Monday, June 5, 2017
Sukha and crew departed on Monday morning to head back to Key West, while our weather forecast continued to look grim. It was a cloudy, gloomy morning with SSE winds at 15kt and 2ft seas. We decided that this would be the best day to try to get in some diving since the weather conditions the next few days were calling for higher winds and seas up to 5-7ft. The boys had been itching to try spearfishing the Tortugas Bank since we’d heard a lot of great things about it so we set off for the banks in the morning.
The Tortugas Banks are coral reefs located about 11 miles from Garden Key and 2 miles from the Gulfstream with banks that are used by groupers and snappers that support a major fishery. It is the closest spot near the fort where you are allowed to spearfish with several mooring balls marking various reefs. After an hour and half ride out to the banks, we arrived at the first mooring ball and grabbed it. It immediately began pouring rain and the swells rocked the boat as the boys were getting their gear on. I was trying to stay dry on the bridge with my camera and yelled out, “well, this is just awesome!” Corey informed me that the mooring ball we were on marked a spot aptly named “Awesome.” Hmmm, coincidence?
Once the boys were in the water, Sophie and I went inside to stay dry. The dive was about 65ft and the boys were down about a half an hour. I watched as they did their deco stop on the mooring ball and when they surfaced, swimming toward the boat I saw that Randy had 2 large fish on the stringer! Corey had shot a 25″ red grouper and Randy speared a 23″ hogfish. Both were beautiful fish and it made the swelly and raining conditions all worth it. On our way back to the fort, the boys called in the fish to the ranger station. We were told prior to heading out there that if we speared any fish we needed to radio into the rangers and declare the fish when re-entering the park. This is basically so we can “register” the fish with them and they know that we didn’t spear them within the park limits which is forbidden.
Once we were back at the anchorage, we noticed 2 Air Force helicopters that had landed at the fort. We weren’t sure what they were doing there but we saw several uniformed and non-uniformed folks climbing into them. Some of the folks look like they had snorkel/swimming gear so we figured maybe it was just a training run out to the fort for some snorkeling. Once they were loaded up, we watched them take off – it was very cool! For a gloomy, rainy day it was certainly eventful.