Dry Tortugas

Tags: Dry Tortugas, Florida, sailing, USA

Date: May 28, 2018

From Key West we sailed to the Dry Tortugas. They are islands belonging to the same island chain as the Florida Keys but almost uninhabited (more about that later). The road from mainland Florida stops at Key West, so does not go all the way out to the Dry Tortugas. The Dry Tortugas and the surrounding waters have been a National Park since 1992 and anchoring is restricted to a few places. We anchored on the North side of Garden Key, on which Fort Jefferson was built in the mid-eighteen hundreds. Here is a view of the fort from our dinghy:

We visited the fort as the only two visitors during our stay in the Dry Tortugas National Park. We were not completely alone, though, since a couple of national park rangers and their assistants (a total of four persons) live in the fort to manage it. This is the fort as seen from the Southern side. The lighthouse (in use from its construction in 1824 until 1924) is being restored and is covered in scaffolding:

The moat of the fort seen from a so-called embrasure in one of the corner bastions:

A couple of views along the long archways on the interior side of the fort:

The parade ground which houses several buildings, among others a large powder magazine as seen in the lower picture::

The compulsory picture of Félicie in front of a cannon:

View along the sandbar that connects Garden Key with the adjacent Bush Key. The two keys are sometimes two separate islands but at other times they are connected. Bush Key used to be called Hog Key because it used to house the hogs raised to provide meat for the inhabitants of the fort. Now the island houses a large colony of terns:

Construction of Fort Jefferson was begun in 1846 but the fort was never finished. During the American Civil War the fort was used a prison for soldiers sentenced of mutiny or desertion and in 1865, the four men convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln were imprisoned here. Apart from a few shots fired in the beginning of the Civil War, the cannons of Fort Jefferson were never fired. The fort was later used as a coaling station of US navy ships and for this large docks were constructed around the fort, one of which can be seen in the picture below with Amanda at anchor in the background:

More views of the moat:

In 1908 the by then abandoned and crumbling fort was set aside as a Federal bird reservation and in 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, designated the area as Fort Jefferson National Monument. Since then trees have germinated and grown in the inner courtyard of the fort and now it resembles a park more than a military parade ground:

As we left the Dry Tortugas we passed Loggerhead key that harbors the Dry Tortugas Light. The lighthouse was built in 1858 and was functional until the end of 2015 where it was decommissioned: