Woo Hoo! We Finally Made It.
06 March 2016 | Key West, Florida, USA
Beth / mostly sunny and windy
By 0700 hours we were underway again, motorsailing once more but with more sail than motor this time, on our last leg of this excruciatingly long trip.
We cruised into Key West, past the Disney Wonder tied up at the cruise ship dock, to the anchorage on the west side of Fleming Key. There were dozens of boats at anchor but we found a spot near where we stopped in 2012. After some phone calls to family and to the Small Vessel Reporting Line at Homeland Security to let them know we had arrived, we dinghied to Key West Bight Marina where we joined the dozens of boats tied at the dinghy dock. A visit to the office and a few dollars later, we had a sticker on the outboard motor entitling us to tie up there for a week, keys to the showers, and a taxi on the way to take us to the airport.
I am VERY happy to report that contrary to what we have heard many times about Immigration and Customs officials in Key West (and indeed, experienced some of when we left the US in 2012) our experience was just great. I did hear Jim gasp and I’m sure my face turned ashen when the officer who opened the door at their airport office said very firmly, “No. We don’t process boats here.” Fortunately he quickly followed up with, “Except on Sunday mornings between 1 and 1:30 am.” A big “gotcha” grin flashed across his face as we started to breathe again and he welcomed us in.
We filled out a form with boat statistics and handed over vessel documentation and our passports. Within 20 minutes we had a new cruising permit, ($19. Payable by credit card) passports stamped, some cheery conversation and we were on our way. There were no questions about what we had on board (and I had tossed 4 potatoes, 3 limes, 6 carrots and 2 beautiful peppers – just so I wouldn’t have to lie about produce in our stores! Drat!) The officer confirmed that we must report in by telephone at every stop along the way, but we do not have to appear in person.
We went to Pepe’s for dinner – a favourite stop from last time. They have been in business for over 100 years and they know what they are about. Jim had the largest slab of prime rib I think I have ever seen, with baked potato and crisp asparagus, while I enjoyed Mahi Mahi Florentine, with baked potato and fresh green beans. (We took part of that beef home to eat with sautéed peppers and onions for dinner the next night!) With stomachs full to bursting, we then set off on a quest for internet. Oddly enough, we could not find a single place to sit down and have a coffee and wifi anywhere close to Key West Bight Marina. We finally stopped a couple of people walking along with Starbucks cups in hand. They pointed us toward the trolley stop a few blocks and a corner ahead. And oddly once more – there were no seats and tables inside! But we perched on a ledge and downloaded our emails and messages. It was so good to be in touch.
Back at the boat, we fell into bed with relief that the passage was over, and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
At 4 am, Jim woke up with the feeling that he should just go out to the cockpit and have a look at things. We could feel that the wind was up and the rocking this way and that indicated some wind against current action. Sure enough, he watched for about 20 minutes and then I heard the call, “Beth! Get up! We’re dragging!” I scrambled into my clothes as he started the engine. By the time he hurried to the foredeck, I had us in gear and moving forward. Of course it was still dark so we circled a bit trying to find a clear spot to drop anchor again. We settled almost in the channel and sat up on anchor watch till dawn.
And the pattern on the chart plotter was the weirdest one either of us has ever seen! We always set a waypoint when we stop, and usually start the track feature that shows how the boat moves around that waypoint as the current or wind moves us one way and then another. We like to see a nice even smiley face. This was a strange sort of triangle/trapezoid (except it wasn’t really because it had no parallel sides – just 3-4 straight sides and 3-4 angles) that went 360 degrees around our waypoint. As we watched the other boats around us, we could see that 3 or 4 of them were out of sync with the others, somewhat like us. We wondered if the full keel boats were the ones with the most movement.
Dawn came and we drank coffee as we pondered our next moves. A few phone calls later, we found that there were moorings available over at the municipal mooring field on the east side of Fleming Key, so by 9 o’clock we up anchored again and followed the channel around the top of the Key. The wind was very strong so it was a bit of a challenge picking up the ball, but we are a good team at this and as I powered Madcap up close, Jim caught the pennant, ran a line through it and hauled it back on board. I had to power up again to allow enough slack in the line for him to get the line secured around a cleat, and we were both relieved when it was done.
Another nap, some lunch and we found our way into Garrison Bight to register. The $18.64 per day is money well spent for peace of mind. The wind is supposed to blow really hard for the next few days and we doubt that we will be able to leave till Sunday. It really does seem like this whole season has been hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. But we will make the best of it. That long passage is behind us; we are securely moored; Key West is a great place to explore and enjoy.