Short Stories ~ Dry Tortugas Run I

Christmas was three days away. People were making plans and talking about what they were going to be doing for Christmas.  One of our friends spoke up and said “We ought to sail over to the Dry Tortugas.  We have some time off, shouldn’t be too many people there.  Come on lets do it!”  Michael looked over at Doug, looked down at his feet, looked over at me and said “You’ve never been to the Dry Tortugas, have you?” Feeling a bit embarrassed I shook my head, not really knowing what or where he was talking about.  He said “Fort Jefferson. It’s located in the Dry Tortugas where the Doctor, (who treated John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg), was sent after Booth shot President Lincoln, remember? Doctor Mudd?”  Again, a bit embarrassed now because my history had “holes” in it. I could remember bits and pieces of history, but didn’t store much if it didn’t pertain to current events. (That was then.)   Doug spoke up “We can take our dive tanks, do some diving.” Michael piped in and said ” Yea, we can get a case of cheap beer, some butter, and a loaf a bread.”  I was thinking “What?”.  But thankfully Michael had something else in mind.

The next day, we started the morning “in the manner that we had become a custom to”, which was anchored out in the Marco River sitting on the deck with the teak table set up for coffee and warm blueberry muffins fresh out of the oven.  It was so nice to smell the morning salt air, while watching  the birds work over the mangroves and pick fish out of the salt water.  The breeze was always warm as it blew across the boat, stimulating your senses to wake up.  After the caffeine had filled our viens we began making plans for our trip. Once I had my “orders” and Michael had his plan, we started our day.  We spent the morning setting the boat up for the 15 hour cruise.  The boat had three double staterooms and two heads. It was amazing how much stuff two people can scatter around a boat of that size.  We had stuff everywhere.  I organized and put things away while Michael organized the Navigation Table and set up the charts and his plotting tools.  He had chart books, Rope books, Tide & Current tables, Light list, Chapmans Piloting and Seaman Ship ( of which he asked me to read. y. a .w. n.),  The Coast Pilot,  and Boat Building Books. Then there was a series of Jack Londons  Books. You name it, he had it.   And it all seemed to be on top of the Navigation Table.  Getting the Flying Dutchman ready for company and charters was like maintaining a floating hotel.  Once we got everything in order it was time for lunch.

We set up the lines in stations along the center of the topsides, not knowing which side we were going to have to tie up to, once we came ashore.  Michael started the motor, went to the bow, gave me the go ahead to put the motor into forward gear for him to pull the anchor up, then back to the wheel.  We made way down the river and over to the Snook Inn Docks, tied up on the starboard side. This is where we had decided to have lunch and meet our friends for departure.  The Snook Inn was this neat restaurant with views of the Marco River.  One could sit there, eat and drink while watching the boats go up and down the river or catch the sunset.  They also had a Tiki Hut/Bar where one could go for  cold drinks and eat, watch the game or weather channel from the televisions’ set up in each of the corners of the hut. It was a fun place to go. Being a tourist area, The Snook Inn always felt like a party. The people were always friendly and the service was professional.

Kim and Doug were to meet us at 2 pm.  After lunch Michael and I went back to the boat turned on the VHF Marine Weather to get the latest update.  For the afternoon North winds were predicted 5 to 10 knotts (1 knott being slightly faster than 1 mile per hour), Seas 2 feet or less, Bay and Inland Waters a light chop.  At night SE Winds 5 to 10 knotts, Seas 2 feet or less, a light chop. And for the next morning more of the same, just a little more wind 10 to 15 knots at the most.  It was ideal cruising weather.  Our friends showed up as scheduled carrying more gear than I imagined.  They had dive tanks, dive bags, snorkel gear, large stuff sacks, coolers, a tool box (Doug was a marine mechanic), and Kim’s Banjo.  From the looks of their gear, I knew we were going to have some fun.

It was decided that we would break the trip down into shifts and each of us would take a turn at the wheel.  Although the guys were so eager and excited to get there, as the night wore on the two of them were almost fighting over the wheel. We had motored most of the way with the assistance of the sails, as to pick up an extra knott or so.   As we got closer to the Dry Tortugas, Doug shook my shoulder and told me to look over the side of the boat as he shined the spot light into the water.  As I peered over the side, I had a falling sensation in my stomach.  The water was a pale light green and I could literally see the white sandy bottom.  He said the water was 35-40′ deep. At that point I felt like the boat and us were very small in the scheme of things. Cruising along in the dark was beautiful with all of the stars out. All that you could see was darkness, stars and an occasional lights from the riggings of large fishing boats way off in a distance.   I tried not to let my imagination run, because it was a bit creepy at the same time.  The feeling of the “Unknown”, what you couldn’t see.   It didn’t seem very much later  that the guys were studying the chart, looking for markers to navigate into the area of the Dry Tortugas National Park.  The sun was coming up as we approached the anchorage.  There weren’t many boats there, mostly commercial fishing boats.  We dropped our anchor far enough away  to keep from disturbing the other boats. Once the motor was turned off,  my body was vibrating and my ears were ringing.  The sun was coming up fast and my eyes were tired from being up all night.  Part of me wanted to jump in the dingy and explore, the other half of me wanted to go below and take a nap.  The latter part won.

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10 Responses to “Short Stories ~ Dry Tortugas Run I”

  1. frigginloon Says:

    My family had a beautiful wooden yacht when I was growing up and I can remember sailing on the weekends to this island and falling asleep to the sound of the waves and the slight hiss of the gas lamp. Good times. Not particular fond of the smell of the oil used on the rigging though 😦

    • wenchhandle Says:

      Those are good memories. The smell of the rigging may have been the combination of tar, linseed oil and turpentine. That was the old treatment for the lines and rigging. I bet that did stink. Currently I am doing an oil portrait and if I don’t keep a cover on the turpentine, I smell it all over the house. I do not like it !

      • frigginloon Says:

        Urgh and it doesn’t help when you are sea sick and get a whiff 😦

      • wenchhandle Says:

        Oh I hate being seasick too. My hands and fingers go numb, it’s the damnedest thing. Peanut butter is my friend when I cruise. No liquids, they slosh around in there.

      • Lynn Says:

        wenchhandle, so you get sea sick? fortunatley, i’ve never had a problem with that but rip does. isn’t there some type of treatment for that? was thinking maybe accupuncture? he loves the water so much but a boat drifting doesnt agree with his stomach. as long as it’s moving forward at a good lip he’s okay.

  2. Lynn Says:

    wow, another great post wenchhandle.

    i’ll bet the Snook Inn was a party! that is one of the things i love about living in a tourst spot here in florida. people are so happy to be here. in fact, rip came back from walgreens yesterday saying there were some chicks in bikinis just walking around in the store …everyone’s usually pretty happy here.

    i have only been on a sailboat once and it was so calm and quiet gliding over the water. i’m sure sailing at night would be quite an experience and overwheling as well. would be nice to lay face up watching the stars as you sail along. thatnks for a good read, worth my wait…

    • wenchhandle Says:

      Well the scenery here lately has been chicks walking around Walmart with shorts on and furry ugh boots. But that’s Walmart. Tourist areas are great to live in. My only problem was I hated working while watching everyone else play. But you do get use to it.

      Glad you enjoyed my post. They always end up longer than I intended. Tortugas Run will have Part II, least of all Part III.

  3. wenchhandle Says:

    One of treatments for sea sickness is accu-pressure, “Sea Bands”. They are worn on the wrist. Then there is dramamine. Neither of those work for me. Keeping my eyes on the horizon helps, and peanut-butter. I tried alcohol and that made it worse!

    • frigginloon Says:

      Eyes on the horizon works for me. I haven’t used the Sea Bands but instead take sea sick tablet 😦 No I agree, alcohol has no medicinal affect !

  4. marine biology salary Says:

    marine biology salary…

    […]Short Stories ~ Dry Tortugas Run I «[…]…

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