This picture is completely unrelated to the post but features Ani asleep at the wheel.
It took one season, and not even a whole season, for our first dinghy to die. The dingy was an afterthought anyway. It had been folded up and stored away in some random warehouse for an undetermined amount of time. It’s sedentary lifestyle did not deter us, in fact we were looking forward to breathing life back into the crappy ‘ol PVC raft. Plus we were just grateful to have been given a tender at no cost to us. It was probably this cavalier attitude and our endless demands that killed the girl. The dinghy didn’t appreciate being ripped out of retirement just to be put back to work.
In the first months of our maiden voyage, a slow leak started in the dinghy, planned by her I’m sure. Being the clever (vindictive) girl she was, our tender waited until we were deep in the Bahamas (no dinghy life support), two miles from our sailboat (no first responders), and full to the brim with freediving gear to start sinking without the slightest shred of integrity! You may think I’m being dramatic but you were not there! You didn’t have to scramble to find a line long enough to sloppily tie the bow and sides up, connecting the boat together at the stern with 1” of free board between you and the water. And you didn’t have to limp home her lifeless corpse with your tail between your legs.
And each time, Jackie looked on from the upper deck of the Breeze with a smile. Sometimes smiling at our obvious success, sometimes with a smirk at the thought of us actually hitting the drink. One of these days…
Another unrelated picture but come on! You’ve gotta be impressed with Ani’s apple eating style! Is it obvious that the author is her Mom?
You would think that the previous encounter would be enough to teach us a lesson. Prevent us from being cheap…ahem…as resourceful when a tender is concerned. You are thinking, surely they saved their pennies and sprang for something reliable. You’re thinking of the wrong couple! Do not get into the habit of overestimating the author and her husband. Our next hand me down, dug out of retirement dinghy, was the infamous Tipsy Taxi. Because of her crappy…ahem…unique design, the Tipsy Taxi earned an actual name. The name was coined by a friend of ours and one of the proprietors of the cruiser friendly, Long Island Breeze. Being a Louisiana girl, Jackie Higgins has a quick wit although the Tipsy Taxi was low hanging fruit for her! She watched us get in and out of the ever rolling 7’, round bottom, fiberglass junker each time managing to board our not-so-trusty steed, clutching our hearts in utter disbelief that once again, we had eluded the inevitable roll and plunge. And each time, Jackie looked on from the upper deck of the Breeze with a smile. Sometimes smiling at our obvious success, sometimes with a smirk at the thought of us actually hitting the drink. One of these days…
The Tipsy Taxi managed to bowl through the Bahamas to Jamaica, Honduras, Belize and the Florida Keys. It’s crowning moment was undoubtedly proclaimed when she found herself floating (barely) our 210 lb. buddy Bruce, his 6’6” brother Logan, an obliviously fidgety Ren and a very pregnant me, perched atop the Taxi, an unlikely bow maiden. We were rowing to shore, and why were we rowing? To add insult to an already humiliating situation our small outboard motor decided to sprout legs and leave us in Honduras. I hope that if the engine was that unhappy with us it found a better, more dignified post with another family. Engine, if you are reading this, we are sorry and trust your new family needed you more than we did.
After our return to the US it occurred to us that the Tipsy Taxi never once threw us. We never once suffered a wet fate at her hands. So we gave her the most fitting retirement we could imagine. We placed her, upside down of course (she wouldn’t have wanted to be a mosquito breeding ground) on the banks of the Cape Fear River, at the bottom of the hill where Ren’s mom lives. There were hopes of her someday becoming a flower planter or bench. I have no idea where she is now. She disappeared one day and my hopes for her are that she’s scaring the crud out of some other poor souls every time they step over her gunnel.
Pizza made with a mahi Banff harvested baked in Pavana’s oven,served with a salad on the side.
It seems that of all the foods we crave while adventuring on Nila Girl, which are many, pizza is at the top of the list.It’s hard to find descent pizza in the Bahamas and if you do, it’s not likely to be worth the pretty penny you would spend on it.Ren and I crave Antonio’s Commentatore pie from back home.Lots of sauce, garlic, eggplant, basil and two cheeses perfectly melted on top with just the right amount of cheese grease drip when you fold a slice in half.We miss ordering out a Commentatore and drinking one beer each while we wait for the pizza to be ready for pick up.We pick up the pie and eat it with lots of crushed red pepper while taking in a movie projected on a king sized sheet in our old living room.Next year, we’re bringing the projector with us on our cruise.
As Banff of Pavana, Ren and I perused the grocery aisles in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, we brainstormed about the night’s supper.Within minutes, and almost jokingly, Ren sighed, “Pizza would be good.”I groaned and immediately started pouting, knowing that this wasn’t an option until Banff, a beacon of light on our grim pizza situation, said, “Alright, let’s do the pizza thing.”Banff already had the whole wheat flour and yeast needed to make the dough, which was really the only limiting factor.Pavana was also adequately overstocked with everything we would need for the top of the pizza or anything else your culinary heart desired.In short, Pavana was like a floating grocery store, but not Food Lion.Pavana was a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, complete with organic selections and vegan options.I think I spent a total of $40 shopping at ‘Groceries a la Pavana’.Anyway, Banff already had pizza sauce, soy cheese, jalapenos and mahi to be grilled and added to the top.Nila Girl isn’t exactly shabbily stocked herself.She was to contribute fresh parmesan, straight off the block (thanks to a little Italian ancestry) and a nice big salad with all the fixings.We picked up some mushrooms to add to the top, payed out and met Oreo at the grocery store sliding doors where he was keeping a close eye on the golf cart we rented.
Eager to get back to the boat and start the dough, we finished our uneventful self-guided golf cart tour of Spanish Wells and hopped back into Banff’s dinghy to head back to the strong ships…
Spanish Wells was uneventful if you consider I stayed up half the night researching the small island and it’s history of inbreeding.It is safe to say that I became momentarily obsessed with the history of Spanish Wells, which includes Anglo-Saxon settlers, racial pride, and a long line of inbreeding.I searched the internet for pictures of the people and family trees with branches intertwining like the trunk of a ficus.Needless to say, I was disappointed when we got there.First, the long history of inbreeding was not readily apparent in the people.They looked normal, just with a backwoods sense of style.Second, the place reminded me of my hometown of Richlands, NC but Richlands about 30 years ago.Industrious people with a big red streak in a mostly white town.Nothing unusual about Spanish Wells if you are already from the rural south.
We needed to shower, feed Oreo and pack our “supper time bag” (a waterproof bag made of recycled sailcloth by Ella Vicker’s Recycled Sailcloth Collection, perfect for keeping food items dry on the wet floor of a dinghy) for Pavana.Snapping photos of the locals while heading out of the harbor area, I spotted something strikingly red floating in the water.so red, it reminded me of that scene from the book, The Giver, where the young giver gets his first glimpse of color in an otherwise black and white world.The color he saw was red and the imagery was powerful.We approached the bobbing red objects with caution until…holy geez!The floating red balls were bright ripe tomatoes with the occasional red bell pepper sprinkled in.Apparently a box of fresh tomatoes and peppers had fallen off the dock right into the dinghy’s path, and nobody was claiming them.Guess what goes surprisingly great on pizza…yep!Tomatoes and red bell peppers.
Banff weaved in and out of the crimson gates as Ren and I stretched to retrieve very piece of valuable food we could.Trust me, if retrieving floating food with a dinghy was an olympic sport, we would be representing Team USA.A local, who was working on his boat engine nearby (I told you they were industrious people), noticed us scrambling and joined in on the aqua-harvest.He relinquished his bounty to us poor sailors and we greedily grabbed the goodies.Besides being on a budget, we were Team USA of the Aqua-Harvest event, not him.He should check himself!Ah but the pizza was looking better and better.We wiped the drool from our mouths with our sleeves and continued on to the boats.
The four of us, Oreo was always welcomed on Pavana, met back up on Banff’s boat around 6:30 or 7:00, all freshly showered and hungry.Banff had already let the dough rise and it was time for the art to begin. Ren saddled up on the settee with a cold Budweiser and watched the magic happen.Oreo sat right between my feet and waited for me to drop some magic on the floor.Banff worked on shaping the whole wheat dough and grilling the fish while I threw together the salad and prepped the toppings for the pizza.Cucumbers, chopped spinach, grated parmesan, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and some basil colorfully lit up the stainless steel mixing bowl the salad was contained in.For a dressing, I mixed together olive oil and pear infused balsamic vinaigrette.Banff opted for Amy’s Goddess dressing (a noble choice).When the pizza dough was sculpted, Banff added jarred tomato sauce and swirled in spoonfuls of my Nannie’s homemade pesto, which I will be bringing a lot more of for our next cruise.Pesto is good for a lot more than just pizza and pasta, folks.The base of the pizza was painted perfectly with the sauces before flaked bits of lightly seasoned, grilled mahi were sprinkled in.The already radiant pizza required some more green so chopped spinach and jalapenos were thrown on top.The tomatoes and red bel peppers we found were sliced and delicately arranged on the bed of spinach, offsetting the green.A few sliced mushrooms, the yellow soy cheese and white parmesan…voila!The beauty of the meshing pizza ingredients made the raw colors palatable.
Banff popped our canvas into the oven and the three of us started giggling in anticipation.Oreo did not giggle.In fact, he was pretty pissed that I had prepared my share of the meal without dropping a single slice of anything.Don’t worry, he always gets his share of, well, everything that we cook.So that we didn’t start gnawing our fingers off, we passed the pizza cooking time in the most painless way possible.Ren and I cracked open a couple of beers and the crew settled in for two episodes of the hilarious TV series, 30 Rock.The laughter was the only thing strong enough to distract our appetites.Of course, we checked on the pizza no less than four times while watching.The hardest ten minutes of the evening came when the pizza was taken out of the oven and placed on the counter to cool.Who’s idea was it to let food cool anyway?We stared at the pie and suffered through the last ten minutes of our second episode.
Finally, the moment arrived.The pizza was judiciously served in even amounts to prevent WWIII.Since I am an athlete in training, i got a fair share of the pie too, despite being of the fairer sex.The salad was dispersed, a mere afterthought lying next to the pizza.A fluffy side dish to keep our slices comfortable before we devoured them.We ate, savoring every bite, while watching a third episode of 30 Rock.If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’re walking backwards.We shared a solitary tear when supper was finished and the dishes were licked clean.Banff took Nila Girl’s crew back to our boat and we said our goodbyes.You see, homemade pizza was the perfect last supper to share with our new friend on Pavana.We parted ways with a good taste left in our mouths, already eager for our next encounter with Banff.
Mahi Pizza (Pavana Style)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1 grilled Mahi steak, lightly seasoned
1 cup cheddar or cheese substitute
1/2 cup parmesan (NO substitutes)
1/2 cup canned pizza sauce
1/4 cup pesto
Our Pizza Toppings:
red bell peppers
*Get creative with your toppings.Include on your pizza anything that is on the verge of spoiling.This avoids food waste and makes the pizza interesting.
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup seawater
1 tblsp powdered yeast
1 tblsp sugar (we use agave nectar)
4 cups unbleached flour or wheat flour
Combine yeast warm water sugar and seawater and let stand 5 minutes.Mix in flour and let stand until dough doubles in volume.When dough has doubled, punch down and knead.Let rise again by 50%.Punch and knead again.Take out 1/3 of the dough for the pizza crust.Bake the rest as bread!
Mix “pizza herbs” into the dough (basil, parsley, etc). Spread the dough out on the cooking surface (foil works well on the boat).Cover the dough with pizza sauce and add half the cheese. Let the toppings begin.Add your toppings and cover with the remaining cheese to hold it all together.
Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.Let thepizza cool on a cooling rack for at least 10minutes before cutting.
NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.
“Once you’ve ruined your reputation, you can live quite freely.”
The Western Union with full sails up.
Ren and I had to traveled to Key West once before to teach a freediving course with PFI.At that time we spent two days diving the Vandenburg and filming, Defending the Vandenburg.If you haven’t seen it yet scroll right back over the title right now and click on it!Ren worked hard to make a spur of the moment video shoot turn into something close to golden.The short video won 1st place in the amateur division at the North Sea Film Festival.We spent a couple days diving for fun with our PFI buds, then transitioned into instructor mode and taught an Intermediate level course.We try to squeeze every bit of possible fun out of the moment when we’re hanging with PFI, who we don’t get to see often enough.We tramped around Key West drinking and people watching.All in all I got a particular impression of the small key, Duval Street, debauchery and homelessness.We never saw the waterfront or Hemmingway’s place.We didn’t get to hang out with salty sailors or check out the huge Schooners at Schooner Warf.We didn’t even eat Cuban food or Key Lime Pie.I left, satisfied having spent time with our friends but without a dying urge to go back to the place where people go to “drop out of society”.
Thank doggy paws that we had the opportunity to get back, by sailboat, which is the preferable method of transportation to anywhere, especially Key West.As we entered the harbor entrance we pulled up just outside of Key West Bight and dropped the hook at about 3:00pm.After a hot cruise with the wind in your hair, but not in the romantic “blowing in the wind” kind of way, in a continuously wrapping itself around your mouth and turning your hair into something resembling greasy pasta noodles, it was time for a quick swim around the boat.Nothing dries up the grease like a little salt water.I jumped into the water and swam around the boat a few times, daring Oreo to jump in.Which he didn’t.He would never jump in, he would definitely bypass jump and go straight to stumble and fall.
We stayed in that night and most of the next day, finally deciding even Key West would be a welcome diversion from the cramped quarters of Nila Girl’s cockpit.Plus, Oreo really appreciates it when he doesn’t have to pee (or poo) on the boat, please see earlier post titled, “Two Humans and an Oreo Boy”.Once on land he will, however, pee on everything short of people’s feet, and this is only avoided by having him tethered to a leash where Ren and I can yank him away from feet and bags.Not without a fight though!We loaded up Dinky with a dry bag full of provisions we wouldn’t really need, a leash, a bailing cup and a flashlight and headed for Key West to meet up with our new buddy, Jay.
Confession.Before, while we were still in Big Pine Key, we had traveled to Key West on a day trip with our friends aboard Ohana.Check out their blog.Through our bud’s Tony and Ella aboard Ohana, and their new baby, Mellia, we met some new people and had drinks on the beach.Here we hooked up with a guy named Jay who is an aspiring freediver andstrangely enough graduated with the same major as myself, from UNCW and plays ultimate frisbee.This was my kind of new friend!
Hanging out with new friends in the salon of NIla Girl.
Amigos! Best people watching in Key West. That’s saying a lot!
So we met up with Jay at a bar in Mallory Square, which proved to be a really neat, eclectic part of Key West that I didn’t even know existed.A few beers later, we made our way down to the waterfront where everyone relieved themselves of the beer we just drank.I squatted behind a rock and went while keeping a close eye on the homeless guy lingering on the other side of the dock.Ah, Key West!After the pee break it was time to trek on over to Amigos.Amigos, the home of the square taco, burritos and plastic souvenir cups!Also, the best spot in the Keys for people watching.Jay’s girlfriend, Rachel, works there and was happy to have at least one familiar face take up part of her section for a little while.Since a lot of bars and restaurants in Key West are open air, Oreo was pretty welcome almost everywhere we went.We stuffed our faces with tex-mex style cuisine and Dos Equis Amber, although I prefer the Lager.If you ever happen to find yourself down in Key West, I highly recommend bellying up to the Amigos food bar, which faces out to the street and check out the commotion.The streets are filled with drinkers, some dressed in costume (pirates mostly), some hardly dressed at all (females mostly).Enjoy the hedonism for a minute and remember to wipe the guacamole from your mouth..
Having achieved a pretty nice buzz it was time to part ways.It was essential to get back to the boat before we blew our allowance on alcohol.Besides that, the sailboat is not the most hospitable place to battle a hangover.Ren and I limped back to the boat and serenaded each other with sloppy guitar.
The next day, needing some fresh air, we headed back over towards Key West Bight.Along the way, we “rescued” a fellow dinghy captain whose engine had quit (Sidenote: later, on our way back through Key West from the Dry Tortugas we heard report of a flare being fired near the bight.We monitored the USCG station 22A and learned that a dinghy had sunk and the pilot fired a flare.We later learned that the sunk dinghy pilot was the same guy we “rescued”.Small community I guess).This captain, Troy, imparted a HUGE pieces of helpful information to us.There is a dinghy dock in Key West.All dinghies use this dock, they don’t just tie up underneath a restaurant dock, hoping not to get caught like we did the night before.Well, news to us!We followed his directions to the dinghy dock where we observed a rugged sight.We fought our way through over 50 dinghies in varying stages of dilapidation.Some were bright grey, just off the West Marine shelves.Some you could only see because a tattered grey line hung the bow of the dinghy like a noose to the dock cleat.Other’s were dressed in bits of weather worn denim, canvas and other pieces of cloth, I assume for sun protection, these ‘quilted’ dinghies were hideous.Dinky pushed and pulled through the crowd to an acceptable dockage space.We tied off, departed ways with the hapless Captain Troy, and sauntered down to Schooner Warf taking this quiet, Oreo-less opportunity to have some “grown up time” and check out the mammoth schooners of Key West, including but not limited to, Key West’s flagship schooner, Western Union.
You wouldn’t think we would be this excited to be on another boat.
Haul away Ren!
Western Union is nestled between a couple of other schooners but is unmistakable by her sheer size.Her whitewashed hull and wooden masts draw you in as you stare at her massive stern with big gold letters running across, “Western Union”.The Western Union is an original, old vessel (with some renovations of course) that was used to run cable throughout the Keys to Cuba.She is a floating museum that is run by a non-profit organization which offers a variety of services, most interesting to us, sunset cruises.Now you would think that after all this time on a boat the last thing we would want to do for entertainment is take a boat ride, you are mistaken!When confronted with a vessel of this size and beauty you become a bit nostalgic (for a time when you didn’t even exist).Pirates dance around your head and songs like, “Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum” echo in your brain.We gawked until drool started dripping from our mouths.To our rescue came a guy with a blue collard shirt and an embroidered “Western Union” on the left breast.He kindly took the time to wipe the drool from our mouths with a napkin, saving us further embarrassment.The man smiled at us and asked us about the little black and white beast he saw us walking around with yesterday.He has noticed Oreo (who couldn’t?).We told him it was grown up time and that the little guy was back on Nila Girl, on pirate watch.Captain Lynn, as we would come to know him started right in with chit chat about sailboats (go figure), our boat in particular and our sailing itinerary.We enjoyed the conversation and were surprised and elated when he invited us to join him and the crew on the sunset sail, departing in 15 minutes!We jumped out of our pants, landed, put our pants back on and hopped aboard the historic vessel.Derrick, the first mate who happened to be from NC (all the best people have roots in NC, although I may be bias), informed us that the bar was open, wink wink.The proverbial icing on the cake was an open bar to complement our complimentary sail!Holy crap, maybe good things to happen to those who can’t afford to go on the boat ride without a little charity.
The sail started and despite wimpy winds, the many huge sails on Western Union managed to pull us out of the bight and into the big open waters.The sail is accompanied by a stellar crew, Captain Lynn and Derrick as I mentioned, Brian the bartender/doom metal guy from Tampa, and the two brothers who were really interested in our adventure.Good people all around.We were serenaded with live music, which included a hammered dulcimer and some fun “Haul Away” songs which Ren and I still sing even though we can only remember four words.The sun began to set, sans green flash, and we fired the canon, twice!Whether or not a cannon was really loaded into the gunwe will never know.Captain Lynn assured us we hit a boat though.It must have gone down fast because no one else saw it.The trip was concluded with a stargaze.A pointingflash light was used to point out different planets, constellations, etc.Super cool stuff!$10,000 was promised to whoever could find the first satellite.Ren, of course, with his x-ray vision found it.We are checking our accounts daily looking for the deposit.Haven’t seen it yet but probably will soon.
The end to a perfect evening, Amigos one more time and a nightcap down at the Schooner Warf Restaurant/Bar.We collected our Coors Lights (with lemon of course, because we are classy) and headed over to a not so quite corner where we found, who else, the crew of Western Union.Man, if we didn’t like this crew before we really did now! We clinked Coors Lights and Bud heavies and chatted about real life (they were all living one).
On our return from the Dry Tortugas, days later, we stopped back by the Western Union while in Key West to say hey to our friends one more time before heading back north.We never saw them again but will be sure to look them up next time we’re in Conch Country.
Leaving Big PIne Key, we set our sights, and sails, for Key West.That place was an adventure in itself and I will come back to that.All you need to know for now is that we got our fill of beer there, and liquor, and wine.Key West was just a stopping point between Big Pine and our real goal, the Dry Tortugas.With some luck, we’d even make it to the Dry Tortugasjust in time to intercept some Wilmington friends who were planning a day trip to the small Key.
Nila Girl and her inhabitants (Ren, myself, Oreo and possibly a small rat, who may have stowed away in Big Pine) raised sail early morning on December 29th.Since Tay Filer and family were going to be in the Dry Tortugas on December 30th we were really pushing it, in true Ashley/Ren fashion.Why get somewhere on time maybe even with time to spare when you can get there by the skin of your teeth, often inconveniencing family and friends who are more punctual than you?It is a flaw I hope we can correct in the future.Too late for this trip though.So we sailed all day and through the night.The wind was down so we fired up the engine for a few hours, technically on December 30th.Our original plan, on leaving NC, was to never run the engine unless coming into port or if emergency requires.This plan is only valid if you are not sailing on a schedule.Something we still have not accomplished except for a few days at a time.The sails were up and the engine roared until about 5:00 am.We cut the engine and silently advanced.Stealth like, but not really with Dinky (our inflatable dinghy.Our car essentially) flapping around behind us!Quiet Dinky, damn you!Garden Key of the Dry Tortugas is home to Ft. Jefferson.An old Civil War era fort which looks particularly menacing in the middle of nowhere, just standing there, cannons pointing right at you.Union soldiers ready to board your boat, raping and pillaging.I digress, it is easy to let your imagination get carried away in the lee of the fort.So, like I said, Quiet Mr. Dink!
Nila Girl had the Dry Tortugas to herself.
Approaching a shoaled complex such as the Dry Tortugas at night is not an easy feat.It’s hard on the nerves.This was evident on our boat by the presence of all three crew members on deck.One armed with a Q-beam (me), another at the helm (Ren) and another licking his crotch in anticipation of landfall (Ren…I mean Oreo).Daylight began to break which was a welcomed friend!Not to mention a breathtaking sight as the red-orange sky rose on the east side of the fort, illuminating the ancient red bricks.The fort is dotted with open air windows from which watch was kept and cannons were aimed.The dawn poured out through these spaces and reflected on Nila Girl and our grateful faces.It is funny how much a sunset, sunrise or blue moon come to mean to you when you’re living on a boat.Without DVDs, Netflix, or anything but books and some writing and chores, the sky becomes an awesome form of entertainment.I have managed to see three green flashes on our adventure during sunset.Before this trip my grand total of green flash sightings came to a whopping zero, in fact, I kind of doubted their existence.
We picked up the channel markers and easily sailed to the east side of the fort where we dropped anchor (silently of course, who knows who’s in the fort watching).A few anchor dropping chores were done.These chores include putting the engine on Dinky and taking Oreo to land ASAP.He deserves a trip to land whenever we are somewhere to manage it.Ren is in charge or Oreo and I’m in charge of getting everyone’s breakfast ready.Did it, ate, then decided to lay down for a nap since we had sailed through the night.But.However.Captain Ren was banging about the cockpit getting all his dive gear ready.At our first sight of “Caribbean Blue” water since leaving NC, he was not about to pass up a dive for a much needed nap.Truth be known, neither was I.It didn’t take much to rouse me and before I knew it, Oreo was cashing in on the nap and Ren and I were in the water, swimming with a ~200 lbs. goliath grouper!I can sleep later!
Dinky was ready for action so we decided to crawl in and go exploring while we were still brimming with excitement.We soon realized that it was terribly hard to pick out an appropriate dive spot.To remedy this situation, we got out of the dinghy and drug it behind us.First stop, underneath a sport fishing boat that was anchored near us.Underneath that boat, seven goliath groupers!These groupers were the puppy dogs of Garden Key.They chilled underneath boats looking for handouts, and who didn’t have the heart to give some to them?Not us!A guy from the boat we were hanging with the groupers under gave us a little jack he had caught earlier.I attempted to, ahem, feed the grouper but chickened out.The mouth on that thing was pretty huge and who knew if he had good eye sight or not.Like an old dog, he may misjudge the end of his treat and the end of your hand.Confusing where one begins and the other ends, the dog chomps your hand a bit.I didn’t want to risk this from a 200 lbs animal.But Ren did.Before Ren knew it, the grouper skillfully chomped the fish, and looking down we realized, he left Ren’s hand.Phew!
Just a cool shot.
Moving on we dove a few more spots.Colorful angel fish and tangs swarmed the huge coral colonies that littered the rocky bottom.We picked out two huge NC sized lobster and three lionfish (which are delicious to eat and make great ceviche).The lobster were hanging out in front of their rock crevices.Not in the holes, outside catching some rays I guess.One reached his antenna out as if to shake my hand.They were not afraid of us, that was for certain.As we were on a reconnaissance dive we did not bring our animal harvesting gear so the spot was mentally marked.We were to return later after a visit to the fort to collect our lunch.Good thing we decided on a recon mission first because later when we reached the fort, and had an interview with the park ranger, who bum rushed us as soon as we got off our dinghy, it came to light that spearfishing and lobstering are strictly prohibited in the Dry Tortugas.In fact, you are only allowed to hook and line fish within a mile radius of Garden Key.There goes lunch, and dinner, and breakfast the next day…
We had collected Oreo after our dive, changed clothes and planned on making an afternoon outof land exploration.Our buds were supposed to be arriving by seaplane sometime that day.We had already seen two seaplanes come and go and the ferry arrive with a horde of people.No sign of any other North Carolinians.This place was also the first place where we found anice beach to hang out on.Taking advantage of this fact the three of us spotted a nice place in the sand and relaxed, letting the warm sun burn our poor little bodies (which I wish it was doing right this minute.A cold front moved in and I’m freezing right now!).After a few hours we got hungry and decided to go back to the Nila Girl and rustle up some grub.But wait!What’s that noise…a seaplane!Leaning against the dock, we waited in anticipation to see if our buds would emerge from the awesome plane.The plane circled around the fort and touched down in the water between the same channel markers Nila Girl navigated early that morning.We watched the pilot run across the water and back the plane up right next to the beach.This guy was good.The small plane swung open her doors and people began pouring out.We saw three children, two girls and a boy, jump to the sand.Uh oh, our friends have two girls and a boy.We saw a slightly chubby guy handing bags to the kids.Ren pointed to the guy and said, “That’s him.That’s Tay.I can hear him from here”.Now Tay works out a good bit.I see him often at the UNCW pool swimming laps with Mr. Bob Berger.This is how I got to know Tay.I took one look at the gut of the man Ren pointed to and said, “Nope.Give Tay some credit will ya?”Underneath the plane were two more man legs.Also, I saw the legs with a stance just like Tay’s!Yeppers, our friend’s arrived.
They only had two hours to check the place out, not enough time, but we ran through the fort, reading this, questioning that.The children earned their juniorranger badges (they will thank their Mom later for making them do that at all the national parks they visit).The visit ended with a quick snorkel.Ren and I got to spend some timewith some NC-ians and alsoleft with one cold can on Lipton iced tea, a blueberry muffin and two, one serving sized containers of cream cheese.Who scored?We did!
After their visit, it was back to the boat for some three hour late lunch and that nap I thought about earlier in the day.The Dry Tortugas proved to be a place where we decided to stay three whole days.