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they would update it everyday, but this time we noticed that they only updated it every other day in which case it was outdated many times.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.