BACK IN CANADA/WHAT HAPPENED WHEN WE LEFT CUBA AND WENT TO THE USA
29 June 2011
Jim and I are looking out our window. The wind is blowing from the North and its quite chilly outside. There are some sailboats on the horizon and although we envy the fact that they are sailing, we are happy to be inside where it is warm and dry. Besides, we have just booked our flights back to Emerald Seas. She is waiting patiently for us at Snead Island Boatworks in Palmetto, Florida. We are looking forward to next season's cruising adventures - this time we are going to revisit the pristine waters and beautiful islands of the Bahamas.
But, in the meantime, I better get my ass in gear and finish off the blog for the last cruising season! Procrastination is easy once you have settled into the day to day existence of life ashore. When we first arrived back in Canada we spent a couple of weeks moping, missing our carefree life aboard Emerald Seas. Eventually we adjusted to the change and our time was taken up with moving back into our home, setting up phones and TV, getting our power boat ready for boating in the nearby islands, family gatherings and time with friends. Add some gardening, aerobics and fitness training and before you know it, the memories of our carefree cruising life start to fade...........Until some unsuspecting family member or friend stops by and we can entertain them with stories about cruising and pirates and show them thousands and thousands of photos on our extra big TV screen.
And so it goes. There are no more excuses left. Its miserable outside. A perfect day for catching up with our blog!
Time to travel back to the month of June, Cuba and our passage back to the USA. Waiting for weather can be frustrating, especially when there is a possibility of a tropical depression heading towards you. Our boat insurance did not cover us in Cuba and we were getting anxious to return to the USA before any hurricanes could develop. The day after our failed attempt due to waterspouts, we set off. This time, sea conditions were excellent. Flat calm. No wind either and that means slow going with Yanni our engine. Not to worry, says I to Jim, the Gulf Stream, which travels at speeds up to 5 knots, will just carry us along to the Florida Keys. Add some engine power to the mix and we will be doing at least 10 knots!!!! We were pretty excited at the idea of the Gulf Stream rushing us to the USA!
Jim and I motored patiently up the West Coast of Cuba. No Gulfstream yet. Night falls and we are pumped. Any second now, we will be entering the Gulfstream. Morning comes. The current is against us and we are losing about 1 knot of speed. Must be some sort of back eddy. No problem, the Gulfstream will speed us along soon.... We motor patiently away from the North Coast of Cuba and take a heading towards Key West, Florida. The Gulfstream flows between Florida and Cuba.... Night falls and the current against us is only .5 knots. The Gulfstream has to be close now...Morning finds us motoring slowly through the glassy calm Florida Straights. According to Wikepedia "The Gulf Stream is typically 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide and 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) deep. The current velocity is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 2.5 metres per second (5.6 mph).". [ How could Jim and I miss such a huge ocean current??? What is wrong with our navigational skills? Chris Parker, our weather guru, had even supplied us with the GPS co-ordinates of the Gulfstream and we still missed it!!
Florida is on the horizon now. Time to think of more important topics. Homeland Security and the fact that we were coming from Cuba. What are the jails like in the USA? When can we expect the Coast Guard to come along and escort us to their nearest coast guard facility? Or how about a helicopter? Or something? We had been warned by many other cruisers that the USA will not welcome us if we come directly from Cuba. Not even the fact that we were Canadians or a Canadian registered vessel could help us...It was time to find out. Jim called the Coast Guard to let them know who we were and where we were coming from. They welcomed us to the USA and told us to give them another call once we had anchored our vessel. We had seen enough movies to know that this was just a trick and that any second now, the gun boats, helicopters, swat teams etc would have us surrounded! Nothing. No excitement to keep us awake after such a long, uneventful trip from Cuba.
We anchored and called them again. After reminding them of who we were and where we had come from, they ordered us to pull up anchor and make our way over to a dock so that we could be BOARDED AND INSPECTED. Now this is more like what we were expecting- an exciting conclusion to our 2011 cruising season. Then they told us that we had 24 hours in which to comply and that anything we bought in Cuba would be confiscated. There is not much to buy in Cuba except rum. 24 hours gave us plenty of time to drink all the rum.....
24 hours later, we presented Emerald Seas and ourselves to Homeland Security. We received a very friendly welcome but they did recommend that next time we visited Cuba and wanted to return to the USA, that we consider doing it via another country such as Mexico or the Bahamas. That way we were showing consideration for their laws. At the same time, they understood fully that the sailing route, via the Gulfstream (which we never did find) was the normal route for sailors. They never searched our boat. Celebration that night at Margariteville- Cheeseburger in Paradise and lots of margaritas! It was great to back in the USA!