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Sands shift in Dry Tortugas channel

Jan 1, 2003

Recent visitors to the Dry Tortugas, the group of sandy islands 70 mileswest of Key West, have noted the loss of a favorite channel due to shifting sands.

Now serviceable only by seaplane, Garden Key's north channel is shallow enough to walk across by anyone taller than five feet. It was reported in Ocean Navigator's special annual destinations issue Sail Away (Issue No. 86) that this channel was an exciting alternative to the more clearly marked and deeper entrance to the northwest of Garden Key.

The schooner Ocean Star, which regularly makes stops at Garden Key's Fort Jefferson in winter months, frequently barreled through the channel under sail when conditions were right. The vessel will no longer attempt the maneuver, according to its captain, Richard Jacoby.

Perhaps frustrated by the tricky channels that surround Fort Jefferson, Jacoby fired the schooner's cannon on the 150-year-old fort on a recent trip, startling a group of tourists gathered on the beach. "There's a plaque inside the fort that says Fort Jefferson was never fired at,"Jacoby said, as the cannon smoke swirled around his head. "Maybe now that we've blasted them with our cannon they'll have to re-word it to say, 'except by the schooner Ocean Star!"