Monday, March 06, 2006

Tortugas Day

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

What a nice day in paradise. The winds were light or totally absent, the sun was bright, but it wasn't too hot. We don't have a thermometer onboard so I can't give the precise temperature.

First job this morning was to find the fuel leak. I saw drips coming from the starboard fuel tank sight glass so I took it apart. I shut off the isolation valves on both sides of the glass and removed it. Sure enough, it had a broken end. That explains the on again off again symptoms. It only leaked when the tank was full enough to produce a few feet of head.

Now I have to find a replacement glass. Meanwhile, we'll have to do without. I can estimate fuel remaining from the engine log. I know engine hours and consumption approximately 0.5 gallons per hour average, 0.4 when idling and 0.6 when flat out.

Next job was to dive down and clean the speedometer impeller. The knotmeter was not knotting when we came down here. More marine critters fouling it no doubt. I put on my snorkel fins and mask and prepared to dive under the boat when I noticed a huge black body under the rudder. I looked on the other side and there were two more down there. I surmised that they must be nurse sharks. Not dangerous. Anyhow, I asked Libby for the underwater camera I bought in Marathon last week and slipped quietly into the water with the creatures.

Surprise! They weren't sharks they were groupers who were escaping the sun and relaxing in the shadow of the boat. One of them must have been 6 feet long, and the other two about 4 feet long. They weren't afraid of me. I took pictures with the underwater camera.

Darn. When I came back to the surface, the underwater camera was full of salt water. It was defective. I can't return it for a refund, so we're stuck.

Anyhow, I soon cleaned the speedometer impeller and Libby and I rowed into shore to go to the beach and snorkel. That was lots of fun. Along the foundations of the fort there was lots of live coral and fish. It wasn't quite as nice as the BVIs in the 1970s but it was the first live coral we've seen since. The water was warm enough to say in for an hour, and so clean that we could easily see 50 feet or so. Libby enjoyed it too which is saying a lot. It's very hard to get her to go into the water these days.

After some tanning back on the beach I tried to ignore the tourist's bikinis and we went into the fort in search of some shade. I'm chicken about the sun. I got burned bad once in the Virgin Islands and ever since I'm very cautious about tropical sunshine.

There is another small island 500 meters away called Bush Key. There are 100,000 sooty terns (birds) circling the island and making lots of noise. I could see the flock of birds from four miles out and I can hear their noise for half a mile. They are all mating, and based on the amount of noise they must be enjoying it thoroughly. Look up the Sooty Terns of Bush Key on the Internet.

Tomorrow, we should have 10 knots of wind, increasing to 15 by afternoon and 20 overnight. Waves will be "4-6 feet, higher in the Gulf Stream." It sounds like a good time to try to cross the Gulf Stream. If the wind is too light, we'll drift backwards in the current. If the wind is too strong and in a direction against the stream, the waves will be uncomfortable, or even dangerous. I'll ask Libby to take seasick pills before leaving.

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Click here for a birds eye view of the Dry Tortugas.


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