Life Can Be Exciting. Let it!

I’d never been to the Dry Tortugas before. It’s actually two small islands about 70 miles west of Key West. Fort Jefferson is a brick fort built on Garden Key between 1846-1875 to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America. It was never finished or fully armed. And today it’s a national park.

You can arrive by sea plane, visitor ferry, or private boat. There are no facilities on the island, just one composting toilet and 8 campsites. You must bring your own food, water, ice, everything. But you can buy ice from the visitor ferry for $7.00 a bag. And whatever you bring to the island must be taken with you when you leave.

So, we arrived by boat. Our boat. The anchorage wasn’t crowded. There were just two catamarans that had already taken the best spots. That’s always the way.

The snorkeling wasn’t as good as we had hoped since the high winds and waves over the last few days stirred up the bottom. Visibility stunk, but we still enjoyed the day hiking and exploring.

We met some new friends who were camping on the island and invited them back to the boat for an after-dinner drink. Then the winds began to pick up. We were experiencing a pretty steady 25 knots in the anchorage. The waves weren’t high, but they were seriously choppy. Jeff and Bill picked up Johnny and Nicole in the dinghy. The dark night skies opened up with a downpour and the waves got higher, filling the dinghy with about 6″ of water and a fish on the way back to the boat. It was all part of the fun.

The wind was howling now, a steady 28-30 knots with gusts in the mid to high 30’s. What could possibly happen? We’d been steady at anchor for the last 48 hours. We watched as one of the neighboring boats dragged across the anchorage, struggling to re-anchor. A moment later, we were hit with a 44 knot gust, the strongest wind we’ve ever experienced at anchor.

“It’s moments like this that I really love our new Rocna 73lb anchor,” I said.

“Don’t say things like that. I believe in jinxes,” Jeff said.

Then we noticed that we couldn’t see the dinghy anymore. Did it break loose in the gust? Did we lose it? No, it was under the boat. How the hell did that happen? With the wind coming from the nose, that was impossible, unless…

This was a serious “oh shit” moment!

It was so dark outside, a visual of our location was next to impossible. I ran up to the helm station to check the anchor alarm. We were dragging! And fast!! Jeff started the engines, Bill and I began to pull up the anchor, Kris gave each of our guests a life jacket and told them to stay put.

Of course it was pouring down rain. Of course the wind was howling so loudly that we couldn’t hear each other. Of course it was so dark that we couldn’t see anything until lightning struck. Of course.

After about 30 soaking wet minutes, we successfully re-anchored the boat, returned Johnny and Nicole to the island, sat down to a shot of rum and began our anchor watches for the night. Life is full of excitement, if you let it.

July 2020