Visiting the Dry Tortugas – Captain Charmaine Reports
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
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)
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Where is the dry toryugas’ research natural area?
GPS Coordinates for Moorings at Dry Tortugas:
RNAMB1 (Windjammer) N24Â°37.413 W082Â°56.548
RNAMB2 (The Maze) N24Â°36.600 W082Â°56.914
RNAB3 (Davis Rock) N24Â°41.209 W082Â°54.440
RNAB4 (Texas Rock) N24Â°40.082 W082Â°53.125
RNAB5 (Off Ramp) N24Â°40.156 W082Â°54.506
LMBSE (Loggerhead SE) N24Â°37.833 W082Â°55.187
LMBSW (Loggerhead SW) N24Â°37.8031 W082Â°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.
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!
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.