Back to Marina Hemingway and Departure for Key West
15 March 2017 | One of our favorite rides !
Our last few days were spent in Centro and Vedado, walking and visiting places we had not gotten to yet. With our 14 days expired, we moved back to the boat on Sunday the 5th. A severe cold front had moved through producing rough seas and high winds. We knew we would be delayed leaving, but not yet sure how long.
The previous weekend, seventy four yachts came in for the St. Petersburg to Havana race, the first since 1959. Marina Hemingway was buzzing, with more boats than they have seen in years. We were invited to their awards party and got to meet and talk with many of the boat crews. By shear coincidence, Gerry Douglas from Catalina was a crew on one of the yachts from St. Petersburg. Gerry was the designer of our boat, the CM440, and he has bought hull #60, the last one made. It was a surprise, and a great pleasure for us when he and his wife came on-board "Joy", to see how cruisers are using the boat he designed.
As everyone scrambled to get ready to return to the US, we all watched the weather and discussed departure procedures and how much it would cost to leave...
You pay all your fees, visas, etc. when you leave Cuba, and everything is on a cash basis so we all estimated our tabs and put aside more than what we thought it would cost for our exit "dispatcho". It appeared that the sea conditions would be good enough to leave on Wednesday the 8th, so Tuesday afternoon, we met with the Harbor Master to get our bill paid and notice to depart the next day. As we all waited for our "meeting" with the Harbor Master, we shared our sailing stories, Linx, a tall ship with a 9 ft draft had taken his dinghy out that day to be sure he wouldn't "bounce" of the inlet channel, and an Australian who has sailed around the world with stories, including pirates off the coast of Brazil, but was now headed to the Galapagos, and the St. Petersburg crews reliving their race stories. Everything was prepared and we again checked the weather ready to depart Cuba.
The morning of the 8th came and with early light it seemed calm and clear. Lynx left early to get out while calm with a high tide. We saw 15 boats move toward Customs ready to leave and decided it was a good time and pulled out about 9am for Customs. The clearance 'out' was much simpler and we were cleared to leave by 9:30, pulling out with 5-6 other boats all within sight, all headed 023 NE degrees bound for Key West. That is about the end of the "joyous" passage. Within an hour the winds started to build, and as we entered the Gulf Stream the seas began to climb. We sailed all the way to the Key West entrance light, but it was nearly 16 hours with extremely high winds and 10 ft seas, not a pleasant ride at all. All the predictions were wrong, and we both vowed never to make that long a passage under these conditions again if any doubt at all. Boats on the passage had mechanical and rigging failures including one that trailed with us due to a broken backstay, Finally, about 1 am we entered the Key West Channel, and anchored as quickly as possible to collapse exhausted and sleep for the night. In the morning we made calls to the Coast Guard and US Customs to check in, moved on to Key West Bight where we had a slip reserved for the rest of March. At last, what seems like a vacation !