Sunday, January 4, 2015

Key West and the Dry Tortugas

Dec. 18-Jan. 4

Days 37-54

What an amazing two weeks!  Jess and I arrived in Key West after another rough open water crossing across the Florida Bay.  We have decided that we much prefer the river systems and the ICW to the rough seas of the open ocean.  Luckily after a few days at a marina we recuperate and are ready to take off again.  Our daughter, Melinda, her husband, Dave, and their three boys, Ethan, Brady, and Griffin joined us on the 20th in Key West.  This is a very lively town, with beautiful architecture and new sights to see around every corner.  We have been lucky to get a spot at Key West Bight Marina for a couple of days to soak up the atmosphere before heading for the Dry Tortugas National Park. A night on anchor at Boca Grande Key allowed the boys to try out their snorkel gear and catch their first fish of the trip.  The seas were a little rough for our run to Ft. Jefferson, but we made the 60 miles with enough daylight left to take our first quick look at the fort.  Jess has decided that he will never eat crab again if that will help put the crabbers out of business.  Dodging crab pots has become a way of life.  The next week was spent, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, beach combing, and checking out the history of Ft. Jefferson.  We all had a fantastic time!  On the 29th we made the 70 mile trip back to Key West.  After the exhausting day we checked with the marina to see if they had room for us for at least one night, so that we could get laundry done and restock the larder.  We had already been told they were booked solid for New Year's week, but our timing was perfect because they had a "no show" and we were able to get a slip for the whole week. We celebrated New Years on Duval Street along with thousands of other people, checked out the southernmost point, went to the Eco Discovery Center, ate some great food on the wharf, watched a very disappointing ballgame, and walked many many miles.  We hated to see our family leave us for home on Friday, but they had to get back to their everyday lives and it is time for us to continue our journey.

Just one of the many Key West style homes. Very little mowing takes place here as most of the yards are covered with an amazing display of flowering shrubs, cacti, and trees that are only found in this region.

Key West is known for its vivid sunsets.  The Sunset Cruises that leave the docks every evening are very popular with the tourists.

Ethan wades out into the crystal clear water with his snorkeling gear.  This was the first time the boys had been snorkeling and they mastered the technique with very few issues.

As the sun sets on Boca Grande Key, Griffin pulls in the first catch of the day with a little help from his dad.

There was no end to the variety of fish the boys pulled out of the ocean.  Brady was thrilled when he landed this beautiful Black Grouper.

One of the several Goliath Groupers that took up residence under our boat when we anchored in the waters by Ft. Jefferson.  Jess had a hard time taking for granted that there were 300 lb. fish under his boat.

Float planes made several trips a day ferrying tourists back and forth from Key West.  The ferry Yankee Freedom arrived every morning, except Christmas, with about 150 people, but, other than a few campers, when they left at 2:45 we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Yes, Santa had no problem finding the boys even this far away from civilization.

We were all excited when Dave hooked into a BIG one, only to be disappointed when we discovered it to be one of the Goliaths.  He had fun for a few minutes anyway.

The frigate birds were like kites when the wind was just right.  They floated over the fort and rarely ever had to move their wings.

The magnitude of the fort is amazing when you consider its remote location. Just acquiring the building materials for the structure must have been an engineering nightmare.

The cast iron lighthouse at Ft. Jefferson is still functioning. 


                   This huge cactus covers the front of the gun powder storage chamber.

 The boys caught supper one night off the pier.  Ethan proudly adds another Mangrove Snapper to the cooler.

Finding coconuts on the island was the easy part.  The boys begged Granddaddy and their dad to crack them open, which turned into the hard part.  Two great minds working together finally accomplished the task, and everyone sampled the liquid and the meat.

        The old lighthouse at Loggerhead Key.  This 150 ft. structure is no longer in use.

                                       The Roulier family enjoying a visit to Loggerhead Key.

                          Just one of the many stunning sunsets at Dry Tortugas National Park!


Melinda heading off to check out a windjammer wreck.  She and Jess had an awesome time snorkeling amongst the ruins.

               Using my underwater camera, Melinda took some amazing shots of life under the sea.

Our second day on Loggerhead Key provided Jess and I time to walk all the way around the island.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the scenery couldn't  have been prettier.

As we trekked around the island we met Ray and his wife, Bonnie.  They are both retired teachers who volunteer to spend a month every winter on Loggerhead performing a variety of tasks.  They were very happy to give us a tour of the facility and a history lesson to go with it.

Dave, Ethan, and Griffin take one last snorkeling expedition around the base of the fort.

             The coral reefs along the edge of the fort walls provide homes for many different species.

                                  Our last sunrise as we prepare to leave the Dry Tortugas.

Bama Dream as she pulls anchor and heads out into open water for her trip back to Key West.  Thanks to Destinies for sending us this picture.

I don't know why, but we were all excited to get off the boat and have some restaurant food for a change. 

Christmas lights are everywhere around Key West.  Even the anchors near the wharf are decorated for the holidays.

New Year's night on Duval Street is the place to be in Key West.  Streets were blocked off and characters of all sorts were having the time of their lives!

This pelican patiently posed for me while the boys were fishing off the pier on the southern side of the island.

An old fort has been turned into a beautiful botanical garden by members of the Garden Club.  This Stangler Fig tree was just one of the unique flora here. 

                    The iguanas in this tree outside of the gardens were quite entertaining.

The boys (with a little help from Dave) surprised us with an awesome dinner that we enjoyed as we relaxed outside.

          We had to make a special trip to get the picture that no one can leave Key west without.

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