Monday, October 6, 2008

First Dry Tortugas Trip 10/27-28/07

What an experience this was, i had heard about that Dry Tortugas from my father as a child and it always stuck with me...somewhere i had to see. It happened on a whim as well; Ihad been trying to convince Gina, my girlfriend at the time (soon to be fiance...i asked her to marry me on the island), to camp with me but in Florida we have mosquitos everywhere and she would freak out within a few hours in the the Dry Tortugas lie 70 miles West of Key West and have no freshwater thus no bugs, we cleared a weekend and set off for the keys...on fantasy fest weekend.

We left Hollywood at 7pm on friday, got to Fantasy Fest at around 1am, walked around till I couldn't feel my legs or feelings anymore...saw too much for my own comfort...passed out in the truck for 2 hours or so, boarded the Sunny Days Catamarran @ 7am and after a calm two and a half hour boat ride we arrived on Garden Key and made our camp on the Western approach of Fort Jefferson. Fort Jefferson was built by the US of over a period of more than 60 years, finally completed after the civil war it was soon absolete due to the advent of rifled artillery. If I had been involved in the american civil war I sorely would press to be station at the fort...the 60 or so artillery men staioned here for the duration of war had it pretty good apart from troubles with balky de-salinizers and sunburn..better than the poor fools dying by the thousands on the continent.

Garden Key was practically deserted when the ferry left at 2:30pm, with all the day trippers gone it was just us and another couple, a whole island to ourselves. Exploring the Fort and napping under the shade of trees on sugar sand was definately what my over-worked mind needed. At the time i had been working on-call and with a 24-hour phone line routed to my cellphone almost 96 hours a week...i needed this.

Fishing was incredible, it was a full moon and this aided the already pristine conditions found on the key. I had brought my kayak but the winds were around 20-25 knots so i opted for fishing from the pier. I had brought light tackle as i expected to be catching jacks and snappers, nothing that my standard 12-15lb tackles couldn't handle...i was wrong. I was also foolish in not bringing enougb bait, i thought the brick of squid, frozen shrimp, and 2 dozen fresh balao would be enough...i was wrong.

The second yellowtail Gina hooked into gets swallowed by a massive goliath grouper, she fought it on 20lb spin tackle for 20 minutes of so before it wrapped around a piling...this only fueled the urge to land one, and we got two, one we couldn't muscle into shore was probably 200-250lbs, the littler guy I landed by the beach felt like 70lbs or more, who knows, all i know is it was a blast on such light tackle, but i did end up getting spooled a good number of times by some very large fish.

I woke Gina after she feel asleep and made her walk out on the moat where i met her and proposed...i'm glad it was here and not anywhere else that i asked many people can claim that?

The next morning, as we were getting into the kayaks to go check out Loggerhead (3 miles away from Garden Key) the ranger comes and tells us that the ferry almost didn't make it out today (12'-15' seas in the gulfstream!) and due to a storm they will not be coming for the next few we had to pack up and leave paradise early.

The boat ride back was incredible! Gina would use other words to describe it but wow...the seas were around 10'-12' the whole way back, the 2 and half hour trip became four hours! The captain had to stop the ship completely numerous times in order to avoid hitting the huge waves too was an experience. Arriving in the lee of Key West was a relief, even the crew looked white at some points.

With new knowledge about the Tortugas we knew we would return, better prepared and i would bring heavier tackle next time...and no more trips out there during the ass end of hurricane season.

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