Dry Tortugas Run~ II

After getting an hour or so of sleep, I went up on deck to take in the surroundings.  I wasn’t able to sleep long due to the excitement of being in a new place.  I grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat out on the deck.  While taking in the view,  I noticed Fort Jefferson was a handsome place.  It was large, and intimidating to look at.  The feeling of history filled the air. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of severe weather this place had experienced over the last hundred or so years.  Fort Jefferson sits on an 16 acre island with a partial mote surrounding the exterior of the Fort. Construction began in 1845 but apparently it was never completed.  The United States took the Fort over in order to control navigation in the Gulf of Mexico, and to protect Atlantic bound Mississippi River trade, by building up the Tortugas.   I couldn’t wait to  dingy over to the island and walk around in the Fort.

While standing on the swim platform, I leaned over into the water to rinse my bowl and spoon.  The spoon slipped thru my fingers and plunged into the water and down to the bottom.  I could see it clearly.  I would have let it go, but it wasn’t my spoon, it was Michael’s flatware.  He had mentioned before how much he liked it.  It looked like an antique.  The handles were white, bone in texture with crazing along the surface. The sun bounced off of the curvature of the spoon while it sat on the bottom. I grabbed the net with the long handle and attempted to scoop it out, but the handle of the net wasn’t long enough.  After Doug showing me the depth of the water the previous night,  I wasn’t real eager to dive in and attempt to retrieve the spoon.   Out of nowhere a large  red  raft with twin outboards, pulled up behind the  boat and cut it’s motor.  At the wheel was a young Coast Guard Captain in uniform.  I remember taking in a breath and thinking “Whew!”     He said ” I wouldn’t be swimming around these waters here, if I were you.  It isn’t safe. There are barracudas in these waters. They take off after anything that sparkles.”  I mentioned that I had dropped a spoon and he insisted I “let it go”.  Since he put it to me that way, …I let it go.

The chatter outside of the boat woke the rest of the crew. After breakfast, we took the dingy over to the island.  The sand was so white, it hurt my eyes. The Fort was much more intimidating up close.




The brick construction seemed to go on and on.  One could easily get lost. The first level had long dark hallways with large arched openings on the sides. It was spooky in some places.  The next level was more appealing due to the large views, 360 degrees.  In one direction you could see the anchorage, with the commercial fishing boats, pleasure boats and seaplanes.  In the other direction you could see all the various islands with stunning white sand and clear blue/green water.



While looking over the side of the walls of the fort, you could see the partial mote that was open to the sea. If you looked close enough you could see fish swimming around.  


 We spent the day touring the Fort, by late afternoon everyone was ready for a nap.  The next morning was Christmas. As we all sat on the deck with our morning brew, we watched a fellow sailor, dressed as Santa Clause,  get off of his boat with a large sack over his shoulder, throw it in his little boat, and row over to the Fort.  He was delivering some Christmas Cheer to the Park Rangers.  It was well known that they were very appreciative of people bringing books,  and movies.  Their assignments were for six weeks at a time and there wasn’t very much  to do out there.  








 Later in the day, Michael and Doug grabbed the cheap beer, threw it in a large sea bag and told us they would return. Only when they did return they asked for the Captain Morgans and asked us to come with them.  They had gone over to one of the commercial fishing boats.   Some of the transoms on the boats read Cuba, Key West, South America and  Louisiana.  We had been invited to come aboard one of these boats and share our Captain Morgans Rum,  which was a crucial ingredient for making hot buttered rum drinks.  The lady on board passed around  mugs of hot buttered rum while we toasted each other a Merry Christmas.  Then the fisherman on deck  filled our sea bags with ice, lobsters and shrimp.  As I looked over in the corner next to me, I saw a large red laundry basket with a large octopus in it.  I must have jumped, because my drink spilled over the mug and down my arm.  Luckily, the octopus didn’t move. … Our visit was short, and so was the life of that bottle of Captain Morgan’s Rum.

Now it all made since to me as to why we brought so much cheap beer.  It was to be used as leverage for trade.  Not only did the Park Rangers experience the seclusion of the Dry Tortugas, but so did the Fisherman.  I had come to appreciate the fishing boats early on because they always had ice.  In the Dry Tortugas, they had seafood.  As for the bread and butter we brought along, Michael had a plan  for Lobster Sandwiches.  We  cooked lobster and shrimp every way imaginable.  We steamed it, marinaded in Italian Dressing, applied butter and garlic, cooked it on the grill, and broiled it. No matter how it was cooked, it was fresh and delicious.  I have never had more than I could eat in the way of lobster before.  It was a treat and not a bad way to spend Christmas.



Tags: , , , ,

21 Responses to “Dry Tortugas Run~ II”

  1. Spencer Says:

    Hey Shannon, these are great stories. When are they from, and what are you up to these days?


    • wenchhandle Says:

      Hi Spencer, glad you like my stories. They take place in winter of 1990-91. Currently we live in the mountains of TN and are gearing up for another adventure on the water. ( Just have some lose ends to tie up.) I started up “wenchhandle” to share past adventures and new ones. We’ve spend most of the last 15 years on the water and are eagle to get back. How about you? What are you up to these days?
      Thanks for stopping in.
      🙂 Shannon

  2. Stacie Says:

    It is so amazing your recall…and wonderful story-telling…love it!

  3. soundbounder Says:

    I haven’t been there in almost 20 years.
    Would love to get back!

  4. Terri Says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip..you tell a great story!!!!

  5. frigginloon Says:

    What an amazing way to spend Christmas. I could virtually taste that buttered rum and those lobster sandwiches. Deep down I was hoping the story ended with someone handing you that spoon and saying Merry Christmas. It is probably still lying in the sand surrounded by nasty barracudas.

    My brother once lost his flipper off the side of our boat and threw me in to retrieve it….it would have been OK had I not been fully clothed. He’s always been a bastard 🙂

  6. Shannon Scott Says:

    So what did you do with that flipper? Damn Brothers!

  7. Zen Says:

    Ah, reading the comments I see how the time line is working…anyway good times, good pix!

    Now hope you have a good Turkeyday, where ever you spend it!


  8. Shannon Scott Says:

    Hey Zen, “The Choice to Cruise” is my post on the journey south to fl., for the winter. Slowly working up to current date.

    Thanks for the happy “Turkeyday”. Hope you enjoy yours too!

  9. Lynn Says:

    good post wenchhandle, interesting info about ft jefferson. one question though, what about the flatware? did you keep a journal while at sea?

    • Lynn Says:

      meant to wish you both a happy thanksgiving!

    • wenchhandle Says:

      Hi Lynn, If you ever want something different to do for the weekend, go down to Key West and charter a sea plane to the Dry Tortugas. They drop you off and pick you up all in the same day or you can camp there. As for the flatware, we used it for a long time “just short of a set”. A detailed journal I didn’t keep, but we did keep a log.
      Happy Thanksgiving to you guys! Don’t work too hard!

      • Lynn Says:

        is that right? ya know, i think i may have to just check that out. thanks for the info.

  10. Quietpaths Says:

    Really a great tale of the sea. Glad you didn’t dive for the spoon. Yikes. I’m glad I just finished with a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner because I would be very jealous reading about the fresh seafood you had. Not a bad way to spend Christmas indeed! I wish you a happy Thanksgiving from MT.

  11. nursemyra Says:

    Great story and lovely photos too

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: