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to the Dry Tortugas requires some thought. It is an offshore passage
without supplies, marinas or mechanics at the other end. You are on
your own. The shoals shift after every storm so the charts are
suspect. In fact, the latest chart shows a channel between Garden Key,
on which Ft. Jefferson sits, and Bush Key to the east. That
charted channel, we are told, is now a beach bridge between the islands.
On the other hand, here we are in Key West, 50 some miles
to the west of Marathon with a yen to make the trip. The boat is
ready. The wind is forecast to be light for the next two days.
Then, a strong cold front is predicted with N to NE winds at 20 to 25 knots
behind the front. Since two days is not enough time to make the 70
mile trip, see the sights and return, we will have to wait out the
frontal passage, at Ft. Jefferson, with some protection from waves and none
from the wind before returning. In the winter, it often blows 20-25
knots, for a week, after a front goes through. This suggests that we
will sail back in brisk winds.
The course back from the Dry Tortugas will be near 90
degrees. With wind from 30 degrees, we would be close hauled for the
trip back. The western half of the trip has no protection from wave
action. The fetch reaches all the way to Texas. During this
stretch we would pass close to the south of Rebecca Shoal. The Coast
Pilot makes this comment. "Small craft should not try to make Dry
Tortugas from Key West, because of the rough nature of the sea around
Rebecca Shoal." The half closest to Key West is partially
sheltered by a string of Keys and connecting reefs.
We decide to go and leave Key West at daybreak, just as
one cruise ship ties up and another approaches.