Still in the Dry Tortugas

Stephen and Roberta Arnold
Sat 19 Jun 2010 01:14

Friday Jun 18 2010  9PM


I’m beginning to understand the cruisers dilemma of finding an anchorage they like but knowing they must move on. We’ e decided to spend an extra night here for no other reason than the beauty of the anchorage.


Last night the 3 crews of the Houston area boats got together for snacks on the beach at sunset. Is was a very pleasant evening as one of the boats was headed back to Houston after being out for two and a half years and they had lots of useful information.


At one point another couple off one of the boats at anchor joined us and they are here doing research on nurse sharks. This is one of the nurse shark mating grounds and mating season has just started. They are here to tag sharks and record information about any previously tagged sharks. This is their 19th year doing this. While we were enjoying the information they were sharing about nurse sharks, someone on the dock caught a nurse shark, so the couple went to investigate.


Roberta went with them and had her first ‘hands on’ encounter with a shark. Now for the story from a guest poster, here’s Roberta:


When the word on the beach got out that a shark had been caught to Wes and Theo our newly found nurse shark researcher sprang into action and I tagged along. At the pier some youngsters had snagged a fairly large fish. As she was pulled into the shallow water  Wes verified it was a nurse shark, the kind he and his wife come here to study. Ironically he had just finished telling the group about their work and how they are able to handle these huge fish and about their interesting mating ritual.  It took Wes and the boys a few minutes to get the hook out and Wes was doing his magic and the huge girl stood still for us. She had a tag on her fin which we were able to read and it was exciting knowing there would be some history on her.


I was fascinated by her size, she was 7 feet long (we didn’t have a tape but used a palm frond and then measured it). Apparently she is not yet a mature female but she was awesome, a wide body, all muscle. Her skin felt like fine sandpaper and she looked like a huge catfish as she didn’t have the profile and fins of the sharks we usually think of.  What a fabulous creature.  It was wonderful to see her swim away.


Today we found out from the tag number that this is the 4th time she had been sighted since 1998. Several years ago the same couple had saved her when she was found with a hook in her side. When first tagged he was under 36 inches.



Last night we had our first experience with the late night thunderstorm in a semi-crowded anchorage. One boat dragged and spent the next 2-3 hours trying to reset their anchor – interesting to watch especially after they stopped trying to anchor close to us. What amazed me are the boats that set their anchor, start the generator and A/C and go to bed. The boat that dragged almost hit a million dollar boat but there never were any lights from the expensive boat.


Today we went to Lighthouse key an island about 3 miles away. Excellent snorkeling. There is a shallow reef called Little Africa (based on its shape) that had an abundance of fish life.


A correction from the last post, the fish in the anchorage are tarpon not terrapin – I misunderstood what a neighbor said since I wouldn’t know the difference without a sign.


Tomorrow about 6PM we’ll be leaving for Key West for an early Sunday arrival.