September 26, 2011
The last week of September brings on the fall season which in many parts of the country means cooler temperatures, shorter days and the changing leaf colors that marks the new season. Most of that doesn’t happen here; in fact it can be at times almost impossible to determine that a change has occurred at all. This week has been no exception as what would be known in much of the country as Indian summer is in reality just more summer.
Kris, Howard & Najada
It has been hot and sunny, with only the occasional drenching rain to break up the monotony of beautiful weather here. We had intended to spend a few days camping this week in the beautiful Dry Tortugas National park, but I had a minor issue arise that kept me from spending the entire weekend there. Kathy, having made all the arrangements already, decided to go out on her own for a couple of nights and I would go out for the day on Sunday to join her.
It allowed me to stay in Key West and be able to join my co-workers Kris & Howard on Friday afternoon at Ft. Zachary Taylor state park to watch the arrival of the newest warship in the US Navy fleet, the USS Spruance.DDG-111. The 510 ft. guided missile destroyer was built in Bath, Maine and is here in Key West to be officially commissioned next week before heading to her home port in San Diego.
It is a rare and pretty cool experience for a Navy vessel to be commissioned here and hundreds of Key West locals headed out to watch her arrival at the Navy Mole downtown. Ft. Taylor offered the best viewing location and crowds lined the shore to watch the vessel make its way in to the harbor with great fanfare.
It was the second kinda cool thing to happen in the past couple of days, the other being the uncommon visit of a manatee to our office on Stock Island. I regularly take for granite the amazing view that I have from my desk, but then the appearance of something like a dolphin or manatee in the marina reminds me of the rare gift I have to have such an awesome view each day at work.
I dropped Kathy and her camping gear off early Friday morning at the Yankee Freedom II, which is docked at Lands End marina at the foot of Margaret Street. She took everything she needed including one of our kayaks so that she could explore the out islands at the Tortugas. She spent two days and nights camping before I was able to head out and join her on Sunday.
George, George & Carla
The Tortugas are only accessible by boat or seaplane and is located about 70 miles west of Key West. September is a great month to go as it is generally the slowest month as far as tourist activity and the summer-like calm weather is still really great to be out there. There were more locals than tourists when I headed out including a large number of people that I knew, including a group from the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival led by Dr. Mark Whiteside. Our friends George and Carla and their son George and our friends Karen & Mike were also on board. It made for a fun trip out.
Karen & Mike
The boat trip takes about 2.5 hours and is really smooth and quick thanks to the fastcat boat that is the Yankee Freedom II. It is easily an hour faster each way than the old vessel that I rode out on many times when I first moved to the Keys. It was a beautiful sunny day for a ride out and the trip passed quickly. Kathy was waiting for me on the dock when the boat arrived.