Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Boat Birthday! (And a History Lesson)

Sorry it's a little out of order, but I did want to share a little bit of Ben's 12th Birthday and our time in the Dry Tortugas.  After we left Key West, we headed to the Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles from Key West.  We've been here a couple of times, and absolutely love it.  It is home to Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the United States.

A view of Fort Jefferson from our boat.  This evening was exciting as a black hawk helicopter (Customs and Border Patrol) landed right here at the fort!  It was cool to see it fly right over us and land on the beach at the fort

Fort Jefferson was built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the shipping channel and the US gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.  The difficulty of getting supplies to the fort and then the Civil War delayed construction, and the fort was actually never finished.  When you walk around it, it is just amazing to see what was actually accomplished, out there in the middle of nowhere.  The park rangers told us that it took 16 million bricks to build it.  You can see the weather taking its toll on the bricks and the erosion is quite significant.

One of the old cannons on the fort (with Cool Runnings conveniently anchored in the background)

A moat surrounds the entire fort.  Great snorkeling on the outside of it

The fort has over 2,000 arches

More of the 2,000 arches

You can see the significant erosion of the brick walls from time, weather and water

The fort was also used as a prison for a time, and Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of helping John Wilkes Booth, who shot Abraham Lincoln, was imprisoned here for 4 years.  He was later pardoned by President Andrew Johnson because of his work on finding a cure and the cause of yellow fever, which broke out on the island in 1867, and his subsequent work in aiding the sick after the fort's physician died (of yellow fever).

A view of the inside of the fort.
You can see some of the ruins of the old buildings on the bottom right of the picture

Beautiful old trees grow in the fort's "interior"

Anyway, all of this is part of Ben and Gaby's "boat schooling"...history!  Additionally, Gaby took the time to complete 2 workbooks while we were there, and was sworn in as a Junior Ranger by Ranger Mike!  We are very proud of her (and didn't have our camera with us when she was sworn in!!).  But she received 2 badges...both very special.  She received the Underwater Ranger badge, of which only 88 have been awarded, and her Junior Ranger badge is a special one because it's the Park's Centennial year this year!
Gaby hard at work on her Junior Ranger certification

As a side note, the Dry Tortugas are also home to Loggerhead Key, the most beautiful island/reef, featured right here on the top of the blog!

Friday, April 29th was Benjamin's 12th birthday!  We started the day with pressies, and then took Cool Runnings over to the "Windjammer" wreck to do some snorkeling.  The water was still a little cold, and the current was very strong.  We did dive (snorkel) the wreck for a bit, and Dave has some cool video on the GoPro that we will need to post once downloaded.

The afternoon was even more special, because we celebrated with cookie cake, Ben's favorite!!  Thank you to Granny for thinking of, ordering and wrapping the cookie cake so carefully, which had been stored in our little freezer since we left.  It was yummy, and what's a birthday without cake, right?!  Thank you to everyone who wished Benjamin a happy birthday!  We didn't get the comments, emails and texts until we were connected to the outside world again (with wifi in the Cayman Islands).

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

So we were planning to head out on Saturday, but on the way over to dive the Windjammer wreck...guess what...the inverter, that we had repaired in Key West, died again!!  We were kicking ourselves for not just replacing it in the first place (instead of the drama that went with getting it repaired), but hey, hindsight it 20/20.  Our little Iridium Go! (satellite) has been the bomb!  Just like it saved us when the main halyard broke, Dave was able to call West Marine in Key West, who luckily still had the one we had ordered as a backup.  He was able to arrange for West Marine to drop the new inverter at the ferry that comes out to the Dry Tortugas daily.  The ferry brought the new inverter on Saturday morning, we took the old one out, put the new one in, and brought it back to the ferry in the afternoon, who then took that one back to Key West.  Our friend Garrick, who has also been the bomb, had arranged for a courier to pick the old inverter up at the ferry, and ship it back to the people who did the repair in Ft. Lauderdale.  All this was arranged and accomplished without any car rental or speeding tickets required!

So it delayed us by one day, but we now have a new inverter/charger.  And now you are up-to-date on our activities!  Again, apologies for the delay in getting this one done, and being out of order, but I couldn't let the history lesson, and the mention of Benjamin's birthday be overlooked!

In true Cool Runnings fashion, I'll end this one with a sunset...

Sunset on Saturday, April 30th.
Loggerhead Key is way in the distance...the little stick on the left hand side of the picture


  1. SV Cool Runnings....restoring my faith in schooling and birthdays, one post at a time. Keep her lit!!

    Charles (in green, but not so sunny Ireland)

  2. What a wonderful classroom you guys have got. And what a place to turn 12. Happy Birthday Ben.