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Boating: Re-stocking for the Dry Tortugas

May 15, 2012
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The "Dead End Canal Yacht Club's" community boat is getting ready for the annual trip to the Dry Tortugas. Re-stocking the old girl after a long storage at the Glades Boat Storage takes quite a long time. "My 20 percent" is an older 40' Sedan Sport Fishing boat owned by five members of the club. It is sort of a floating time-share that is feeling her age, especially in the engine room.

Our plan is simple. Some of us will take the boat to the fishing grounds northwest of the Dry Tortugas National Park boundaries around 160 nautical miles or 190 regular miles. The fishing is fantastic, and we have good GPS numbers plus all the fish-finding equipment needed. We'll fish and eat fish until we're weary of it and then head for the sanctuary of the quiet anchorage in the lee of Fort Jefferson. Two days of snorkeling and diving and drinking a little beer equals paradise for us.

Depending on their schedule, the relief crew will arrive aboard the 'Dry Tortugas Fast Ferry.' They will have taken the Key West Express from Fort Myers Beach. Our part of the voyage will retrace their steps back to Fort Myers Beach. In the old days other club members would join us and use the boat as a floating condo but participation has waned in recent years. This isn't an inexpensive trip with the price of diesel fuel being over $5 on our beach and $6 in Key West.

Stocking the boat is a real chore especially when it was stripped clean for storage. I was shocked that the stuff we took off filled a ten by 10' by 20' foot storage unit waste high. Can't leave food on a stored boat in the middle of the state. Raccoons will destroy it!

We've made this trip many times so we know what we need and don't need. We've moved the old girl to a commercial dock in order to load and stow small bags full of dive gear, clothing and personals. Even on boat this size, room is precious. Despite the existence of common "boat equipment" that we've had for years like a hair dryer, waffle iron, clock radio and brand of toilet paper, everyone has personal clothing and items. It adds up.

"Is Cap'n Bill coming by to renew our Coast Guard safe boating sticker," asked 'Cincinnati Chili Palmer.' I told him that he would be along in a day or two but I had the requirements and was checking them off, as they were loaded. We didn't want to spend a short day being inspected by the park rangers. Once they saw the "Safety Decal" all they would care about was that the overboard discharge valve was turned and locked towards the holding tank.

It took most of the morning just to load the hard goods and store the dive gear. As we carried the stuff aboard we could hear 'Diesel Dan' cursing the generator. It would run for a few minutes and then stop. He poked his head out and asked, "Do you guys really need this damned thing?"

"Absolutely, can you get it running in three days," I implored. Not only for the air conditioner but the water-maker, battery charger and refrigeration. We can't go without it operating properly. Dan said it would be running smooth in a day and didn't mean to scare us but he was hot and tired from working in the cramped engine room.

Once all the gear was stored and the systems were up and running, except for the generator, we delayed the shopping spree until Dan could give us the green light. We would spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on food and libations so we wanted to be sure we were really going. We wouldn't put a big dent in Costco's inventory but a small dent for sure. Every kind of vegetable, multiple jars of peanut butter, ground beef, steak etc., etc.

It is all high-energy food because we're old and need protein for all the strenuous activities. We hope to fill out the menu with fish and never have failed but just in case we bring staples for the entire week. There are no grocery stores available west of Key West.

While we are on shore power we let the water-maker work it's magic. We've actually given away water to other boaters who had a problem. In that climate you need between two and three gallons of water per day per person. The 125 gallons in the water tank would quickly run out with four people drinking and washing daily. We plan ahead by freezing gallons of water and packing it around the perishables and frozen items. When it thaws we drink but we draw the line for beer.

It is against park regulations to barter with commercial fishermen and shrimpers but having a couple of spare 12 packs of Busch beer packed away is never a bad idea. You never know when it will come in handy. Years ago we traded for fish and shrimp at ridiculously lopsided amounts. We can only speculate who pushed that ban on bartering.

So "My 20 percent" sits at her slip ready to go, maybe two days from departure. You can feel her anticipation because she knows her weakness and wants to get out and run at least one more time. We want her to carry us far away from CNN, Fox News and cell phones to the land of the billion stars.

Boatguy Ed is a retired bottom paint manufacturer, television producer, avid boater and past commodore of the Dead End Canal Yacht Club. Send comments to boatguiEd@aol.com or visit the clubs facebook page. See you at www.supershipbottom.com

 
 

 

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