Fort Jefferson is the largest brick fort ever built in the United States and stands on Garden Island 70 miles west of Key West in Florida within Dry Tortugas State Park - a 100 square mile open water park with seven small islands.

Construction started in 1846, and continued for thirty years, but was never finished because the development of rifled cannons made this type of fort obsolete.

When it was being constructed seven slave workers at the fort attempted to commandeer schooners to escape. It was also used as a prison during the American Civil War and had some notable inmates including Lincoln assassination conspirators.

You can get there by yacht, seaplane, or via Key West seaplane charters, and Yankee Freedom II ferry service.

Learn more about the history of Fort Jefferson at:

Explore Southern History                                  The Underground Railroad at Fort Jefferson

Dry Tortugas .com                                            National Park Service

We had good luck with the weather and currents and made a smooth overnight passage to Fort Jefferson from Key West. It’s a dramatic landscape to sail into with the fort standing prominently on Garden Island. The snorkeling is great with lots of fish to look at, including giant Groupers that swim around mooring structures, docks and boats.

They have very good composting outhouses, and you can buy lunch or use the shower on the ferry while it’s docked at the island.

It’s a beautiful and fun place to explore. Anchoring in the bay behind the fort is protected on three sides by small islands. Be sure to follow the instructions of the park rangers and anchor well away from the seaplane and ferry routes. These come and go regularly almost everyday.

We met some nice visitors, campers and fellow seafarers, while we were there. One of the best things about cruising is meeting other travelers and sailors, and of course, sharing food, beverages and stories.

Before heading out on our passage to Marina Hemingway we motor sailed across to Loggerhead Key to scuba a shipwreck. Later we took the dinghy over to the island to take photos of the lighthouse and have a look around. It's a stunning place, quiet and a little ghostly. We were the only people on the island at the time. When things are that quiet and relatively untouched, you feel an instant connection to nature and to life's long history on the Earth. You can feel origins there, and imagine the lives of the people who lived there over the centuries. I stopped for a moment and tried to imagine what it might have been like to build a lighthouse at such a place. We explored the place for a couple of hours and headed back Ventenar and off to Cuba.