As soon as the repairs were completed, myself and three acquaintances sailed from Marathon Key to Clearwater Beach by way of the Dry Tortugas where we spent two nights. Unfortunately Renee could not come on this trip because she was still working. The wind cooperated for our run to to Dry Tortugas. The weatherman predicted an easterly wind of 8 to 15 knots, moderate seas of 3 to 4 feet and no rain. The evening skies were clear and the stars were beautiful. Around 22:00 we decided to drop the mainsail because we were getting some pretty good gusts, the seas grew to 5+ feet and became chunky (hitting the boat at two directions at once). We figured it would be safer to make the adjustments sooner rather than later incase things got worse. We had an easterly wind so we were able to just run (sail downwind) the entire way.
As morning came, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise, the wind and waves calmed down to make the remainder of the trip more enjoyable. We arrived at Fort Jefferson mid afternoon and found a nice anchorage on the south side of the Fort where we were protected by Bush Key. We anchored in around 15 feet of water and could see the bottom and the fish swimming around the boat. The water here is amazing! In the picture you can see a sea plane which brings visitors back and forth from Key West to the Fort several times each day. It was a thrill to see it takeoff and land each time it came.
After we settled in and had a snack, we took the dingy over to the Fort to checkin and explore. If you are looking for a great anchorage and a bit of history, definitely make sure this gets on your sailing bucket list, you will not be disappointed. We spent the next day lounging and exploring the areas surrounding the Fort. Since our next leg of this trip was scheduled for a 29 hour sail and the weatherman was predicting that we would be losing our wind later that evening, we decided to lift anchor and begin our trip up to Clearwater Beach.
Unfortunately the wind had died down sooner than was predicted. So we decided to crank up the diesel and yes, became a power boat. It is always better to sail, but when you have someplace to be you just have to get there. About halfway to Clearwater we were greeted by a pod of dolphins that followed us and played along side the boat for about twenty minutes. This was a nice surprise and gave us a needed jolt of excitement.
We realized that we would not be able to make Clearwater at a reasonable time of day, so we decided to just spend the night off the entrance to Tampa Bay. This would allow us to pick at what time of day we would arrive in Clearwater. Nobody wants to attempt entering a tight channel and docking at 03:00. We arrived at the entrance to Tampa Bay around 22:30 and were able to find a nice anchorage tucked in behind Egmont Key. The next day we had a short 6 hour trip up to Clearwater Beach where we docked 5KNOTS at the Clearwater Harbor Marina.