The Tortugas are one of my favorite coastal cruising destinations although I've heard there have been some changes since the last time I was there. I was visited by a park ranger
but he was alone and just asked a few questions. In prior times it was not unusual for commercial
fishermen to cruise
through the anchorage and offer to trade
booze for seafood. The last time a small bottle of Captain Morgan
got us at least a gallon of fresh shrimp and 10 lb grouper. Now I hear thats not condoned, at least officially.
When others tell you there is nothing there, they are not kidding. There is no fuel, water, food
or much of anything besides a few t-shirts and some film. I don't know your boat but an 18 ft with a 150 mile or such cruise
range seems doubtful to me. There used to be a head
located on shore but a hurricane
destroyed it, I don't know if its been rebuilt. Otherwise it is use your own head or, as I've heard, when the tour boats arrive you can use theirs.
Depending on the weather, i.e., water temp, snorkeling can be fun. Water is clear and you can watch rays, barracuda, tarpon, and nurse sharks, the nurse sharks breed there but unless seriously molested are harmless. In the moat around the fort we commonly found good size lobster. As I recall
, the only fishing allowed is for a rod and reel, no spear fishing.
We generally stay 3-5 days and then head home, weather permitting. Unfortunately, the last few times I was there the Park Rangers would not relay weather info (liability I suppose) and you will be out of range of Key West vhf
. We got hammered a couple times coming home.
Whether you do it now or later, it is definitely worth doing.