A Day of Fun

May 10th, 2011

The Dry Tortugas is a magical place to visit as a child. Imagine first seeing Fort Jefferson rise out of the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico as a young mind. The excitement is palpable. There are some things to consider however, although clear skies and calm winds make for great snorkeling it can be very hot on the island. Make sure to bring plenty of high SPF sunscreen and apply generously throughout the day. Hydration is so important especially for children so take advantage of the water coolers both on the boat and dock provided by Yankee Freedom II. Sandals are another great idea for kids, as the sand and dock become very hot in the afternoon sun.
Perhaps your child would enjoy The Junior Ranger program. Children are given a booklet en route to Fort Jefferson which they complete as they explore the fort. Upon successful completion they are sworn in and issued a Junior Ranger badge. There is fun to be had by all at the Dry Tortugas and I hope we are in your plans this summer. We look forward to seeing you aboard the Yankee Freedom II.

New Docks at The Dry Tortugas

May 3rd, 2011

Lots going on at the Dry Tortugas. The installation of new finger docks began this week on Garden Key. A docking area for vessels making day trips to the Dry Tortugas is the intended use of these new piers. It will allow visitors on boats not traveling with a dingy to visit the beaches and explore Fort Jefferson on Garden Key. The expected completion date for the project is the end of May and they are to be in service shortly thereafter.
We typically see a greater number of center consoles in the 25’ to 35’ range transiting the Tortugas in the summer months when the wind and seas are calmer than winter. Visibility and water temperature are also ideal for snorkeling. A word of advice, bring an adequate supply of fuel for the 140 mile round trip.
If you are someone who doesn’t own a boat or perhaps you’d rather someone else do the driving then consider a day trip aboard the Yankee Freedom II.

Lunch aboard the Yankee Freedom II

April 26th, 2011

In this edition of the Tortugas weekly blog I wanted to talk about our lunch service. We are frequently asked what we serve for the noontime meal, which is included in your ticket. Deli style sandwiches really hit the spot after a snorkel along the moat wall or trip to the top of Fort Jefferson with the guided tour. We have several different meats and cheeses along with potato salad (a crew favorite) and fresh fruit cut each morning by the galley crew underway. As you work your way through the buffet style lunch line don’t forget your chips and a cookie. If none of these choices work for you we have the old standby, peanut butter and jelly. Sodas and water are always complimentary with lunch.
Remember if you get hungry on the ride home we have candy bars and ice cream sandwiches, hot pretzels and burgers and hot dogs.

If your planning a trip to Fort Jefferson, the next few days seem pretty favorable in terms of weather, just a slight chance of showers and highs in the upper 80’s. The east wind that made for some bumpy rides back to Key West last week has settled down a bit and the water temperature is climbing towards 80 degrees. So put away your work shoes and pull out your sandals and join us for a great day out at the Tortugas

Snorkeling at Garden Key

April 12th, 2011

Hello everyone, my name is Michael, Lead Interpreter aboard the Yankee Freedom II. This is my first installment of a weekly blog, focused on providing insight into The Dry Tortugas National Park, one of America’s most remote national parks.

We made a change in our procedures this past winter; we are now passing out snorkel gear on the National Park dock instead of underway aboard the Yankee Freedom II. The new snorkel rack is really working out well. It affords us the opportunity to talk with every passenger to determine their experience level and comfort in the water, therefore, direct them to the best snorkel spot for their skill level. Another added benefit is retrieving your gear just prior to snorkeling versus toting it around the island unnecessarily. The snorkeling has been exceptional this past week. Beautifully clear visibility and exceptional fish sightings. Including some large snook and grouper in the coaling piles along with a monster lobster in a crevice along the moat wall and our friend, Rex, the 400lb goliath grouper that resides under the National Park dock.

The Frigate birds have been an awesome sight to watch gliding effortlessly on the updrafts hitting the southeast wall of Fort Jefferson. Birding is really starting to pick up with the spring migration and the nesting of the Sooty Terns on Bush Key. Stay tuned for more updates and insight on the Dry Tortugas birding next week.

Hope to see you soon aboard the Yankee Freedom II!


Spring at The Dry Tortugas

April 12th, 2011

It’s been another beautiful week at the Dry Tortugas. The water has been really clear across the Quicksands (an area of shifting sandy bottom west of the Marquesas where both the Spanish galleons Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were found by Mel Fisher in the 1980’s). These conditions have made for excellent turtle watching. We even saw 3 pairs of mating turtles during our ride home on Saturday.

Spring Migration will peak in the next few weeks and the bird watching has been awesome. Masked Booby’s have nested on Hospital Key, Sooty and Noddy Terns are raising young on Bush Key. Bridled and Roseate Terns will arrive soon. We saw a variety of warblers this week including Swainson’s, Blue-winged, Hooded, Worm-eating, Parula, Black-and-white, Prairie, Prothonotary, Blackburian, Cape May, and Palm, as well as Ovenbirds, and Northern and Louisiana Waterthrush. Orchard Orioles, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Peregrins, Merlins, Kestrals, were all spotted in the 10 acre parade ground of Fort Jefferson. It’s a great time to break out the binoculars and head to the Tortugas.

Saturday was Junior Ranger Day at the Dry Tortugas and all the children on board completed their workbooks and were sworn in as Junior Rangers by the Superintendent of Everglades and The Dry Tortugas National Parks, Dan Kimball.

Hope to see you soon aboard the Yankee Freedom II!

Fort Wall Restoration continues at Fort Jefferson, Spring 2010

February 10th, 2010

By: Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

General Joseph Totten, Chief of the Army’s Engineers from 1838 – 1864 designed the Totten Shutters used on the gun ports of Fort Jefferson. These large slabs of wrought iron complete with iron shutters were designed to protect gunners from small projectiles and musket fire while loading cannons weighing several tons per gun opening and integrated into both the exterior wall and the interior of the fort, these embrasures were crucial to fort construction during this time period.

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Visitors to Dry Tortugas National Park Experience an Archaeological Dig Firsthand!

May 8th, 2009
Dig Location in Paradeground

Dig Location in Paradeground

From March 13 – 16, 2009 visitors tot the Dry Tortugas National Park aboard the Yankee Freedom II were treated to an archaeological dig of an 1850’s storehouse foundation located in the paradeground of Fort Jefferson. March is Florida’s Archaeology Month and this weekend’s even allowed the public an opportunity to help sift and search soils taken from under a storehouse destroyed by fire in 1857.

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Another Brick In The Wall

January 7th, 2009

By: “Tortuga” Jack Hackett

Fort Jefferson Fort at the Dry Tortugas.

Fort Jefferson Fort at the Dry Tortugas.

As “Silent Night” still lingers in the ears and resolutions are still forthcoming, here at Ft. Jefferson bricks, bricks and more bricks await the capable hands of returning work crews. The air is permeated with a sense of elation shared by masons on the embrasure project that is without a doubt akin to the feeling shared by those who toiled here in the 1800’s knowing that soon the men would be returning to their hometowns or to Key West for several weeks of comfort. Read the rest of this entry »

Army Vessel Visits Dry Tortugas National Park

March 3rd, 2008

Vessel New Orleans, an Army LCU (Landing Craft Vessel), visits Dry Tortugas National Park on January 10-13th 2008 in a cleanup operation. Hurricane damage from the four hurricane strike summer of 2006 left Dry Tortugas National Park with lots of rebuilding and repairing. The remoteness of the park makes garbage service a challenge, especially for larger items such as air conditioning units, old appliances and such. The New Orleans carried Waste Management dumpsters and a large Front End Loader to assist the Park Service personnel in eliminating trash items. The New Orleans has a permanent crew of four and is assisted by fourteen Army reservists.

Army Vessel, New OrleansFront End LoaderNew Orleans RampLoading onto the New OrleansTractor aboard the New Orleans

Kabang!!! Or is it Kaboom!!!?

December 4th, 2007

By “ Tortuga” Jack Hackett

Well, whatever sound you would make to indicate a thunderous explosion from a cannon, resounding throughout the bricked vaulted ceilings of the casement or gun-room in which it is heard. The decibels produced would exceed those of a heavy metal rock band with the volume cranked to the max.

One might arrive at this conclusion while standing inside one of the casements at Ft. Jefferson. This is just one part of the fort’s awesome architecture evident amidst sixteen million bricks utilized in the construction of the fort that began in 1846.

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