where he could look at it again more closely.

Our trip from the Content Keys to Jewfish Basin was uneventful but very beautiful. We arrived in the afternoon and anchored near our snorkel/spearfishing spot that we discovered last year while staying here. We texted our friends, Joe and Glenda, who we knew were in the area on their trawler. They were anchored in Jewfish Basin as well although on the other side. We made plans to meet up for a happy hour drink.

Arriving at beautiful Jewfish Basin

Joe and Glenda stop by to say ‘hi’ before heading to Key West

Once the dinghy was deployed, Randy and Corey wasted no time in heading out to go spearfishing. I paddled the kayak over to where they were and snorkeled the area. Visibility wasn’t as good as last year which might have contributed to their lack of finding hogfish. Still, Corey managed to spear a couple of keeper snapper. Once back, Randy decided to dig into the generator issue some more. Still, he couldn’t figure out where the issue was in the line and so he rigged up a disposable plastic container to collect the leaking fuel. It was starting to leak more than previous. Once he felt he at least had the leak contained, we headed over to Joe and Glenda’s boat by dinghy and enjoyed catching up over drinks.

Our rigged up fuel collection container (green container)

Joe and Glenda’s Mainship, Phase IV

Good times catching up with this great couple

After returning from happy hour, we fired up the generator to run the microwave for dinner. Randy checked the fuel leak and it was leaking quite a bit. Too much to run it overnight for the ACs. So we opened all hatches and hoped for a great breeze than night.

The next morning, Randy decided to take apart the injector line from the cylinder to get a closer look at it. When he did that, it broke. We both spent 2-3 hours that morning searching online for a replacement part. We were able to find one of the 2 injector lines but of course it wasn’t the one we needed. The one we needed was discontinued. We placed the order for the other one for delivery to Key West and hoped we could bend it for our use. Our original plan was to spend a couple more nights at Jewfish Basin before heading into Key West, but we needed to get our generator running so we made an early arrival there. We got into Key West in the afternoon and continued to search for options and backup options to fix our generator. Once we had another option besides the new (wrong) part coming in, we decided to enjoy Key West a bit.

Corey helps me grill hotdogs on the way to Key West by blocking the wind to the grill with his skim board

Arriving in Key West

Randy navigates the channel as we arrive at Key west harbor

At the dock in Key West Bight Marina

Walking down Duval Street

Standing outside the Conch Republic

Enjoying the sunset with Sophie

My two chick magnets

Our part came in the next day and as we already knew, it was for the other injector. Randy took it and the original to a Napa Auto Parts. They were unable to bend the new part to work for us so they created one for us.  We tried using a compression fitting with the broken original fuel line but the part that compresses the fitting was too far back and the nut would not thread far enough to reach it.  So Randy installed the NAPA custom hose and it worked.

From left, the Napa custom hose, the broken line and the new part which was the wrong line

Randy installing the Napa-built injector line (and Corey and I crossing fingers – not shown)

After the running the generator for a bit it seemed there was no more fuel leaking and the new injector line that Napa Auto Parts built was working! We were all so relieved because if this didn’t work we weren’t sure what our options would be. We really want to go to the Dry Tortugas and we weren’t sure if we could make it without AC there at night since the fort blocks most of the breeze in the anchorage. We know lots of boats stay there without generators for AC but they are usually sailboats. Sailboats seem to be built for great airflow and some trawlers are as well. We do get great airflow depending on the wind direction but with split floor plans, one cabin in the v-berth and one in the aft, like ours seem to have areas where no air gets. If Corey has great airflow in the v-berth, chances are we are dying in the aft cabin with none.

With the generator fixed we are now ready to head to the Dry Tortugas. We are refilling our water tanks, getting fresh produce and other perishables and preparing for our trip. We are leaving Key West tomorrow morning(Friday) to head to the Dry Tortugas. If the conditions are good, we’ll be in the Dry Tortugas tomorrow evening. If it’s a little too rough for passage to Dry Tortugas, we’ll lay up in the Marquesas until Saturday when it should be a little calmer. Stay tuned!

The Commodore Restaurant

The Key West Bight dinghy dock and Turtle Krawls

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Headed south: Marco Island to the Content Keys https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/headed-south-marco-island-content-keys/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/headed-south-marco-island-content-keys/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 20:42:34 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6472 Since we are meeting our friends in the Dry Tortugas later this week, we decided to use the Memorial Day holiday to our advantage and head south to anchor out in the Keys prior to that. Our first stop along the way was to anchor at Cape Roman near Marco Island. We didn’t get to […]

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Since we are meeting our friends in the Dry Tortugas later this week, we decided to use the Memorial Day holiday to our advantage and head south to anchor out in the Keys prior to that. Our first stop along the way was to anchor at Cape Roman near Marco Island. We didn’t get to Cape Romano until late in the evening and it was an extremely low tide so were unable to get into the little anchorage.  We tried anchoring on the Gulf of Mexico right off the famous dome homes but the current was going one way and the wind the other making what would have been an unpleasant night. We decided to cruise about another hour south and tuck in behind a shoal which gave us much better protection for the evening.

Corey helps fuel up Blue Turtle

Grilling dinner off the coast of Naples

Reading up on the Dry Tortugas

The famous dome homes of Cape Romano

The dome homes slowly getting swallowed by the sea

Relaxing up front and enjoying the evening

We were treated to a gorgeous sunset

The sky after the sun had set

The next morning we were off early to head to the Content Keys. The Content Keys is a very popular spot for mini lobstering season and we’d been there several times for just that. This time around, Randy and Corey wanted to try a spear fishing spot that they got from a friend. They were only able to spear 1 hogfish but it was certainly tasty. We stayed two nights at the Content Keys before heading to Jewfish Basin near Key West.

Our crew en route to the Content Keys

Sophie is happy to be on vacay!

Corey gets in some reading time and a nice breeze

Always my favorite view

Blue Turtle anchored at the Content Keys

The boys return from spear fishing

This little guy came by to check us out

He says “see ya later!”

Beautiful sunset at the Content Keys

 

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Replacing a marine air conditioner https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/replacing-a-marine-air-conditioner/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/replacing-a-marine-air-conditioner/#comments Mon, 29 May 2017 13:00:25 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6462 Last week, while I was busy provisioning for the Dry Tortugas, Randy was busy installing a new air conditioner in the forward berth. The old CruisAir AC had quit working on us and rather have someone come out and charge it and invoice us $400, we decided it was time to put that money into […]

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Last week, while I was busy provisioning for the Dry Tortugas, Randy was busy installing a new air conditioner in the forward berth. The old CruisAir AC had quit working on us and rather have someone come out and charge it and invoice us $400, we decided it was time to put that money into a new AC. Randy had read somewhere (online) that once a marine AC is over 7 years old, it’s difficult for it to keep a charge and it’s usually time to replace it. Since we’ve owned Blue Turtle for 5 years and knowing that the AC wasn’t fairly new when we purchased her, we decided it was best to replace it. Also, we live in Florida year-round so we MUST have 2 fully functioning AC units.

Randy with both AC units – old one on the left (white color) and new one on the right (black)

We actually replaced our aft cabin AC (the larger of the two) 2 years ago when we had issues with it. We’d had a marine AC company come out and work on it and recharge it twice which ended up costing us almost $700. We bit the bullet and bought a new one and have been very happy with it. In fact, it freezes us out most the time. Since we are based in Fort Myers Beach, we are lucky enough to have a local company that manufactures marine AC units right here in Fort Myers called Mermaid Manufacturing. Randy purchased one of their units and installed it himself. We did run into some issues initially with it not blowing cold enough and they fixed it immediately by giving us a new compressor. What’s great about this company if you live in the area, is that if you run into any issues with the unit you can take it out and drive it to their shop where they can fix it.

Since the forward berth AC needed to be replaced, we purchased another AC unit from Mermaid. Randy pulled the old unit out of the v-berth closet and installed the new one which wasn’t an easy feat since it was very tight quarters. He also installed all new insulated air ducts. The new unit is performing nicely now along with our other one and we will stay cool this summer!

The old (Cruisair) unit

The new unit in place

New insulated duct work

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Provisioning for the Dry Tortugas https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/provisioning-dry-tortugas/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/provisioning-dry-tortugas/#comments Sun, 28 May 2017 15:11:33 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6451 The last couple of weeks have been busy on Blue Turtle.  We’ve been gearing up for our annual trip down to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.  This year will make our 4th year heading south to our favorite cruising destination. We’ve been working diligently to get Blue Turtle ready and stocked up for the trip. […]

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The last couple of weeks have been busy on Blue Turtle.  We’ve been gearing up for our annual trip down to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.  This year will make our 4th year heading south to our favorite cruising destination. We’ve been working diligently to get Blue Turtle ready and stocked up for the trip. It can be exhausting just prepping for a trip like this, but after 3 years we pretty much have it down to a science. Aside from our regular prep checklist, Randy has also been busy installing a new AC in the forward berth (more on that to come). Below is just some of the items we check off when preparing for a trip like this.

  • Check running lights (if cruising at night)
  • Have bottom and running gear dove and cleaned
  • Check engine maintenance
  • Bring spare fuel filters and impellers
  • Bring extra oil, transmission oil and coolant
  • Fill fuel and water
  • Pump holding tank
  • Check diving and snorkeling equipment
  • Provision for food and water
  • Provision for any pets traveling with you

In addition to that, we also borrow about 7 dive tanks from a friend to give us a total of 14 tanks. Randy has them all filled at the local dive shop and loads and secures them onboard.

These borrowed tanks plus our 7 will give us 14 tanks to dive with in the Dry Tortugas

This year our plans are to cruise to the Content Keys/Jewfish Basin area to let the boys do a little spear fishing, then head into Key West for a night or two to fill up our water tanks and do some last minute provisioning before heading to the Dry Tortugas. In the past, the longest we’ve stayed in the Dry Tortugas is 7 days and this year we are hoping to extend that to about 11 days, weather permitting of course. The maximum stay there is 14 days.

While Randy has been busy getting the boat in shape and ready to go, I’ve been meal planning and stocking up on food. We will have about 1 week at anchor before heading into Key West and then off for another 11 days at the Dry Tortugas. My plan this year is to stock up for 2.5 – 3 weeks (basically our whole trip) of food and beverages so that when we get to Key West, I’ll only need to pick up fresh produce and other perishable items. I’ve also decided to make things a little easier on myself while in the Dry Tortugas by cooking several crockpot meals in advance that I separated out into individual meal ziplocks and freeze. We are in the water most the day snorkeling and diving, and by dinner time I just want something quick and easy to make since I usually have 3 cameras worth of images to download and get ready for the next day.  And after all, it is vacation!

Crockpot chicken tacos (top) and BBQ chicken (bottom) are now frozen and ready to be thawed for our trip to Dry Tortugas

3 meals worth of chicken, potatoes and carrots

Needless to say, my freezer is jam packed as well as all of our cabinets. I buy a lot of canned vegetables and fruit for long trips like this. Usually my produce lasts the first 5 days or so and we try to eat that up first then move on to the cans. I also tend to buy fruits and vegetables that last longer. Whole melons usually do well until you cut them. Whole fruits like apples and oranges work well on longer trips too. I don’t have as much luck with bananas and berries so if I do have them we eat them right away. While I love salad on land, I don’t usually make it on long trips since lettuce doesn’t tend to last that long. I buy a lot of onions, bell peppers, zucchini and squash that we can grill.

Grocery run on the morning we left

We also load up on several cases of bottled water. Finding a place to store all the water along with beer and wine can be quite a challenge. Our water capacity is 200 gallons which can get us about 2 weeks on hook with the 3 of us. This, however, is in super-conservative water-saving mode. It means quick showers and washing dishes only once per day. Thankfully, we are all pretty good about being conscious with saving water.

Some of the bottled water for our trip

We are super excited about this year’s trip to the Dry Tortugas. We have plans to meet our friends Chris and Courtney and family there which should be a lot of fun. We are also stoked about it since I will be writing an article for PassageMaker Magazine about cruising to the Dry Tortugas (more on that to come!). I’ll be in full-on picture-taking mode for this trip and can’t wait!

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Living aboard with a boat dog https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/living-aboard-with-boat-dog/ https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/living-aboard-with-boat-dog/#respond Sun, 14 May 2017 17:23:34 +0000 https://www.blueturtletrawler.com/?p=6424 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our Disclosure for more info. Living aboard with pets is a common topic among cruisers. If you are living aboard full time or just seasonally, why wouldn’t you want to have your pet along with you? They are part of the family as much as anyone else and I know […]

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living aboard with a dogThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read our Disclosure for more info.

Living aboard with pets is a common topic among cruisers. If you are living aboard full time or just seasonally, why wouldn’t you want to have your pet along with you? They are part of the family as much as anyone else and I know I couldn’t imagine life aboard without Sophie.

If you do a google search for “living aboard with pets” you will find several articles about living aboard and cruising with pets. They all contain great advice and considerations for having pets on board your boat, but it is ultimately up to you to determine what works best for your pet and type of boat. Below is our experience and considerations we took when bringing Sophie aboard.

Pet Safety

Many of the cautions about safety aboard don’t apply to Sophie because of her size and the type of boat we have. Because she is a dachshund with very short legs, we’ve never had a problem with her jumping or running up and down steps. She doesn’t do steps on our boat, so it is up to us to pick her up and move her from cabin to cabin or on the different level decks. If you have steps and a dog that can move freely about the boat, you’ll want to make sure they won’t get into any trouble navigating it. You’ll also want to have a plan to secure or keep your dog in one place when under way. Since Sophie relies on us to move her around most of the boat, she always with one of us when under way.

No overboard worries for this short dog

We’re also very fortunate that the gunnels on Blue Turtle are actually the same height or higher than Sophie is tall. If she’s running around the lower deck, we don’t have any worries about her falling over board since it would take a giant leap for her to get over the side. Since she’s not crazy about getting wet or swimming, we’ve never had to worry about her going overboard on her own. We know some folks whose dogs love to jump in the water and can potentially jump over board while under way which is why it’s important to teach your pet commands like “stay” so they understand when it’s ok to jump and when it’s not.

Sophie sports her lifejacket at the beach after a dinghy ride

When underway, it’s always a good idea to have a lifejacket on your dog or at least nearby should the weather get rough. We have one we keep handy but Sophie doesn’t wear it the whole time we cruise since she’s usually inside the cabin napping on the couch. It’s there in case we need it should unexpected wind or a storm pop up. We also like to have a harness nearby as well. She normally wears just a collar but a harness is great for pets in rough weather to give you a better grip should they fall in or you need to move them to another spot. You should always have a “doggie overboard” plan should it ever occur.

One safety protocol we adopted once we moved aboard was to go back to crating Sophie when we weren’t there. She was crate trained as a pup and always loved her crate as her “safe place”, but she’d been out of the crate for a while when we moved onto Blue Turtle. The first few times we left her alone on the boat, we put her down in our aft cabin figuring she could get into any trouble since she couldn’t climb the steps. Somehow, she was able to jump up on our bed which is really very high for her and when we returned we would hear her jump off in excitement to see us. Knowing that jumping like this is really bad for dachshunds, who are prone to back issues, we decided to go back to crating her. We put her in her crate on the floor of our cabin and I can relax while I’m away knowing that she’s safe. We also put her in her crate when docking the boat since she has a tendency to get very barky and in the way. Not all pets need to be crated, but it works for us.

Bathroom business

When we moved aboard Blue Turtle 5 years ago, Sophie was 2 years old at the time. We’d been living on land in a house since she was a puppy.  Thankfully, when she was about 1, we went on trip to the Keys on my parent’s boat. At that time, they also had a puppy as well and were training him to use a potty patch. While on this trip, we trained Sophie to use the patch of grass and it was very successful. After the trip we went back to living on land for another year before buying Blue Turtle and Sophie went back to pottying outside in the yard. We purchased a potty patch to throw on our back deck and sure enough, Sophie went right up to it and used it. Somehow a year later she remembered what it was for. We were very fortunate that we were able to train her to use it at a young age and her going to the bathroom has never been an issue for us when cruising. Obviously, it’s a bit more difficult to train an older dog to use one, but I can tell you it’s worth it if you can get them to use one. We’ve had folks cruising with us who were limited on where and when they could cruise because they had to be able to take their dog to shore. It’s so nice knowing that we can cruise freely without being hindered by the need to take our dog to shore.

We use a potty patch like this one with a thin line attached through the grass mat and tray.

As far as potty patches go, there are some that are literally just a piece of astroturf and some that have a tray under neath the grass. We’ve always opted for this one, one with the tray under it, since it collects the urine in a tray that we can pick up and toss overboard to rinse. This keeps the mess off your decks and you don’t need to rinse with a bucket of water. We got a great tip from Randy’s dad to drill a hole through the corner of the grass mat and the tray and loop a thin piece of rope through it. We keep the other end tied to the boat and when she uses it, we simply pick it up and toss it overboard to rinse. Tying it to boat also keeps it from being launched off the boat during a storm.

Marina life and other dogs

On land, Sophie lived with 2 other dogs: Randy’s pug, Pudgy and his father’s dog, Maisey. Other than each other, they never really came into contact with other dogs. We wished we’d socialized Sophie more as a puppy because in the marina, she comes across a lot of other dogs and people. She’s fine once she meets them and loves other dogs but she’s quite the barker up until then. If she had been socialized and used to seeing other dogs and people on a regular basis, she might be a lot quieter walking down the docks.

Sophie socializes with her marina buddy, Bailey

We also noticed after our first year living aboard that Sophie had developed fleas. We didn’t have her on flea medication on land because she never came into contact with other dogs outside our home. Living in the marina, however, there are dogs everywhere, coming and going and we decided we needed to put her on regular flea medication to keep her protected.

We’ve been very fortunate with Sophie since she’s adapted very well to living aboard. She really makes a great boat dog and I love that we get to travel with her when we cruise on vacation. Life aboard with pets need not be complicated, you just have to figure out what works for your dog and your boat.

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