Dry Tortugas & The Great Tilley Hat Caper

While in the Florida Keys we made the trip to the Dry Tortugas. The Dry Tortugas is a group of islands (keys) located about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Jefferson, a national treasure is located on Garden Key, which is one of the many keys that make up the Dry Tortugas.

Daily, one can take a boat ride on a catamaran out to the Dry Tortugas, specifically Garden Key, and tour Fort Jefferson. We boarded the Catamaran, the Yankee Freedom III, around 7:30 for the 2 1/2 hour ride to Garden Key. 82 degrees, very little wind, and brilliant sunshine is what the doctor ordered for the day trip out to Garden Key. Pristine, clear, blue water surrounds Garden Key. Snorkeling, hiking, swimming, and touring Fort Jefferson are all available activities while on Garden Key.

Float Plane
Float Plane

Yankee Freedom III
Yankee Freedom III
A landing float plane
A landing float plane

Fort Jefferson, is a large fort intended to protect the mainland from any foreign aggression by sea. Construction began in 1846 and the fort never did get completely built. The fortress walls, powder magazines, and officer quarters were built using over 16 million bricks. During the Civil War, the fort became a prison for Confederate POW’s. Samuel Mudd, of “your name is Mudd” fame was the most famous prisoner of Fort Jefferson. He was convicted of treason because he set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin. Mudd, claimed that he had no idea that the person he treated was John Wilkes Booth. After several years of incarceration, Samuel Mudd was released. A moat surrounds the fort. We took the “moat walk” which allows one to walk around the outside of the entire fort. Snorkeling and swimming is not allowed in the moat. But, on the ocean-side of the moat the water is shallow, clear, and is great for snorkeling.

Our day was interrupted for about an hour due to the Great Tilley Hat Caper:
There I am earlier in the day walking along the moat wearing my favorite Tilley Hat. Then I decided to go inside the fort.

I stayed inside the fort for about an hour. On the way out, I walked through that very same portico. In a split second as I entered the fresh air, a gust of wind, blew the hat off my head and it landed here:

Tilley hats are guaranteed to float.
Tilley hats are guaranteed to float.

I had given up the hat as lost. But, not Marti. She saw a challenge and by God she was taking the challenge head on. She searched for a Ranger, and found one immediately. She outlined the dilemma to the fellow and HE WAS ON IT! Since the waters in the moat are protected it is illegal to swim in the moat. To rescue the hat, it had to be fished out with a fishing pole or similar apparatus. An hour passed, the hat floated into a corner, and 3 Rangers kicked into the “search and rescue” mode.

One of the rangers, leaning out a cannon port, with long pole at hand, fished out the Tilley hat. It was truly a team effort!

After being reunited with my hat I personally thanked the park ranger who organized the “search and rescue” mission. I also, received a free seminar/lecture on the merits of using the chin straps on the hat.

Dudley Dooright on the Right...aka as Ranger Mike.
Dudley Dooright on the Right…aka as Ranger Mike.

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