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    • Coast Guard, NOAA Seize Illegal Shrimp Catch, Dry Tortugas Shrimp Sanctuary

      Coast Guard, NOAA seize illegal shrimp catch
      MIAMI — The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seized approximately 6,000 pounds of shrimp with an estimated price of $60,000 from the 68-foot fishing vessel Ronald E. near the Dry Tortugas Shrimp Sanctuary Preservation Area, Friday.

      The vessel Ronald E. was observed fishing inside the marine sanctuary and was boarded by a Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans and NOAA joint boarding team. The boarding team cited the vessel for illegally fishing inside a national marine sanctuary and safety violations.

      “This case demonstrates the importance of strategic partnership,” said Capt. Jeffery Janzsen, commander, Coast Guard Sector Key West. “Within the Florida Keys, we take protecting the National Marine Sanctuary very seriously. Boaters and fishermen should familiarize themselves with the boundaries of the sanctuary to make sure they are complying with federal law.”

      Fishing within federally protected waters is illegal.

      “The partnership between NOAA and the Coast Guard allows for efficient enforcement of the commercial fishing fleet in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Wolstenholme, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans. “Integrating NOAA enforcement officers into our boarding teams ensures quality at sea inspections of both required safety equipment and fishing gear.”

      The evidence package for this seizure has been forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service, who will determine if a formal Notice of Violation will be issued.

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    • Great Dry Tortugas Photo Album

      Photo by Captain John Boone

      In response to the March 12 “Photo of the Week” here on the SSECN (see /?p=108282), Captain John Boone sent us the note below, and, most importantly, a link to his really superb photo album of a recent visit to the Dry Tortugas. If any of you are contemplating the (approx.) 70 nautical mile cruise from Key West to Garden Key and Fort Jefferson (or any of the other Dry Tortugas isles), then take a look at these images. They may whet your appetite, or help you decide the other way around.

      I came up on deck there one December morning in 2007 to get underway and came face to face with your a similar sight.
      We went back below and had another cup of coffee!

      Great shot, thanks for sharing’¦.
      John Boone

      Good evening Claiborne,
      Thank you for your kind words and posting of the link to my Tortugas album. What a great place to sail to and spend some time.
      I created that photo album in conjunction with a write-up I did on the Anything-Sailing forum, , as we were trying to build content for that site when it was new.
      Here is a link to that write-up if you are interested.
      Feel free to use any of the photos in the album. I’m honored to be included on your forum.
      Best Regards,
      John Boone

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    • Thoughts on Cruising From Key West to the Dry Tortugas

      Don’t anyone ever think it’s just a casual day cruise from Key West to Garden Key or any of the other Dry Tortugas isles. This sojourn requires careful preparation and planning!

      Plan very careful to take your own boat to Las Tortugas. Tide Hiker is large enough to handle heavy seas and carry substantial stores. Prevailing winds in the winter season center around SSE, and can blow at 25 kts or more for weeks on end. You not only need to get there, but you need to get back, too. I know of several smaller boats that have been “trapped” by the weather and had to re-provision by taking the fast cat back to Key West, provision, and take the fast cat back to their boat. There are no facilities at Las Tortugas; no water, no trash disposal, no dockage, no showers and no laundry. Heads are only available during the day time hours when the fast cat is there. Pumping overboard is a strongly enforced no-no. If you have pets (dog), check with the NPS to be sure you can land them. You will need to be entirely self-contained, and if the winds blow up, it can be a long stay indeed.
      Hope this is useful.

      I have been there in good weather, and it still can be a difficult trip. Navigation is tricky and the holding ground marginal. Best to
      go in April when the winds are down, and the thunder storms has notstarted yet. The fort is interesting to see once. Seaplanes land
      in the main channel, so do not anchor there. Go the south route over and the north route back for the sights.
      Al Hackett

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    • Thoughts on Cruising from Key West to the Dry Tortugas

      Captain Jim Healy, author of the article below, is a frequent contributor here on the Cruisers’ Net, and many other nautical mailing lists/forums. This posting is excerpted from a long submission to the GL (Great Loop) mailing list! Captain Jim has pretty much captured my thoughts on taking your own vessel to the Dry Tortugas!

      Take the fast day-ferry to Ft. Jefferson at Las Tortugas. You can do Key West and the Tortugas with your own boat, of course, but Key West is very expensive and crowded for marinas in season. Bicycles will help a lot in the Keys. If you take your own boat to the Tortugas, read the cruising guides and prepare carefully. There’s no water, no dockage, no trash disposal and it’s a no discharge zone. Add to that, Las Tortugas is 60 miles offshore, and the weather (prevailing winds) can be several weeks from travel-window to travel-window, so advance planning is essential. Only anchoring is possible there. Heads – but not showers – are available on the dock during daily hours when the park is open.
      Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
      Currently at Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, FL
      Monk 36 Hull #132

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    • Question About Dry Tortugas/Garden Key Anchorage

      Well, I can give a short answer to Captains Ed and Bonnie’s question below. We have anchored within sight of the old fort on Garden Key, and when the wind got its dander up, we did a very passable imitation of a Mexican jumping bean.
      PLEASE, other cruisers who have had a similar/dissimilar experienced, share your experiences by clicking the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below.

      What would the anchorage be like if the wind kicked to say 25-30. Would it be safe to anchor there? It does not appearto afford any shelter until back to Key West necessary.. We don’t mind a moderate roll roll or chop.
      Thank You & Our Lord,s Blessings
      Ed & Bonnie
      S/V Almost Heaven- 51′ O.I. Ketch

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    • Visiting the Dry Tortugas – Captain Charmaine Reports

      Below you will find a SUPER article authored by our very special Florida Keys correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd. This story concerns some recent changes you will need to be aware of if you plan to visit the Dry Tortugas from Key West!

      October 29th, 2011

      Dry Tortugas – Mooring Balls at RNA & Park Permits Required
      by Charmaine Smith Ladd

      The Dry Tortugas is so named due to the combination that none of its islands have fresh water, and that there are many differing species of sea turtles found in its gorgeously turquoise waters (including loggerhead, leatherback, green, and hawksbill). Only 70 miles west of Key West, it’s a fabulous passage whether under sail or power. However, just be sure to have an optimal weather window during the time of your trip. Of course, the faster the vessel, the less time needed for this ever prudent caution. If you’d rather not invest the time or travel to sail there on your own, one can always opt to use one of the Dry Tortugas’ Official transportation services out of Key West:

      Yankee Freedom II

      Sailboat Charter

      Key West Seaplane Adventures

      The Dry Tortugas National Park has changed its rules since the last time I visited. Currently:

      All vessels (except those in transit merely passing through without stopping) visiting the Dry Tortugas National Park must now have a free-of-charge permit (including kayaks and dinghies). Once there, permits can be obtained a number of ways. 1) Hailing a Park Ranger on VHF channel 16, or 2) appearing in person at the Garden Key Visitor Center [Fort Jefferson] or 3) appearing in person at the Park’s Headquarters Office. Park Rangers will patrol and monitor vessels for permits. If you do not have one, there is no penalty–instead, the Ranger will fill one out for you on the spot. Nice!

      Six mooring balls have been installed for use at the Dry Tortugas’ Research Natural Area (RNA). Anchoring is no longer allowed in the RNA area. Those who wish to anchor within the National Park can do so only in sandy bottoms (sea grass is protected) located within one nautical mile of Garden Key Harbor Light.

      I have written about the Dry Tortugas for SSECN in the past, but our server didn’t carry many items over when things were recently updated. I’ll be sure to resubmit that article so you can familiarize yourself again with the beauty and tranquility of the Dry Tortugas and its many unique attractions. In the meantime, here are some photos from my last visit there:

      Charmaine Smith Ladd (SSECN Special Correspondent for the Florida Keys)
      “Bringing you the low down from down low!” or

      Where is the dry toryugas’ research natural area?

      Below are two follow-up notes from Captain Charmaine:

      GPS Coordinates for Moorings at Dry Tortugas:

      RNAMB1 (Windjammer) N24°37.413 W082°56.548
      RNAMB2 (The Maze) N24°36.600 W082°56.914
      RNAB3 (Davis Rock) N24°41.209 W082°54.440
      RNAB4 (Texas Rock) N24°40.082 W082°53.125
      RNAB5 (Off Ramp) N24°40.156 W082°54.506
      LMBSE (Loggerhead SE) N24°37.833 W082°55.187
      LMBSW (Loggerhead SW) N24°37.8031 W082°55.546

      I believe the Windjammer was the original one and may be reserved for private use. The six that follow are those put in for public use.
      Hugs, Charmaine

      Remember, this is a National Park. Even though much of it is comprised of being part of the RNA, that simply means it is a no-fishing zone and no-take zone of its natural wildlife and flora. But it IS a `People-Zone’ for others to enjoy it!
      Please reference:’s%20a%20RNA%20-%20edit%205.pdf
      The Research Natural Area is a 46-square-mile area in the northwest portion of the park. It is the area enclosed by connecting with straight lines the coordinates of 82:51:00 W and 24:36:00 N with 82:58:00 W and 24:36:00 N, and with 82:51:00 W and 24:43:32 N. Not included in the RNA is an area one nautical mile in diameter around the Garden Key Light, and the developed areas of Loggerhead Key. Before boating in the park, please key these points into your GPS system.

      Comments from Cruisers (1)

      1. 24thesea -  December 7, 2014 - 4:21 pm

        GPS N24°37.413 W082°56.548 is directly on top of a wreck and the rest of the points are in shallow or near shallow water… Copy and paste to Google maps and take a look.

        Reply to 24thesea
    • Good Jumping Off Point To Cruise to Dry Tortugas

      The discussion below was copied from the T&T (Trawlers and Trawlering) mail list. There is some good info here for those contemplating this southernmost USA destination!

      What is a good staging point from the Naples area to get the shortest/fastest run to the Dry Tortugas?
      M/V Cigano
      Lying Crystal River

      Not sure this will answer your question. (not exactly sure what the question is?) Anyway, on my trip there a couple of years ago, we did a crossing from an anchorage at Marco Island to Key west, an easy day trip to the anchorage there. From there it was about a 10 hour run to the Tortugas. If I remember correctly, it was 74 or 75 statute miles from Key West anchorage to the Tortugas.
      Hope this is what you were asking for.
      And the Dry Tortugas is a beautiful place! Well worth the trip!
      Brent Hodges
      Albin 43

      It depends somewhat on the boat. Fast boat could run from Naples straight out. Slow boat probably from Naples, EC or the Little Shark to Key West, provision at Key West, and then out. It’s 65 NM from Key West to Las Tortugas. The first 40 miles are “on the reef;” shallow water that builds up into nasty, short period waves. The last 25 miles is in deeper (100 ft) water, and the character of seas in more like ocean swells with wind driven waves. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE how challenging that crossing can be in a pleasure craft. Prevailing winds are easterly or southeasterly. The last two winter seasons, winds have blown 25+ kts for seeral weeks at a time. There are NO facilities there; not even porta potties. The tourists use the facilities on their boats.
      Make sure you are fully provisioned and could stay a couple of weeks or more, worst case. When the winds blow at 25kts for 20 days, you will be hard pressed to run to the groceria for milk. I know one sailboater who took the tour boat in and back to get some galley stores.
      Fort Jeff is very interesting, and the place is very lovely; a lot like the Bahamas. But, with no water available, prolonged stays may not be what you wanted.
      Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
      Currently at Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, FL

      We’ve only been to Dry Tortugas once, but we liked staging from Turkey Creek (our home in Ortona). It’s about 26 hours to Ft. Jefferson, so you can arrive in mid-morning with plenty of time to get snorkeling while the sun is high.
      Mark & Joyce,
      Winnie the Pooh

      Its about 100 NM from Marco Island to Dry Tortugas and about 105 NM from Naples. The course difference is only 3 degrees. Pick your spot.
      Naples has a mooring field but it is “up the creek” a bit. However, you can anchor in one of the residential canals for the night and leave before first light.
      In Marco, Coconut Island used to be a popular anchorage, right near the mouth of the inlet. However, the State of Florida removed all the Australian Pines (non-native species) and the island started to erode away. Its been several years since I’ve been there so I’d recommend calling TowBoatUS or Sea Tow for some local knowledge. There is an anchorage at Johnson Bay. Its little more than a deep-water crook in the channel but would be OK for an overnight staging point.
      In either case, both Marco and Naples have short runs out to the entrance buoys. Its nothing like Crystal River or other Big Bend ports. You will be in the Gulf 30 minutes after you pull the anchor.
      Randy Pickelmann

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    • Cruising to the Dry Tortugas

      I copied the question and answer below from the Net's "Ask Your Neighbor" page. I suspect it will find a wider audience here.
      By the way, this string originally appeared on the MTOA List-serve.

      Any pointers, advice, warnings, based on the vast experience of the group,  about Dry Tortugas. Place to anchor, etc. We have enough supplies (and space for garbage) to survive without replenishments for some time. Would like to  visit, because it's there.

      All seven islands are a national park. You can anchor with ample holding and depth at the fort. Don't want anything to do with it in bad wx. Have fun
      More information google US National parks. go to Florida, and click on the tortugas…there are overhead pictures of all of the islands, channels and anchorages. Along with what areas are restricted etc…
      Carl Hibbard

      Richard and I have been there four times and it is one of our favorite places. There is an anchorage area with very good holding. When you check in with the Park Rangers inquire about the landing pattern of the twin engine plane that brings out tourists from Key West. The fort is fabulous and very interesting. The snorkling and diving is incredible. There is a reef on the back side of Loggerhead Key, it has the light house on it, that is a great snorkling area. If memory serves it is shaped like Africa! We took soda and beer in cans so we could crush them and did not use any paper products like plates or cups. Really cuts down on the garbage situation. Also, make sure your overboard sewage discharge is closed and locked. Best park is NO BUGS!!! There is a bird sanctuary there that takes care of that. Also, commercial boats anchor there and for a six pack you can get some fresh fish or lobster (when in season). It is also a jumping off place for folks headed to Mexico, South and Central America. Met some great people on their way back. Have fun!!
      Richard and Judy Klawe

      As others have said, it is a GREAT place to visit. As in don't miss it.
      I am amazed at the vast majority of visitors ( boaters) to Fla who never go there and very few on the Great Circle Cruise.
      You do not need a permit to visit the Fort area. The notices for a permit that you will see apply to the out lying areas
      During out stay two boat loads of Cubans made it to the island. We got some pictures of their homemade boat, 16 in a very small boat. Two groups in one nt, the weather was bad which enabled them to sneak in.  The other grp brt in by a smuggler.
      Make sure that your holding tank is empty before you set out as there as there are no services at all.

      You might want to kick in  just go to US national parks on your computer.  Click Florida click the island of Tortuga and you have all of the information available, where, permits, fees etc.
      Color pictures of the entire area, and all the buoys shown, anchorages etc.
      Carl Hibbard 

      There are some good anchorages a few hundred yards ESE of the fort with easy access to the docks and land. Be alert for the Barracudas that hang out near the anchorages.
      John Harris

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    • Key West To the Dry Tortugas

      Just hours away from the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas and Sanibel! On 12/4/08, as part of a "Florida Keys Wish List," I posed the following question:

      50. Who has taken their own vessel to the Dry Tortugas, Garden Key and Fort Jefferson. Please describe your cruising experience. Would you recommend this passage to other cruisers? If so, what would be your minimum vessel size recommendations.

      Responses follow:

      Enjoyed reading your wish list. I wish we had cruised the Keys more recently than the winter of 2004-5, so we could help answer some of your questions. The hurricanes of 2005 obviously changed a lot of things that we aren't aware of right now.
      However, I doubt if the passage from Key West to Dry Tortugas has changed much, and we did that in our 35 foot trawler back in January  2005. We had a good weather window, and stayed anchored off the fort for 3 nights before returning to Key West (stopping at Marquesa Key both ways). The trip out was a piece of cake – relatively calm winds and seas. The return was a bit of a ride for the first 30 miles and we had to "tack" across 5-6 foot waves with a period of about 12 seconds, and reduce speed to around 5 knots or so until we got within the reefs which helped dampen the seas a bit. This was better than waiting another day when the forecast was for really rough weather!
      We'd do it again in a heart beat. It is an idyllic place and unique from every perspective. The staff at Fort Jefferson is superbly friendly and helpful. Water wasn't much of a problem, although we did consciously conserve (washed dishes once a day, were careful when brushing teeth and washing, took showers on the day-cats, etc). When we returned after six days out, we had used less than 40 gallons of water.
      I think one could make the trip in a smaller trawler (certainly a smaller sailboat) with a good weather window. You could always stay anchored at Fort Jefferson until a front passed (usually 3-4 days) if
      you got caught. All the local fishermen come into the anchorage at night, and stay there during bad weather in relatively small boats.
      The depth in the anchorage was about 20 feet, if I recall, so scope is important. Once set, our SuperMax held well, but there is some grass on the bottom that caused a problem for a couple of other boats that were there at the same time.
      Bob McLeran and Judy Young  

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