People of the Salt Water

13 July 2016 | Norfolk, Virginia
13 June 2016 | Charleston S. Carolina
22 May 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
06 May 2016 | Varadero, Cuba
02 May 2016 | Marina Gaviota, Varedero, Cuba
27 April 2016 | Boot Key Harbour, Florida Keys
10 March 2016 | Green Cove Springs, Florida
28 December 2015
22 June 2015 | Toronto, Canada
07 June 2015 | Green Cove Springs Marina, near Jacksonville, Florida
01 June 2015 | Exchange Island, Jacksonville, Florida
30 May 2015 | Sailing up the Florida Straits
29 May 2015 | Sailing up the Florida Straits
26 May 2015
22 May 2015 | Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas
19 May 2015 | Highborne Cay, Exhumas, Bahamas
17 May 2015 | Anchored at Big Majors Spot, near Staniel Cay, Exhumas
15 May 2015 | Black Point, Exhumas

North on the Waterway

13 July 2016 | Norfolk, Virginia
Belinda & Kit, Hot and sticky!
Picture shows yacht Impressionist waiting for an ICW Swing Bridge to open

View more pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/yacht.quilcene

We stayed over a week in Charleston, South Carolina. OCC Port Officers Emmett and Mecca were so helpful and welcoming, giving us a guided tour and some back ground info about the city and surrounding area and inviting us into the Yacht Club for sundowners, and their home for dinner.

We spent several days wandering about Charleston, enjoying its Southern Charm; cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era houses.

We had been hoping to sail out and up to Morehead, just south of Cape Hatteras but the winds always seemed to be against us. Jim & Ann on ‘Impressionist’ were also waiting there and we eventually decided to give up and go ‘inside’ on the ICW.

This turned out to be a great plan as many stretches of the Atlantic ICW have been along natural rivers, the Waccamaw and Pungo Rivers for instance; so beautiful, wild and scenic. We've seen bald eagles, a golden eagle, osprey, dolphins, snakes, deer, turtles/terrapins, and even a black bear!

We’ve followed long stretches, up to 21 miles, of dead straight man-made land cuts, mostly cut through mud and clay substrata but occasionally blasted out of the bedrock. The 1088 mile Atlantic ICW certainly is an incredible feat of engineering. There are many anchorages along the way and also docks and marinas we can pull into when we need a land ‘fix’.

We travelled a couple of days with Impressionist then left them to continue north as we headed up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilmington is a University town that is now home to Alison, an ex-MBA researcher who I’d promised to look up if ever we passed this way. That was back in 2007 so she was a bit surprised to hear from me! It was nice to catch up over drinks and Alison and Sheila offered to drive us to a big supermarket to stock up our fridge and stores.

This is really helpful as supermarkets always seem to be on the edge of town in the US and with no land transport it’s a challenge to keep the cupboards full!

We also stopped for a few days at Oriental, a charming little town (population 900) that was holding its annual 'Croaker' Festival - the BIG event of their year. It seems to be an alternative to July 4th Celebrations, as it was held 1-3rd July. They had a (very funny) parade (see Picasa pics), and the southern country music and seafood was excellent! We watched the brilliant Saturday night firework display from the comfort of Quilcene out on the anchor.

We left on July 3rd and rather than head to another town for July 4th Celebrations we spent a very quiet night in a remote anchorage - perfect peace!

It’s been VERY hot here recently, up to 38C so our cabin is often like an oven. There have been one or two spectacular thunderstorms triggered by all this heat; winds that whip up to 40 knots out of nowhere and incredible lightshows across the skies. They are great to watch but can also be quite frightening when we are anchored all alone in the middle of an out-of-the-way bay.

We are now in Norfolk, Virginia tied up on a slip courtesy of the local OCC Port Officer, Gary. It’s in the historic Freemason area, a lovely part of town with cobbled, shady streets. Again we have been made very welcome and Gary drove us to a large supermarket – really helpful!

Due to the excessive heat we have a new plan - plan 'D' is to leave the boat in Deltaville a little earlier than anticipated - around 25th July. Then hire a car and drive to the Blue Mountains to cool down for a few days before flying up to Canada on 2nd August to see Kits brother Peter en route to the UK.

So we’ll be back in the UK in early August.

Only a short distance to go into Chesapeake Bay until we get to Deltaville so we'll explore Chesapeake in the spring when it's a bit cooler!!

Third Time Lucky!

13 June 2016 | Charleston S. Carolina
Belinda & Kit
Picture shows a Brunswick Live Oak (and Kit of course!)

View more pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/yacht.quilcene

Charleston, South Carolina - we finally got here on our third attempt! The first time we'd set off from Cuba in early May to sail direct to Charleston but pulled into West Palm Beach because the fridge wasn't working and we were running out of gas for the cooker. No hot or cold drinks - not to mention melted butter!

The gas problem was easily sorted with a refill but the earliest a refrigeration engineer could come was to be 2 weeks. We phoned ahead to Vero Beach and found someone who would come in a couple of days so we sailed up the coast to Fort Pierce inlet just a day sail, away and entered the ICW there.

We headed north up the 'ditch' getting a soaking from a nasty squall, but arrived at Vero Beach where we picked up a mooring. Jim and Anne on 'Impressionist' were also moored there; we'd last seen them 2 years ago so it was great to catch up and also help celebrate Jim's birthday. Vero Beach is a great place for yachties to stop as there is a free bus to the shopping mall and also the beach if you want to go. This is very handy as we sometimes have to walk miles or pay for a taxi to get the shopping.

The fridge man came as promised and topped up the refrigerant but diagnosed a 'difficult to trace gas leak and a rusty compressor' - in other words we needed a new fridge! ..but at least it was working for now.

With a reasonable forecast we left Vero Beach and headed back down the ICW to Fort Pierce where waves were crashing into the inlet! We battened down the hatches and headed out to sea, with considerable lurching and crashing into the rough seas. However things calmed down once we moved away from the inlet - guess we'd got the tide wrong! Some of these east coast inlets are narrow so if wind is opposed to tidal current the result can feel like being in a washing machine (I imagine!).

So - we were having a great time out there enjoying the sailing and were again looking forward to arriving in Charleston. On second day the weather forecast warned us of Tropical Storm 'Bonnie' which was heading for S. Carolina.

In the Caribbean and southern US, weather problems start with the first warning termed a 'low', or 'depression'. This is reported and tracked in case it deepens; it can then turn into a 'Tropical Low' which, if conditions are conducive, may upgrade into a 'Tropical Storm' with winds of 39 - 73 Mph. If conditions deteriorate further the next step would be 'Hurricane' with winds of over 74 Mph, and we wouldn't want to be out at sea if that happens!

A quick look at the charts showed that we could make St Simons Inlet and go to Brunswick, Georgia by dawn next morning so we changed course. The coast is shallow for a long way offshore here, and the St Simons light marking the start of the approach channel is 11 miles offshore! Our approach seemed to last forever but was interesting as we saw the local Shrimp Boats dredging along the channel edges. Our mouths watered at the thought of all those fresh shrimp - shrimp here = 4" prawns!

We finally tied up in Brunswick Landing marina. As we now had a delivery address Kit immediately ordered a new fridge and some charts for further north.

It seems we struck lucky because although we had to pay for a berth in the marina, the marina Yacht Club offered free beer every day and free wine three nights a week! Other perks were free bicycle rental, free laundry and free wifi - also there was a Memorial Day party with no charge for drinks or food - not a bad deal!

We enjoyed some great evenings chatting to other boaters over sundowners. Most people travelled up and down the ICW on the east coast, although there were a couple of other visiting foreign yachts. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, also interested to hear tales of our travels and Atlantic crossing.

The fresh shrimp proved to be as good as anticipated, and there was a weekly fresh vegetable market where a stall sold delicious crab cakes. Another plus was a weekly music group so I got to play my clarinet to the accompaniment of guitars and a keyboard!

We doubled up on our mooring lines but Storm Bonnie passed nearby with only a windy day to show for it where we were moored. We heard that Charleston was pelted with torrential rain and strong winds so we'd made the right decision. Making the most of the facilities we cycled around the town and along a nearby inlet. We cycled to the supermarket almost every day to stock up our cupboards, and washed everything including cushion covers.

Brunswick is a sprawling town but has nice old area with fine old timber houses. There are a number of huge Live Oak trees around the town (see above pic). These are not the oaks we are used to in the UK; the leaves are shiny and a different shape and they are an evergreen variety - hence the name 'live'. The hanging 'stuff' is called Spanish Moss; it's a type of Bromeliad that seems to drape on trees all over the South US apparently causing no damage to them as it's not a parasitic species.

The fridge arrived and Kit spent a day fitting it; this involved mounting a cold plate in the fridge and a compressor in a separate compartment. It was hot work so the free cold beer afterwards was a pleasant reward!

At last we were ready to go but now another tropical storm threatened, Storm 'Colin', and Brunswick was right in its path! Again we checked all the lines and took down our large sunshade ready for storm force winds. Luckily Colin veered away from us a little but we did have torrential rain all day and a brief spell of 35 knot winds. The weather gods must be looking after us!

Eventually things settled down and we set sail once again for Charleston. We could have headed north on the Intra Coastal Waterway but in Georgia and S Carolina it is notoriously windy with a lot of shoaling, and it would mean motoring all the way. As it turned out we did have to motor a lot as we lost the wind during the night. Nonetheless it was a good passage with dolphins accompanying us on and off and a beautifully starry night with flat calm seas. We arrived at Charleston approach in the morning just in time to catch the last of the flood tide and here we are!

More about Charleston once we've had time to explore!

Three days in Havana

22 May 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows street art in Habana Vieja

View more pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/yacht.quilcene

Tearing ourselves away from the marina resort swimming pool and bar we took an air conditioned bus to Havana, deciding that although Camiones cost only a fraction of our $10 fare we'd rather not travel like cattle in a truck!

With the help of the marina receptionist we'd booked into a Casa Particulare in Habana Vieja , the old town. Casa accommodation started out as a room in someone's house, mainly for Cubans as they were not previously allowed to stay in tourist hotels - even if they could afford it which was unlikely! Nowadays some of these Casa's are almost like hotels (as was the one we stayed in at Cienfuegos) but some are still like staying with a family.

Ours was clean and tidy with a bathroom close by just for our use. Our host was Yoandy and his parents Juana and Luis. Yoandy is a friendly, helpful young man with a big smile. He speaks good English and is still taking lessons in between working in another larger Casa. Their home is in an old apartment block, complete with dodgy plumbing - although we always managed to take a shower it was pot luck whether it was a hot or cold trickle!

Yoandy gave us breakfast on the first morning - a big plate of tropical fruit, followed by omelette and bread. He was very chatty and informative about Havana and gave us some useful tips on what to see. He told us Luis would be serving breakfast next day as he would be working, and made us smile when he said that Luis was worried because he doesn't speak English. In the event we managed very well with our smattering of Spanish.

Emerging from our room into the old town on the first evening I couldn't stop taking pics! The once-fine old buildings, now dilapidated and in dire need of renovation still look amazing, and there are old cars and bici-taxis everywhere. We wandered down to Plaza Vieja (Old Square) where music emanated from bars restaurants and cafes. The square is surrounded by lovely old buildings, Gaudi-inspired art noveau ones and a sprinkling of art deco windows. Most have been renovated and painted the bright colours that Cubans love. One of the larger places housed a microbrewery - yay!

We were immediately captivated with the music, food and vibrant atmosphere.

We spent two days just exploring the old town, with its four colonial plazas, various museums and numerous historical buildings there is no shortage of sights to see! We decided to limit ourselves to one museum, the Museo de la Revolución which is housed in the former Presidential Palace. It was constructed in the early 1900's and used by a string of corrupt Cuban presidents. They obviously enjoyed the better things of life, unlike the Cuban population, as the interior was decorated by world famous Tiffany's of New York.

The actual museum presented the revolution chronologically with text, blood stained artefacts and military uniforms, and often grisly photographs. ..along with mucho propaganda about the socialist regime. It was informative and interesting but we were glad to emerge into present day Havana and find a café for a cool drink.

We had a small upset when a bank machine kept my card. We tried to retrieve it by asking the security attendant to ring for someone to open it. After a lot of excited gesticulating and chatter we managed to understand that the bank was closed for repairs but 'a man would come at 12 noon'. High noon came and went with no sign of the man; the attendant said 'this is Cuba' with a shrug! It was obvious we were getting nowhere so I rang England and cancelled my card.

We celebrated Kit's birthday with dinner in a slightly more upmarket restaurant than our usual choice; we ate lobster and red snapper whilst we were entertained by local musicians, winding up the evening with cubalibras in the old square.

On our final day we took a long walk over to Centro Habana and along the Paseo de Marti, or Prado. This European style boulevard was completed in the mid 1830's and is modelled on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. At the top of the Prado is the east end of the famous Malecón, a mile long seafront promenade. We began to walk along it but after a short time the high temperatures beat us and we took shelter in a small shady café for lunch and a cold drink. We couldn't face the long walk back so we found a bici-taxi who, after muchos haggling agreed to take us back to Vieja for CUC$2. The poor guy sweated so much using pedal power to transport us that we took pity on him and paid his original asking fare of CUC$3!

We thoroughly enjoyed Havana, although we noticed that many of the prices have taken a hike since our Lonely Planet guidebook was printed in 2015. It's a pity because locals are still on very low wages and living conditions for them have not improved significantly.

Back aboard Quilcene in the marina we found that our fridge was failing, worse still it was using up all our battery power so there was nothing for it except to turn it off! We bought bags of ice to save the food and keep the beer cold whilst waiting for someone to come and fix it.
Sadly this was not to be, apparently only one man could do it and he was off sick. Francisco, the dockmaster said 'this is Cuba'!

One last frustration came on the morning we were leaving when we discovered that our main gas bottle was empty. Normally we would exchange it for a full one in the marina but, as an apologetic Francisco said again - 'is not possible; this is Cuba'!

Sailing back across the Straits of Florida and around the SE corner of Florida we had a very fast passage; winds were a light 10-12 knots but the Gulf Stream literally carried us at speeds of up to 10 knots. We were aiming for a 4 day passage to S. Carolina but with no fridge and only a small amount of gas in a spare bottle we decided to turn into West Palm Beach. With the help of the Gulf Stream it had taken only 37 hours coming back as opposed to 66 hours in the opposite direction!

A final comment on Cuba;

To understand Cuba today it helps to have a brief bit of history; Cuba's history is similar to that of many of the Caribbean Islands falling into British, Spanish, French, and American hands over the years. After various attempts Cuba gained nominal independence from Spain and America in 1902 (with the US keeping Guantanamo Bay) but then suffered at the hands of Dictator Presidents. The last one, Batista gave the American mafia a free hand in Havana in return for a percentage of their gambling profits. Havana became a playground for the American mobsters with its casinos and brothels. Batista and his associates ran a cruel regime, closed public services and amassed a personal fortune whilst the rest of the population were left to survive however they could, many starving to death.

A young lawyer named Fidel Castro was unhappy with the way Cuba was headed and was due to stand for election in 1952 but President Batista staged a military coup and cancelled the Cuban elections.

Then began a bloody 7 year struggle culminating in 1959 with the popular Castro and his supporters (including Camilo Cienfuegos and Ché Guevara) finally being welcomed into Havana by cheering Cubans.

Unlike previous leaders, Castro wanted to raise the living standards of the Cuban people. He took over the glitzy hotels and divided them up as homes for the rural poor. He nationalised industry and tried to control and redistribute wealth. Thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers were re-employed and schools and hospitals re-opened. His aim was to give all Cubans a home, free education and health care as well as ration books to ensure that no-one starved.

This wasn't popular with everyone, particularly the Americans who'd had their Cuban interests seized. However the vast majority of Cubans were given a minimum standard of living and they hailed Castro as a hero.

America turned its back on Cuba because they had been doing (often dodgy) business with Batista. The US imposed a trade embargo (still in place today although relaxing somewhat), cancelling its sugar quota, Cuba's main export, and crippling the Cuban economy. A defiant Castro then allied Cuba to the Soviet Union and the country became fully Communist.

With an outlet for their sugar crop and access to oil the Cuban economy picked up and the standard of living improved for most. Things continued under Government control, with the US making many unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Castro and take control, including the famous 'Bay of Pigs'' fiasco.

When the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1991 Cuba was left standing alone, losing its trading partner as well as various subsidies. Determined to defend all they'd fought for Castro announced a 'Special Period in a time of peace' - drastic austerity measures. Almost overnight the lives of all Cubans took a turnaround and every day became a battle to survive. Many fled across the Florida Straits in hope of a better life and many perished on this route. Money, food and basic comforts were all in very short supply but the Cuban peoples' resourcefulness somehow got them through. This resourcefulness shows today in the old cars that they somehow manage to keep in working order and indeed put to use to make a living.

After three terrible years during which the average Cuban lost a third of their body weight, Cuba began to forge closer links with Venezuela which helped a little. Recovery was slow and still underway today.

In 2006 Fidel stepped down in favour of his brother Raul Castro, who began a set of reforms including allowing Cubans access to tourist hotels and allowing the purchase of mobile phones, electronic goods and cars and homes (the last two not really an option for most low paid Cubans). Raul also began to allow a small amount of private enterprise, and relations with the US have improved somewhat as Obama loosened restrictions on US-Cubans visiting relatives.

Today life is far from Western style capitalism and obviously still not easy for the Cuban people. Wages are very low and there is little in the way of luxuries on the shelves of shops. However there is a reasonable infrastructure, crime rate is low and police presence is very low key.

We found the Cuban people to be very friendly, happy and helpful. Despite hardships the people seem to celebrate life with music and salsa at every opportunity whilst looking hopefully to the future.

From what we saw most Cubans do not regret the Revolution, quite the opposite in fact. The older ones probably remember the desperate situation before Castro took control. Castro famously said 'History will absolve me' - only time will tell....................

First Impressions of Cuba

06 May 2016 | Varadero, Cuba
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows musicians outside Cienfuegos Bar/Cafe

View more pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/yacht.quilcene

We've been in Cuba a week now; When we pulled into the marina there was a welcoming party of dockmaster, Customs & Immigration, Police and Health officials, although contrary to what we'd heard from other yachties who'd checked in elsewhere and had all the different authorities on board, once they'd seen us arrive they drifted away leaving only one official to come aboard Quilcene and fill in all the forms for everyone. Joel from the Ministry of Health was very helpful and friendly and the whole process was completed in less than 30 mins. Perhaps he was elected because he spoke very good English!

Anyhow, this was quite a relief as we were tired and hot after the passage.

Cuba has long intrigued us, what is life like in a Socialist Republic? Is it really a daily struggle with downtrodden people queuing for hours to take home a loaf of stale bread? We knew that things were gradually changing here - i.e. the recent visit of a US President, but how has it been and how is it now?

Hopefully some of these questions will be answered by the time we leave!

The resort that Marina Gaviota is situated in is by no means representative of Cuba. We are surrounded by hotels and time-shares, together with expensive shops and restaurants. However it does make a good safe base to leave Quilcene. The marina itself is new and vast - and almost empty! We are one of only a handful of foreign boats in a marina built to berth 1100. Apart from us visiting boats there is a fleet of large catarmarans and motor boats which take coachloads of European tourists out on swimming/sunbathing/fishing trips daily. We know the tourists are principally Europeans because US citizens are still not allowed (by the US) to visit except for special purposes. I suspect this marina is hoping for a relaxation in this and an influx of Americans!

Our first trip into Varadero town was to see the Mayday parade and celebrations. Unfortunately the local bus was late that day so we missed the 8am parade. I guess it's held that early because later in the day the temperature soars to 38C and is too hot even for locals to be out in the sun!

Nevertheless when we arrived in town the Cubans were out in force. There was lots of music, dancing and appetising smells. The local beer (lager) was on sale at CUC $0.50 cents a can (CUC $2 in the resort bar). Incidentally 1 CUC dollar is equivalent to 1 USD. Many people proudly wore socialist red and the atmosphere was one of happy celebration. We wandered about, stopping for a fish roll - delicious and only 25 cents - and cold drinks. A dancing crowd was gathered around some drummers, one of whom had been drumming so long and hard that his fingertips were bleeding and bandaged (See Picasa pics) - still he drummed on! The whole town seemed to be out enjoying the day.

After a while we found a quiet Bodeguita for lunch then returned to Quilcene quite exhausted by the heat.

We'd already seen many of the old cars for which Cuba is famous; prior to 2008 Cubans were not allowed to buy or sell vehicles, and there were few foreign imports. Even today only 3.8% of Cubans own cars, mostly Old Ladas, ancient American cars and a few others. These have, of necessity, been lovingly cared for, spare parts cobbled together or cannibalised wherever possible from those that finally bit the dust.

The best ones are often used as taxis to subsidise low incomes, whilst others, held together by bits of wire, string and cardboard serve as transport.

With the aim of seeing more of life in Cuba we hired a car for a couple of days and headed off towards Cienfuegos on the south coast. As soon as we left the resort zone it was obvious how resourceful Cubans have to be; transport is often a bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. There are some buses, but as monthly salaries are still $25 tops, locals use Camiones, or trucks to move between cities. These resemble cattle trucks and look most uncomfortable but we often saw people queuing for them. Out in the countryside horse and carriage seemed to be more popular.

Straying from the main routes, roads are often deeply pitted dirt roads, even in towns, so we had to take great care not to take wrong turns.

Away from the towns there was very little traffic, but even so it took us 4 hours to travel 177kms. We found a Casa Particular (sort of B&B) on Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos, where we were welcomed with a Mojito cocktail we as sat on a deck over the bay and watched the sun sinking.

Cienfuegos is especially interesting for its architecture, a varied mix of early 1900's palaces and colonnades arranged around Jose Marti Square and listed as a World Heritage Site. We enjoyed coffee the inevitable music as we browsed around the sites and shops.

The square appeared to be quite busy and we discovered we were there on the same day as a party of Americans off the very first cruise ship allowed to visit Cuba. History in the making! We chatted to one passenger who said there were 700 people on board and of those 350 were journalists!

From Cienfuegos we made our way to Playa Giron in the Bahia de Cochinos, or Bay of Pigs. This was the site of a US backed invasion back in 1961. The invasion was a classic David and Goliath struggle in which David, in the form of Cuba, won the day, seriously embarrassing the US and demanding $53 million worth of food and medicines in return for the 1189 captured prisoners.

Today the bay is nothing more than another beach and the site of a derelict holiday camp.

Back aboard Quilcene we are making plans to visit Havana for a few days, so no doubt there will be more pictures and chat about this fascinating country.

Cuba!

02 May 2016 | Marina Gaviota, Varedero, Cuba
Belinda & Kit
Picture shows an old Vauxhall Cresta


We arrived in Varedero, Cuba on Friday 29th April, after a great overnight sail across the Florida Straits. It was so worth waiting for the right conditions.

It’s not quite what we expected yet as the marina is situated in a large resort. However there are great facilities on hand including a pool complete with its own bar! We’re not used to such luxury but will be happy to make the most of it.

It’s not too expensive here plus we can get wifi, which apparently is rare in Cuba, so we’ve decided to leave Quilcene here and go travelling to Havana and other parts of Cuba by car/bus/train. That way we get to come back between trips for a spot of R&R!

We already had a taste of the real Cuba when we took a bus into nearby Varedero Centro on Mayday to see the celebrations. More info and pics will follow soon.

Going against the flow!

27 April 2016 | Boot Key Harbour, Florida Keys
Belinda & Kit
Picture shows West Palm Beach by night

View more pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/yacht.quilcene

Late April finds us in Boot Key Harbour, Florida Keys.

We made our way down the ICW as far as West Palm Beach. The anchorage there was right in front of the town so very handy to dinghy ashore for shops, restaurants etc. West Palm Beach is very cruiser-friendly with a free tram/bus that we could take to the Publix supermarket, and another $1 bus to the laundry.

The ICW had been great but lots of concentration needed to stay in the dredged channel. One enduring memory of it will be the lonely whistle of the goods train; the railway line runs parallel to the ICW so every few hours we’d hear ‘Wooo-oo Wooo’ as it trundled past crossings. It seemed louder and closer at night when everything was still. We finally saw the train as we waited to cross the line whilst cycling in West Palm Beach (see Picasa pics).

Friends Glenys and Don (Aguatherapy) were staying in Fort Lauderdale and luckily had transport, so they picked us up for a visit to ‘Bluewater Charts’ there, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the Longhorn Steak House. There was lots to catch up on as we’d last seen them when they visited us in Modbury – and we ate steak then too if I remember correctly! Sure beats pizza Glenys!

We were waiting for a suitable weather window to sail to Cuba, a passage of around 2 days – or so we thought. Our route crosses the 80 mile wide Florida Strait and therefore directly crosses the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream has to be treated with respect as it flows at up to 2/4 knots at times, and if the wind is in the wrong direction the seas can become very rough. So we waited.

During this time we hired ‘Boris’ Bikes – ‘Sky’ bikes to be correct, heavy bikes with solid tyres – and cycled over the bridge to take a look at the actual Palm Beach. It is a lovely beach (sorry no pics) but so posh that there are no ice cream stalls, no shade and no shops along the beach. Perhaps the owners of the very expensive looking houses thought it would bring down the tone of the place!

Eventually we found an ice cream parlour a few blocks back and enjoyed a $7.50 (!) single scoop cone. I guess we can be comforted by the fact that it cost us nothing to drop the anchor and stay nearby, whilst homeowners and holidaymakers have to pay top dollar!

Eventually the weather gods smiled and we set off on 24th hoping to get to Cuba in one go, sailing south and west around the Keys until just south of Marathon then heading across the Strait. We chose to go outside the Keys as we’d be night sailing and expected to be south of Marathon after 28 hours. This was to be a bail out point if necessary. The first day’s sailing was great with the wind on the beam giving us speeds of up to 6 -6.5knots. It was great to be out on blue waters again! We saw several turtles surfacing and a pod of dolphins played around us as we sped on.
During the night however we hit adverse currents and our progress slowed to 2-4 knots. We know now that the whole area is influenced by Gulf Stream. This continued all next day so instead of arriving at Marathon on 25th we sailed slowly through a second night arriving at dawn. By this time the forecast was not as favourable to cross to Cuba so we are currently on a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon playing the waiting game again.

At least we can catch up on our sleep – and there’s a great steak and lobster place with a good happy hour!

At present it’s looking good for a Thursday night crossing…watch this space!
Vessel Name: Quilcene
Vessel Make/Model: Bowman 40
Hailing Port: Plymouth, UK
Crew: Kit and Belinda
About:
In our previous lives, Belinda worked as a marine biologist at the MBA Plymouth and Kit was a surveyor for a marine civil engineering company. Over the years we had sailed the south west of England and northern France. [...]
Extra: Quilcene, a Bowman 40, is a masthead cutter designed by Chuck Paine and built in 1991. The name is an American Indian word meaning 'People of the Salt Water', which we feel suits us very well. Quilcene is also a town on the West coast of the USA near Seattle.
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