The sailing was good and the day was uneventful. I really do not like going down wind without a spinnaker! The mental effort and fatigue of micromanaging the course without an autopilot is exhausting.
Wing and wing holding open for the moment, dead down wind!
As we passed Newfound Harbor we were officially further West now than on my first two attempts to make it to Key West. As we were about to pass Sugarloaf Key I heard Capt. “K” on the radio. “Hey man, it's a pretty nice day out here..(pause)....what do you think of making it an “all nighter” and sailing on to the Dry Tortugas?” Wee Happy worked out the course and I made the phone calls to find a marina that we could top off the fuel and get some supplies. Oceanside Marina was accommodating and even allowed us to stay tied up to the fuel dock long enough to go to Key West by bus and get some fresh produce, drinks and another 5 gallon fuel can each (taxi ride back). Once back to the boats we shoved off at sunset with a blow of the conch horn.
Wee Happy as the sun sets over stock island leaving a very helpful Oceanside Marina
Key west wouldn't rock in sync with the boat for a good photo.
Does a drive by count as making it to Key West? No? Didn't think so. I will try again later.
Anther boat, something? Drummer, at Key West overheard our conversation on the radio and talked to Capt “K” until we were out of range. I think they were going to Guatemala the next day. As the night became silent and only the occasional light showed the location of other boats and the light housed. Around 1:30a we passed the Marquessas Keys, I could see 5 anchor lights. Then with the moon only a day from full I could make out the shape of a sail on the horizon. Wee Happy could see the green navigation light but their port side red was not burning. For me it was passing a ghost ship in the light of a moon.
As the night continued and energy slowly drained from my body I kept reminding myself of the reward. The reward of single handing a sailboat for 36 hours without a self steering unit. The reward and accomplishment of pushing myself harder and further than ever before. Knowing that the dark blue monster I now sail across is only restless and not angry. But the winds against the port are so tiring. Trying to keep the sails open while riding down a 5-6 foot wave, ever changing direction. Watch the sail, watch the compass, watch the ocean, watch fugawi, correct the tiller, change the sails, don't fall overboard all under the damp dark cold of night. As the sky lightens and the emergence of the impending sun becomes immanent a sigh of relief comes from deep withing. What is it about the light of day that is so settling to the human spirit. Just taking photos of the rising sun I suddenly felt the becalming.
Sunrise 20 miles from the Dry TortugasThe dark blue monster became an azurine carpet rolling before me. Stretching out for hours, it became my magic carpet and on that carpet I rode. Exhausted I finally heard on the radio, "Land Ho!" from Capt "K".
Sunrise from the Wee Happy perspective
Sunrise from the Wee Happy perspective
Fort JeffersonAt the end of the azurine blue carpet was a thin line of brick color. The expectation of the end was abound. The brick colored horizon was slowly, very slowly growing wider. Twenty eight hours after setting sail from Bahia Honda I reached the first marker! I was officially in Los Tortugas! The excitement of closing in on the greatest adventure I had ever undertaken was secretly draining the remaining energy I had. By the time the second marker showed another half hour had passed and I was completely drained. It felt as the horizons were moving and closing in, like walking into the mirrored fun house at the fair I was becoming more and more uncertain of my choices. The chart was just before me on the cockpit seat but the small size of the chart compared to the expanse of Los Tortugas and lack of rest created problems with the mental translation. At this time I hailed s/v Wee Happy and asked for a guide into the anchorage. They lead the course about 3-4 more miles, all the way around the Fort! There is a reef protecting entry from the front and boats have to circle all the way around before anchoring just behind the reef and a small island. As I approached the final marked channel, almost 4 hours after first sight, things became clear again and all made sense. As I watched Wee Happy anchor I surveyed the anchorage for an acceptable place to drop the anchor and row ashore.
With Gemini Dreams safe in the anchorage (after choosing a second spot and Capt "K" double checking on me), I went to take a tour. I had new found energy! I must have been mentally asleep during those 45 minutes and woke rested. As soon as I rowed ashore I felt the need to conquer the island. After landing and taking some quick photos of a pelican I was fended off by a mighty park ranger. She escorted me over to the debriefing room, guaranteeing she received the five dollar fee, making sure there were no Cubans on board, and gathering all my boating information. After this she offered to answer all questions, showed me where the weather information was, where I could fish, where I could snorkel, and reminded me Fort Jefferson is a National Park and I needed to get the hell out at sunset! Now off to explore Fort Jefferson!
X SLIDE SHOW LATER X
As I returned to the dinghy, I passed the crew of Wee Happy. They asked if I took a nap. LOL No, I responded, telling them I planned to crash after sunset. I asked if they had been interrogated by the ranger and had their debriefing? They said no but they stuck their $10 in the box. When I got back to Gemini Dreams (6pm) I turned on both computers, one to watch a movie and the other to rough type this blog entry while things were still fresh. When I woke at 10pm they were still on, the first with the movie data base called up but a movie never started and the second with only 5 or 6 notes about the journeys details. I had crashed 36 1/2 hours after waking way too early the previous day.
I can't do the saga justice. Everyone needs to single hand over night and then some without self steering! Anchors Dragging, Fifty Knot Blows and Overnight Passages... Oh My! What is next on this little journey?
1st day in Los Tortugas summary: It was a full moon, I missed my first sunset here, and I am SO f'N exhausted! But I am here, 70 miles from the end of US1 and 110 miles from where I started. Glad s/v Wee Happy and crew was here for the trip! Without them the thoughts of turning back may have came into play (shhh don't tell them they cheat with an auto pilot and two people on board. lol).
s/v Wee Happy anchored at the Dry Tortugas.
final note: go buy a damn auto pilot!