Wake me up if dolphins show!
After 36 hours of sailing I just woke up after my last night watch and pop my head up from the companion way. Winds are finally warm and the sun is shining. Shorts and t-shirt is suddenly enough. Nice!!! Captain Rob: ”You just missed 15 dolphins swimming and playing around the boat.” What?? I love dolphins and only saw a few so far during my sailing. I am really sad to have missed them, apparently they stayed for quite a while and was very playful. Rob later shows me a movie he took and it is truly amazing. I quickly remove all doubts from his mind about waking me up, if it would ever happen again that I am sleeping when dolphins decide to pay a visit. Wake me up, please!!
”We are soon there, Rob says, I decided we are going into Dry Tortuga for a short stop on our way to Cuba. Great, means a night of normal sleep before we continue south tomorrow. And Dry Tortuga is part of the Florida Keys where I never been and it is always fun to see new places. I am quite happy about the decision. What I do not know is that before we leave I will have toured the fortress three times, I know the schedule of the sea planes and the ferry, as well as the names of most of the Rangers working in the national park.
Again there are very shallow water and we have to navigate carefully, in the channel that leads to the anchorage. But today is daylight and much easier. We see a big loggerhead turtle swim by, surfacing a few times to get air. Rob goes infront to check on the windlass (the automatic anchor chain device). He was not planning on using the anchor until Puerto Rico and want to check if it all works. Of course it doesn’t. Something in the electrical power is wrong. We decide to try and fix it before going into the anchorage to avoid trouble when dropping anchor. John is put at the helm, instructed to just ”keep us clear off the reefs” for as long as it takes. Me and Rob start disassembly the remote control up on deck to find out if there is anything obviously wrong with switch. While sitting on the bow three dolphins comes around and start swimming around the boat. It is not like this morning but I am happy to see them and it makes up a bit for missing them earlier.
There is no obvious fault ion the remote control. So we need to go inside at the bow, under Robs bunk. Its a small project just to get under the bunks but when we finally do, a long methodical search starts in order to find where the electrical failure is. I am not of that much use but I can help in assisting with tools and to read the volts and amperes when needed. It interesting to see how Rob is working and he explains all he does and why. After more than an hour the bad connection is finally found and fixed, the windlass works. But what we found also is that the saltwater wash (that wash the chain) doesn’t work due to a broken water pump, and there is no spare one so that one cannot be fixed. But that is no big deal right now.
Garden Keys and Dry Tortuga National park
So we continue in to the anchorage at Dry Tortuga just off the island kalled Garden Keys where the brick fortress Fort Jeffersson is located. This is almost 113 km west of Key West and is part of Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands,accessible only by boat or seaplane. It is a very nice anchorage, surrounded by the fort, a piece of land that is a closed off bird area, a reef and the big tropical blue sea stretching all the way to Cuba. We launch the dinghy (it is an inflatable one so it take some time) and put on the outboard engine. When we are going to start this it does not work so we have to row ashore. We want to see the fortress this afternoon before leaving tomorrow so we don’t want to waste time on fixing the engine now. The sun is shining, it is a beautiful afternoon and we have a great afternoon exploring the fortress.
Fort Jefferson was built between 1846-1875 in order to to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America, but was never really finished. Today it is a national park and lots of tourists (as we will be well aware of) visit the island by sea planes or ferry that traffic the island several times a day. It takes 30 min with sea plane and 2,5 h with the ferry from Key West.
Boris & Doris
Back at the boat we jump into the water which prove to be much colder than I am used to, much more like Swedish summer than Caribbean water. But still nice. And even nicer is the fresh water shower afterwards, taken from a bag mounted on deck. Feels good after the long sail. Under the boat we find that we have two new pets, two gigant ( I mean gigant, they are more than half the length of our dinghy) Goliat groupers, who we later name Boris and Doris after code names in a Schwartznegger movie we just watched.
Next day we prepare to take off again. But a surprise is awaiting us. When Rob search for his boat certificate he cannot find it, we search all his computer and all his files but it cannot be found. Without we cannot go to Cuba. In fact we cannot go anywhere outside the US. new plans are quickly made and we decide to go into the rangers office and try to get hold of the authority who issues the certificate and ask them to email the certificate. There is no normal communication on the island like mobile networks or wifi. All communication needs to me made via satellite phones at the ranger office. Bad news awaiting us. It shows that the certification is made void, for reasons too complicated to explain here, and the result is Rob has to make a new application, get this approved and sent to the Dry Tortugas. This means we probably will be stuck on this island a day or two more. Not the end of the world, but not what we planned.
Next day we therefore decide to take the boat to the Loggerhead Key, a neighbor island with a nice lighthouse and some good snorkeling. The island prove to be gorgeous, we do some snorkeling and walking around the island before having lunch at the boat and heading back to Fort Jefferson to see if our documents have shown up yet. They haven’t. And not the day after that either. Next day we call the authority again but the office is closed due to heavy snow storms! Friday we call again, but this time the office is closed, after office hours, it is after three. No package Saturday or Sunday either.
Now we been a week here. Much longer than planned. We are running out of time. And food. And drinks. Luckily we produce our own water. We have not been able to communicate on phones or internet in more than a week. We are running out of projects and sightseeing to do too. But we try to keep ourselves busy and not too annoyed. So far we cleaned the carburetor on the out boarder, we filed all the cars who runs the main up and down the mast, I cleaned the deck, I cleaned the galley, the salon and the cabins, I polished brass inside, I learnt a lot of knots (Rob is a real rope wizard), I made an anklet and a keyring out of knots on ropes, I read all chapters of ”The boaters pocket guide”, I cleaned the cockpit.
We also toured the fort a few more times, snorkeled along the beach, went crocodile hunting (there is a 3m salt water crocodile on the fort premisses, we saw a video of it) with no luck, read guides about Cuba (crusing guides and Lonely Planet), had lunch on the Yankee Freedom (the ferry), had sun downers at our boat with fellow cruisers, and supper at another neighboring boat, and we saw lots of movies. Biggest events of the days are usually lunch and dinner and I do most of the cooing. Getting better and better at boat cooking and the food seems to be appreciated. I actually like it because it is something to do and it makes me feel more like being at work than on holiday.
Stuck for 10 days
Monday comes, we have been stuck here a week and Rob contacts the office again. This time they answer and it turns out they have NOT approved his application because they cannot read all the details. And noone bothered to get back to us about it. We give the necessary details again and stress the urgency. Later that day we get a note saying the application has been approved and put to Feddex who will bring it to the sea plane adventure company who will bring it out to Dry Tortuga. Which right now feels like the end of the world.
Tuesday comes, still no package. We start joking about putting up a sign on our boat saying ”Sailing tomorrow”. That seems to be the common answer to when will we be leaving… Wednesday we call again, the package finally reached Feddex at Key West, but now it got stuck there because there is confusion about where the package should be sent. We do not understand what the confusion is, but after lots of twists and turns a girl at the sea plane company offers us to go to the Feddex office herself to pick up the package and make sure it goes out with the last plane for the day. What an angel!! Finally!!
Eight days later we finally got the certificates and tomorrow we are ready to sail south. We celebrate with barbecue chicken, veggies with feta cheese in the oven and a glass of rose (I bought it in plastic cups on the ferry Yankee Freedom earlier) with chocolate as dessert. I should go to bed, since a long and possibly quite rough sail awaits, but I end up chatting with John in the cockpit under the stars about life and death and afterlife and now I am writing this. Time is late!! 00:13, WAY behind cruisers midnight which is said to be 9 o’clock. I’m also running out of batteries. Time to sleep!!
Tomorrow awaits the adventure!!