Saturday, February 26, 2011

Key West – Fast Cat to the Dry Tortugas

The fort at the Dry Tortugas
The choice was whether to take our own boat out to the Dry Tortugas or opt for the high speed ferry that makes the round trip in one day. We took the chicken way out and just took the ferry. The trouble with taking your own boat is that there are no facilities on the island, just an anchorage and that’s not a problem but then if the weather turns against you unexpectedly, then you have to wait it out before heading back on the all day long trip. You could find yourself stuck out there for a week or so if the weatherman is wrong.

They are actually harmless - but they don't look it!
The ride out goes at 30 mph, very high speed for sailboaters! Even so it took about 2.5 hours for the trip to the fort. We had three hours for snorkeling and a tour of the fort. We chose to do two snorkeling sessions of about an hour each and didn’t get to see the fort in detail, just from a distance. You could also make the trip in a plane that landed in the water by the fort but it costs a lot more ($280 vs $150 for the boat). We were served breakfast and lunch as part of the fee.

We had heard conflicting reports on the quality of the snorkeling in the area but we took our snorkeling gear anyway and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the coral and fish. The barracuda were numerous and very large. They look fierce with their exposed teeth but I’m not aware of any attacks by them on humans. The fans were abundant and the coral looked to be in good shape once you went out from the fort wall to the coral heads in the snorkeling area.

Nice Parrot Fish
It’s an interesting area to snorkeling and I would recommend the trip. However, the water temperature was only 68 which is cool for snorkeling. We all had wet suits which retains a fair amount of warmth in the water trapped next to your skin. Those that snorkeled in just bathing suits didn’t stay in very long and none of them went in twice in one day. Took lots of pictures!