The boat ride there I thought was cool. It was raining on the way out and the boat was hitting a lot of waves giving for a fun ride. L. and C. did not agree. L. took some Dramamine and quickly fell into a drug-induced sleep. The ship was a huge catamaran (2 pontoons slice through the water to give a smoother ride instead of the normal v-hull.) The boat ride lasts for 2 hours, (70 miles). They serve breakfast on the way out and lunch on the island. When we arrived we sent up camp and decided that we had plenty of time to explore the fort later. So we went snorkeling around the moat wall. I was amazed at how much coral had grown in the couple of hundred years the fort was here. It seemed to me that this could not possibly follow the story from the park rangers that it took hundreds of years for coral to grow an inch. There were thousands of fish. Even when standing on the dock just looking down I could see hundreds. We were having such a fun time snorkeling around the moat wall that we forgot to bring our underwater cameras. When we got out of the water we realized what a bad idea this was. One of the rangers said that they were expecting a cold front to bring wind through the area, and that meant the sand around the coral would get stirred up, making for less then perfect pictures. So let me apologize in advance for the picture quality that is seen here can not possibly show the rainbow of colors that I saw.
When I awoke I found out that they had traded a cup of alcohol for a grocery bag of freshly caught jumbo shrimp. Apparently the fishermen had a hangover and to get rid of and was willing to part with part of her catch. We boiled the shrimp and stuffed ourselves silly until we were all groaning that we could not eat anymore. D. and I went hunting for coconuts to help wash it down.
I had never seen a coconut with its shell still intact, much less hacked one apart. It was easier then I thought it would be, but then D. had also brought a sharp machete. We were told that the coconuts were good to drink if picked from a tree, and they were. It tasted like sweet water, but did not have any meat in them. We also found one that had fallen to the ground, which means they have meat but the milk is usually gone bitter by then. I think L. said it best when trying the fresh coconut. "This does not taste like coconut", and it does not. It is juicy and not as sweet as when bought already processed.
For Christmas Eve the forest rangers offer a little thing where everyone is invited into the fort's church to sing Christmas carols by candlelight. That was very cool and VERY different. They provided cookies and cake and we all sat around and sang. Since there was the north wind a lot of sailing ships had stopped here in their way to Cuba because the port there was supposedly impossible to get through with a north wind. None of them were too much into the singing that night but all of them that we talked to had plenty of interesting stories to tell. After the singing we snuck up to the top of the fort and looked up at the stars. With the nearest city lights 70 miles away, I saw as many stars as could rival any night I've spent in the desert. Since normally no one beside the rangers are allowed in the fort at night we snuck back down and no one was the wiser.
For Christmas day we went snorkeling and kayaking. L. and I had stocked up on dry foods while D. and C. had brought all MRE's (Military rations- Meals Ready to Eat.) I think that they had made the wiser decision, but for our Christmas dinner L. and I had fettuccini and Cheesecake. (Yes it was interesting making the cheesecake.) Our original plans were to leave on the 30th back to Key west because apparently there was supposed to be a huge influx of campers that were expected to try to escape Y2K away from civilization. That date was moved up sooner to the 28th when L. and I realized that the bad weather had caused us to hang around our camp too much and eat all our rations. The tropical storm that hit that day, only lasting a half-hour but still soaking everything, convinced D. and C. that it was a good day to go too. The trip back was interesting because it was sunny enough to spend the whole trip on the deck. D. and I ran around the deck experiencing a walking on the moon effect every time the boat would dip beneath you in a wave for a split second of weightlessness. This of course was ended by one of the deck hands chewing us out for acting like little kids and running. Everyone on the boat filled out comment cards about the boat ride and L. was chosen for a free trip out there again, for which we received a coupon for another trip.
This is our campsite.
This gives an idea of how big the fort is. It covers the entire island.
This shows how unsafe a lot of the fort was, there was nothing stopping you from a three story fall. I liked that they had not tried to improve it.
This is the remains of the coaling dock that we snorkeled around.
L. showing how little time it takes to get drenched in a tropical storm.
My version of a "snowman" on christmas. The only problem is that is 3 inches tall. (miracles of photography.)
L.'s christmas "snowman"
The people that took this picture thought our variety in hats was amusing. Who needs TV's with sunsets like this.
Coral would wash up onto an adjacent island and it was simply a matter of hunting through it.
Since it was a state park, you were not supposed to take anything, so we rounded some up in a 10 minuet span and took pictures instead.