Friday, May 12, 2017

Adios Cuba, Hola Estadas Unidas

Our time in Cuba had run out, so says the US Coast Guard, so it was time to wrap things up.  The Salty Dawg Rally had a farewell dinner on Saturday night sponsored by Marina Hemingway so Baxter and I got dressed up one last time.  Chris Parker, our weather router, advised the best weather if a boat had to leave, would be Monday morning.  We readied Terrapin with jacklines for offshore, water in the tanks, paid the marina bill, paid the customs fees and had a last Sunday night out with friends at Santy's paladar.

On Monday, Hank George (our rally director) played "air traffic controller" on the vhf radio from his slip on canal #4 - out of sight of the boats - and smoothly coordinated 16 boats tying up and clearing out at the customs dock which only held 4 boats at a time.  All 16 boats were through customs and on their way north before 9am!  In addition to our rally, there were also other boats leaving the marina at the same time trying to leave in the same weather window - including megayachts, catamarans, etc...and Hank was able to coordinate it all with the greatest of ease.  Oh and by the way, we should mention Hank was halfway up his mast and finishing a sail repair, using his handheld vhf while he was coordinating it all.

Though the weather window was the best it would be, it wasn't great.  The Gulf Stream (think Mississippi River) at its closest point to Havana was running almost due west to east and the wind was from the east, never a good combination.  Also, there were thunderstorms forecasted Monday night after sunset in the Gulfstream - with opposing wind and waves, this could get ugly.  We decided to motor sail and get through the stream as fast as possible and eliminate any concern with lightning and storms.  It was a brisk day of sailing, but all remained manageable.  After I came up for my night watch at 10pm, it looked as if we were going to go into Marathon, or continue to motor throughout the night.  Just then, we were hailed by Dorothy on Aviva who said she was 1.5 miles away and had just listened to the most recent weather forecast and the wind should be clocking southeast which would allow us to sail vs motor.  About every 10 min, we could add a couple more degrees off the wind and it was great.  I was off watch at 1am and we were still falling off the wind and were able to point towards The Elbow of the Keys.  By time I came back up at 6am, the wind was back from the east and we needed to gybe into the Gulf Stream in order to get some easting so we could continue sailing past Miami.  We continued to sail - gybing east and then gybing north again three more times until we finally were pointed due north with an east wind and had the gulf stream behind us.  We were able to time our entry into West Palm Beach for sunrise on Wednesday morning, just as the tide was switching.  Dorothy on Aviva and Norm and Claudia on Tawhaus were also going into the inlet as we arrived.  

We checked into customs in Riviera Beach, which was a cluster, but regardless, we had a celebratory lunch ashore.  We were back in the convenience of the US where most everyone speaks the same language, uses the same currency, where wifi is available just about everywhere, cell phone towers radiate coverage from every crevice and crack and life is just too easy.  We were also in a place where we tied up our dinghy to go to customs and shortly found it locked up by the marina - waiting for their $16/day payment before they would unlock it...that never happened to us in any other country.  I guess convenience has a price.  
All dressed up for the SDR Farewell Dinner - we even took showers!
The wind is a-blowin'  - notice the palm trees.  You can see Terrapin between the 2nd and 3rd palm trees from the left.
Last Cuban dinner at Santy's Paladar - Baxter, Kurt (Myananda), Peter (Onapua), Dan, Francine & Molly

Our route from Havana (bottom left) to West Palm Beach (the big red arrowhead halfway up the Florida coast).  Key West is the light house with the pink circle above Fort Jefferson.  It is approximately 90 miles from Havana to Key West.  The red houses represent the strongest point of the Gulf Stream, the blue pins are the east wall of the Gulf Stream and the anchors and green fish are the west wall.  The course we took is the yellow line.  The zigzags near Key Largo are where we gybed INTO the Gulf Stream (3x) to gain easting - the first one was at about sunrise on Tuesday morning.
With all the pounding into the gulf stream, there are bound to be a couple leaks.  I told Baxter about this leak as I went off watch and went to sleep.  I woke up to screwdrivers and dismantling...we had to get this under control because of it's proximity to our electronics (on the right side of the picture)
Leak under control, Baxter needed to get some sleep.



On the phone with Customs - while I sit in the customs office - No I can't explain that...but I had to call customs, get a number, and then wait in line and give customs the number they gave me.  All four of us were calling to see who could get through first - reminded me of trying to win tickets from radio stations in the 80s.
Terrapin anchored in US waters, check, US Customs cleared-in, check, $25 lunch, check, iPads and iPhones updated, check, Francine safe in her pfd on land, check.

2 comments:

  1. I can't believe you guys got in around the same time as me on Thursday. I heard you and Aviva on the VHF but I thought that you had arrived on the Wednesday. I think I tacked 4 times into the gulf stream. I also got green water down inside the boat but it taught me a big lesson about leaks. You would think that I would know it by now! Anyway great blog post. Did you see Kurt looking at his phone at Santy's. Fair winds. Hope to see you guys in the Chesapeake. (If I ever get there!)

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  2. Thanks Peter! You're right - we arrived Wednesday not Thursday - I'll have to fix that. Thanks for keeping me straight. Hope to see you in Virginia!!

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