Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DRTO Webcam

The new webcam is here! The new webcam is here!

60 second refresh...

You'll have to refresh the pic manually...
(The "F5" key, for you Luddites...)

Famous, out-

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Busy Day


What the hell is this guy fishing for?

(Click for a larger view)
What kind of fishing requires a tractor with forklift tines on it?

Must be some bad-ass snapper or grouper.

(Really want to know?- the restoration contractors (Roscoe and John) have finished one phase of the brickwork and are moving out. (Getting the hell out before hurricane season.))

Getting the tractor on-board the boat this morning was a trick.
I think Eloise got some pictures of the effort...
I'll post them if I get a chance.

Then... As the ferryboats arrived this morning, the volunteers on Loggerhead called.
Guess what they had 27 of...?


27 is a huge number.

Here's the amazing thing...
We're pretty sure it's was a go-fast doing a drop-and-dash over on Loggerhead.
The funny... well... not funny thing-
The US Coast Guard Cutter "Diligence" was sitting out in the channel all night, getting ready for a beach day here on the island.

(Click for a larger view)
You can see the "Diligence" in the background as Willie is bringing the Migrants over here to Garden Key...
Does anyone notice the irony in this situation, or is it just me?

By the way, in case you are wondering, the migrants took second place to the Coasties R&R day... Completely appropriate, actually.
The Coasties have a long, tough job and their "off" days are few and far between-
They set up a tent in the parade ground and had a great day here on Garden key...
The guys that were still on duty handled the pre-processing of the Migrants and while their shipmates were enjoying wandering the Fort or snorkeling off the beach, these guys were moving the Cubans to the "Diligence" and getting things ready to be underway this afternoon....

Famous, out-

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All good things come to an end, eventually.

Hunter has to depart the island early- soccer camp or some foolish thing with her friends, leaving her poor old broken-down father to fend for himself among the thong-wearing, surgically-enhanced, long-in-the-tooth Dixie Wentworths that invade the island daily.

She's been a great help to me- helping with the daily chores (if she actually wakes up before 10:30 or 11:00), running the register in the bookstore for the few hours we are open daily...
(Good training since I'm going to make her work at the Gap or some other trendy clothing place... I can't afford to clothe her... Have you looked at the price tag on girls fashions lately? Egads!)

Anyway- I shipped her off to Key West this afternoon... Her mom came down to to Key West to pick her up, now they are off to do some re-bonding... Out will come the tales of torture...
Making her row the boat for miles to deliver the bird to Bush Key...
Sweeping out the changing rooms, being handcuffed to the cash register all day...
O, the humanity...

She called me tonight... They are having dinner at The Meteor... Barbequed chicken and ribs.

She knows how to hurt her old man... I'm having a ham sandwich tonight.

I taught her well, eh?

Amazing, out-

The Perfect Child.

Hunter and I have been involved in all manner of activities out here.

Yesterday one of the visitors showed up with a noddy tern that was waterlogged. He'd be okay once he dried out a bit, but the larger problem of rescuing every creature that is in peril actually short-circuits the great Circle of Life. Some people just don't want to acknowledge this. Ranger Kim has a similar observation on this...
The Mailboat

Listen, bleeding hearts:
Some noddys fly, some noddys die.
Fact of life. Sorry.
Can't deal with it? Too bad. Take your dolly and go play somewhere else.
I have bathrooms to clean.

Anyway-They wanted us to nurse it back to health so all would be right with the world...
Dutiful little Junior Rangers that we are, we take said Feathered Friend and put him in a critter cage and wait until the boats have departed for the day...
He got all dried out during the wait and was looking fairly well...

We dug out a kayak and I sent Hunter and the Naughty Noddy over to Bush Key.

I sent the pair off across the channel and kept a weather-eye on them as she delivered him safely to the beach.

Well... Since we have the kayak out anyway...Why don't we do a little moat patrol?
The moat is a never-ending source of trouble.
First, it is well populated with big, dumb mangrove snappers.
(The problem with big dumb snappers is that they are beggars... and the visitors like to share their lunches with yon fish. Hence, the snappers have developed tumors and galls and other growths from eating too much potato salad and the pre-processed semiboneless supermeat that the Yankee and Sunny Days pass off as Deli Ham.)
But, since they are big and dumb, people want to fish in the moat... But I'll tell ya, as much as I like fried snapper, I wouldn't touch these with a ten-foot chopstick.
Second, there are lots and lots and lots of Cassiopia jellyfish living in the moat. The water in the moat is a trip to hell lined with nematocysts if you piss off the jellyfish.

Third - (and the object of the lesson, here) Visitors don't pay attention, or simply don't care about what they are doing here, and thus, a cornucopia of wind-blown trash winds up in the moat every day. Plastic cups, paper plates, wrappers from the knife-fork-spoon-napkin package, soft drink cans, hats, t-shirts and frisbees all wind up floating in the moat.

Well... The moat is off limits to the public, since we don't want to have to do hours of jellyfish-sting-abatement procedures all the live-long day...Unfortunately it falls to us, yer humble volunteers, to fish little suzie's ball, grandpa's straw hat, and Skippy's frisbee out of the moat.I have become deft at snagging items with the extendable boathook... But upon occasion, it calls for a little more hands-on to keep the moat clean...

Steer clear of the snappers.

Careful... that paper cup is down pretty deep... Don't disturb the jellyfish down there.

Hey- you missed a spot up under the sally port...
One sack full of moat trash later, we called it a day...

TBG out-

Onward, through the fog...

My friend Lee Anne (all around angel and wife to Buddy-sometimes-crew-sometimes-Captain of the Yankee Freedom 2) and I once exchanged foolish DRTO questions...
One of which was a complaint from a visitor "I didn't see many pretty fish when I was out snorkeling."
Oddly enough, working in the bookstore I have heard this complaint several times this past week.
They come in complaining about not not seeing turtles or pretty fish, so I ask where they went and what they *did* see...
Most of the time they say they only saw lots of seagrass...
Hmmm. Guess what- You didn't listen when the on-board naturalist told you to snorkle along the moat wall or over in the coaling dock pilings and you just flailed about in the beds of seagrass off the swim beach.
Hence, I have no help for you...
But... Interestingly, an afternoon or two ago, as people were getting on the boat to depart the island, a school of large (3' to 5') tarpon started cruising the shallows near the boat.
It was as if someone was standing in the wings directing the show:
"Ok... Visitors are on the dock...
Let's get the sooties and the noddys in the air... Good.
Nice- Allright- The frigates are on-station near the light house... Good.
Ok... Cue the tarpons... and... swim! Ok... Great show everyone..."

Amazing show, guys.

TBG out-

Time to play catch-up, little tomato...

A few items of note...

If you remember Salty- Capt. Rick's dog...

This is from April 2005, when she was just a pup...

(Note: Salty's the one with the orange collar. The Ranger in the pic is Ranger Sarah's Main Squeeze, Ryan.)

This is Salty today-

Queen of the Yankee Freedom 2...
Stay out of the wheelhouse unless you are bearing treats for the queen.

Speaking of Little Tomatoes

If you ever wonder about propigation of exotic species of plants in odd places,
(perhaps how a coconut came to be in Mercia...heh) I have a classic example for ya.
Under the picnic table where the Yankee Freedom 2 sets up for lunch, there is a little tomato plant growing and actually bearing fruit.

Me, I have a black thumb. Entrust me to water your houseplants for a weekend and they are done. Fini. They will have shuffled off their collective mortal coil and joined the choir invisible by Saturday post-tiffin. (And we take tiffin purty durn early in these parts, buckaroo.)
Here, someone drops a slice of tomato from their sandwich and a week later we have enough pomodoro for a 3-family spagetti dinner. Go figure.
(Personally, I think Dan is pouring the leftover pickle juice on the plant after lunch is over...)

TBG out-


Jeez, dude.

This place is falling apart...

TBG out-

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Things that make you go Hmmmm....

Working in the Bookstore at Ft. Jefferson is interesting. As I said before, I will delve into the vast font of humor that it represents at a future time. Just for the moment I will pass along some words of wisdom that I got in an e-mail the other day and show how it relates to my current situation...

Almost all the visitors out here at the Dry Tortugas wander around in their swimsuits all day...
Some have a towel or coverup, but most of the time not. Many of the women (mostly older women at that) that come in the bookstore looking for t-shirts, refregerator magnets, gewgawas and knick-knacks have undergone Augmentation surgery... And most of the time they are very proud of the results... Even it the surgery was done 10 or 15 years ago and mean ol' Mr. Gravity has been working to undo the doctor's fine work.
Hence we have many 50 and 60 year old women walking around in very brief (sometimes thong) bikinis...
(I will spare you the description of the very long-in-the-tooth sunbaked thong-wearing 65+ year old woman with her 20-something boy-toy... She wandered about with her beau on her arm showing off her waaaay-too-big vintage implants and her thong... Appearantly no one told her that wearing a thong is a privledge, and that she needed to get approval from the Thong Review Board before strutting her stuff around the island...)

Words of wisdom:

There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with big perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.

Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tortugas Fishing Club

We have a bunch of kids camping here this week-
10 ADD/ADHD kid... They are a hoot...
The camp counselors took them fishing off the main dock
last night...

We had several other folks out there- the kids hooked up with a couple nurse sharks, some small snappers and a few baitfish...

A good time was had by all...

More later-

TBG out...

Overheard on the YF lunchline...

Tortugas Jack : "I was going through the commment cards the other day...
Someone wrote 'The chicken salad you served for lunch was terrible.'"

Cerwman Mike: "Think it was because we were serving tuna salad?"

TJ: "Maybe- Have you tried the tuna salad? It might be chicken."

Note to self: Steal food from Sunny Days, or do without.

TBG out-

Tropical Storm Alberto

Sunday afternoon...
Welcome to the Moist Tortugas.

(Click for full sized pic.)

TBG out-

Weapons Maintenance

Ranger Sarah pulled the spare clips for her Sig out the other day...

Uh... Sarah?...

Is that rust or chocolate...?

TBG out-

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season Is Like Christmas.

Seems like every time I come down here in June, we catch the first tropical storm of the season.

Last year.

Now we're riding out the feeder bands of Alberto...

It's a quiet day- no boats, no visitors.

Top Ten Reasons Hurricane Season Is Like Christmas.

10. Decorating the House (Boarding up windows)
9. Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season (Camping gear, flashlights, etc)
8. Last-minute shopping in crowded stores
7. Favorite shows pre-empted by "specials"
6. Family coming to stay with you
5. Family and friends from out-of-state calling you
4. Buying food you don't normally buy... and in large quantities
3. Days off from work
2. Candles
And the number one reason:
1. At some point you know you are going to have a tree in your house

Stormy Weather

It’s been an exciting 36 hours here...

Friday morning was gorgeous here... unfortunately it was the calm before the storm.

Sunrise over Bush Key. Friday was a picture-perfect day here.

Too perfect, actually. Good weather brings other challenges.

2:30 AM Saturday- One of the campers came knocking.
Never a good thing.
As my buddy Pete says, “Good news sleeps ‘til noon.”
When I give the campers their orientation spiel, I always tell them that the Fort is closed from sundown until sunup. Only come inside the place if it is an emergency...
(Running out of ice, water, soft drinks, beer or cigarettes is not considered an emergency...)
“Hey- There are Cubans on the swim beach.” he says.


So, it had begun. 13 refugees, and one well-built chug. At 2:30!
Can’t these guys wait until at least 9 or 10 o’clock?

We rousted the Rangers and gathered Cubans at the dockhouse and while Sarah and Dan started the pre-processing phase, we went to deal with the chug.
We pulled the 15’ Whaler around to the swim beach, got a line on the chug and towed it around to the seaplane beach and pulled it up on the beach a little to keep it from washing away.

The Chug - With an Isuzu desel and a Volvo outdrive.

Sarah and Dan had moved the Cubans into the Fort and had them in one of the vacant quarters and were doing our basic aid package- give ‘em a place to wash the diesel fuel off, a change of clothes if they need it, basic first aid, some food and a place to sit and relax while the Coast Guard is enroute to pick them up.
I checked with them to make sure all was well, then hit the sack- it was about 3:45...
At 6:30 I was back up to check on the chug and to see how things were progressing with the Cubans.
Most of them were sleeping- they had told Sarah they were at sea 36 hours during the trip...

Sarah took 3 of the Cubans down to the beach as a work detail to clean out the chug…
I kept an eye on the 10 others while she had them bag all the refuse, trash, fuel bottles and other crap from the chug.
The Coast Guard cutter “ATTU” arrived at 7:30 to pick up the refugees-
From the “Things that make you go hmmmm” department.-
We had a little surprise after sunrise- the folks over on Loggerhead had another Cuban show up...
Just one guy. Said he was dropped off by a fishing boat...

The weather had started picking up- We had 20 to 25 knot winds and when I checked the weather sites it showed the tropical disturbance down off the Yucatan, heading north-northeast.
Things would be getting bad today and worse tonight and Sunday...

Well… I had 7 campers that night, but they were all scheduled to leave today… I didn’t know if any more were scheduled to arrive, but if there were any on Sunny Days or the Yankee we’d try to dissuade them from staying.
We started making plans on what we needed to do to prepare for the storm that was on its way…
I finished up the last of my morning chores then grabbed a quick bite for breakfast and headed down to the dock. When the ferries arrived they brought bad news: Campers. Quite a few.
And they had been drinking all morning... The captain of the Sunny Days said they had just pulled away from the dock when these guys broke out the Guiness and Corona...One guy was wearing about a pint of Guiness on his shirt. (I thought he'd ralphed on the way out. Turns out it was just spillage.) It was about a dozen young adults- 23-26 year-olds... An even number of guys and their girlfriends/wives... just staying one night.
Half had arrived on with Sunny and half were on the Yankee. I got them all together and gave them the news. We have a tropical storm on the way... "I’m not going to say you can’t stay, but the chances are that with the way the weather is, the boats will probably not be running tomorrow, and it will not be pleasant out here... It will be raining the whole time, very windy and you will be miserable."
The girls were happy about the news... I got the impression that the girls idea of ‘roughing it’ would be no room service at the hotel... The though of a place with no electricity or running water sounded like hell to them. But- they were being good sports about coming on the camping trip. To hear that they wouldn’t be staying was an answer to their prayers.
They guys vacillated a bit on whether to stay or go, but in the end good sense prevailed.
Later I had my turn in the barrel when I was elected to run the bookstore for a few hours. This is a font of hilarious questions and comments from the visitors...
There will be a whole post dedicated to the little slice of heaven that is the Bookstore...

Hunter- My bookstore assistant.

When the ferries left it was raining steadily and we had no campers. We had a half-dozen sailing and motor vessels in the harbor and a number of commercial boats on their way in to take cover from the weather.

By 4:30 in the afternoon we had winds steady in the 40 knot range and gusts to 55...
Textbook tropical storm conditions.
At 6:00 we decided to pull the 25 out of the water… our 25’ patrol boat. It was tied up at the dock, but with winds out of the southeast, the boat would be taking a beating all night.
We got the trailer hooked up and brought the boat around to the beach to yank it out of the water. We’d leave it on the beach, attached to the tractor in case we needed to launch it quickly...

Just after that we had a sailboat in distress... they had gotten tangled with another boat at anchor and had to cut their anchor line. They came to the dock to borrow an anchor... they took some damage sitting at the dock from getting slammed, but they got their new hook and headed out to get set before it got too dark.
A commercial boat was next; he lost his anchor when a shrimper out at the K-bouy dragged across his line... We didn't have any more spare anchors so Chuck gave him permission to tie up to one of the old markers in the North Channel. We wished them gook luck and we headed inside.
We got everything buttoned up for the night and went to sleep listening to the winds howl.

No boats tomorrow... No bathrooms to clean!

Life is good.

Famous- Out.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Flying Chugboats

It’s bad enough that the Chugs are coming ashore on a frequent basis, but now they are flying the chugs to the Dry Tortugas.

It is the Mariel Boatlift 2006…

The guys from the Helo Squadron over on Loggerhead are airlifting the chugs from over there and dropping them on the Helicopter pad so we can disassemble them…

Ranger Sarah and I were on Harbor Duty on Wednesday night keeping the visitors clear of the area while the drop was going on…

On Thursday afternoon they brought a few more over…

The have their work cut out for them…
Over on Loggerhead the chugs are half-buried…

they have to dig them out and get a cargo net around them and then the chopper lifts them off and flies them over here to Garden Key…

Pretty impressive sight…

One really good thing-

With these guys here doing training and test flights we probably won’t have any problem with Cuban migrants…

Hmmm... A new crop of chugs to play with...
I guess I better get my tools out.

TBG out-

DRTO Day 1, Part 2


We got in with no problems… the Rangers had a EZ-Go cart at the dock waiting for us so we were able to offload and tote all out stuff back to our quarters easily.
We had just got all our stuff into the room and were making the rounds, chatting with the visitors when Chuck and Willy rolled up with a gas stove on the Easy-go…
“Hey- can you help me take this stove over to Loggerhead?”
So 10 minutes later Willy, Hunter and I were on out way to Loggerhead Key in the patrol boat.
We offloaded the range and got it up the the volunteers quarters in record time… Hunter and I chatted with the volunteers (Phil and Bev) while Willie went over and talked with the guys from one of the Helicopter Squadrons from Patrick AFB. They are out here doing training exercises and staying on Loggerhead Key during their bivouac.

We got back to Garden Key in time to see the Sunny Days and the YFII off…
Afternoon chores went well…

Man- What a day.

TBG out-

Dry Tortugas

... or DRTO as it is referred to those who live out here.

I went home, packed my bag and staged all my pre-purchased stuff for the trip to be loaded quickly, then I headed out to do some last minute stuff while waiting for the PC… She had a baby-sitting gig on Tuesday, so she was due to be home at 3:30. I got back at 3:20 and loaded up my car, picked up the PC and we were on the road by 4:15.

We took our time on the trip- after all, the only deadline we had was load out on the Yankee Freedom at 6:30 AM.
We got dinner on the way down, stopped a couple times for gas. Hunter watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the DVD in my laptop was we drove down…
We hit Homestead/Florida City at midnight. I got a monster cup of coffee and kept driving. We arrived in Key West at 3:00 AM sharp.
We both snoozed until 5:00AM in the parking lot of the Winn Dixie and at 5 we went in and loaded up on all of our consumables/perishables- bread, hot dogs, lunchmeats, chicken, steak, fruit etc… Lots of tasty stuff…
We headed over to the harbor and moved all of our stuff to the Yankee. We went over to Harpoon Harry’s for breakfast- (passable, but I’ve had much better at worse places…)
They loaded up the passengers at 7:30 and we left the dock at 8:00…
Smooth ride- glassy water...
Many hands of 5-card-draw later we were disembarking at Garden Key.

Now comes the real fun…

BTW- Just for those keeping score-
Sunday night - 4 hours of sleep (Home)
Monday Night – 3 hours of sleep (Charlotte)
Tuesday night – 2 hours (in the car in the parking lot)

Guess who’s really really really tired…

TBG Out-

Carolina on my mind.

(Sorry James Taylor... I couldn't resist.)

Hector and I were in Raleigh for the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
A site survey to see how the broadcasters set up, how the Off-Ice Officials do their thing, some of the additional needs are handled by the League… Just a fact-finding trip.
Hector spent his time with Dan-O from the League and the Off-Ice guys

I spent most of the time up on the catwalk over the home and away benches,

working on a tool to help the scoring crew with getting Time-On-Ice info for the players in a timely and accurate manner.

What was a problem was the overall timing on the trip-
Up at 5:00 for a 7:00 AM direct flight to Charlotte,
(Yes, it was the most feasible flight to take- No direct to RDU, and any connected flight got us in much later than the CLT flight and the drive to Raleigh. Also they were more expensive…)
We got to the RBC arena at about 11:30-
We were there all day- with the exception of an hour for lunch at Damons, (100 yds from the Arena), game at 8:15, ending at 11:00pm.
We had a 9:00 flight out of Charlotte, so we decided to drive back after the game, rather then try to make the drive all the way after 3 hours of sleep in Raleigh… So we hit the road at 11:30 or so.
I was beat- I made it from Raleigh to past Greensboro, and when I couldn’t do any more, Hector drove the last 60 miles to the airport. We got in at 3:15 or so…
We got a room at a Fairfield Inn right at the airport and got a wake up call for 7AM; Hector set the alarm on his cell phone and I also set the bedside alarm for 7. I got 3 good hours of sleep on Monday night.
We got up on time, and made it to the airport with lots of time to spare…
I even got a bulkhead seat with no one in the center seat. Nice.

Back to Jax- Headed to the office to drop off my videotape with The CodeMonkey and set my Out-of-Office assistant for “never-coming-back” and I was outta there!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Off to the Stanley Cup Finals

Heading to Raleigh for the first Stanley Cup Finals game...

Hector the Connector & Yours Truly are heading to Charlotte then driving to Raleigh for the game...
Things that make ya go Hmmm: Is there a Hooters near the arena in Raleigh?

While you wait for any exciting content from the trip, I'll leave you with this Public Service Announcement:

Amazing out-