The Dry Tortugas, Chapter Two

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The Dry Tortugas National Park is a one hundred square mile park that is mostly protected sea.  It is rich in marine life, teeming with rare birds and holds a massive fortress,  Fort Jefferson.  We unleashed Sea Alice and took her to the island to explore.

The only way to get to the park is by your own boat, on one of two contracted sea planes or one contracted ferry that comes once a day with about a hundred people.  There are seven campsites on the island, a couple of pit toilets, a National Parks’ office and a small gift store.  The National Park Service has a boat that is often tied up here and the Coast Guard on occasion rafts up to the Park Service boat as this is one of the only deep protected anchorages for many miles.DSC_1739

Anyone is welcome to use the ferry boat’s facilities while it is docked for the five hours a day it is there.  They let us join a guided tour of Fort Jefferson.

Fort Jefferson has a strategic location situated on the main shipping channel between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean.  In the mid 1800’s it was built by the U.S. to protect the lucrative channels.  The reefs around it made a “ship trap” and there was one channel entrance that lead to a safe harbor (where we were anchored) for friendly ships.  Fort Jefferson is the largest all masonry fort in the U.S with over sixteen million bricks and eight foot thick brick walls.

Good thing I am so photogenic.

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Fort Jefferson has a mote, is three tiered, six sided, on forty five acres with four hundred and twenty heavy guns and cannons.

If only I had a match.

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Its peak population was about two thousand people.  The fort held prisoners during the Civil War.  The most famous was Dr. Samual Mudd.  He was imprisoned for aiding John Wilkes Booth while Booth was fleeing from soldiers after assassinating Lincoln.  Dr. Mudd treated and saved many soldiers after all of the fort’s nurses and doctors died from yellow fever.  This was his cell.

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We had full reign to explore most of the fort.  There were no guard rails or restrictive rules.  After the ferry left we practically had the fort to ourselves.  I have only skimmed the fort’s fascinating history.  Here are some links if your are interested in learning more:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Jefferson_(Florida)    and   https://www.drytortugas.com/fort-jefferson-history/

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We spent the evening grilling out and celebrating our great fortune of being where we were.  A Bee-on-chee three tiered fishing boat anchored behind us blocking our view of the setting sun.  We took our libations to Echoe’s bow to see if we could catch the sunset from that angle.  I very gracefully slipped and tossed my red wine into the air, all over my face and on the boat.  I want you to know, a lesser woman would have fallen, broken the glass and her arm.

John took to calling me Cinderella again and had many colorful comments about me finding my calling scrubbing decks and other inappropriate suggestions about my bent frame.  He earned himself his second bird of the trip.

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We listened to the upcoming weather on VHF and all was well.  We planned the next day with the birds and the fish.  My kind of day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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