Passage from Puerto Morelos, Mexico to Key West
16 May 2009 | Approaching Key West - Daniel at the bow trying to see land with the binoculars
With our buddy boat s/v Beaudacious we talked long and hard about when to start the 370 mile passage from Puerto Morelos to Key West, across the Yucatan Peninsula, the Florida Straits and the Gulf Stream. Though we had done longer passages before, we were a bit concerned about this passage because the winds tend to come from the east or northeast, precisely from the direction we needed to sail. Additionally, we were going to be crossing the Gulf Stream which originates in the Yucatan Peninsula and carries north & east bound currents of 2-5 knots. While we can ride the Gold Stream current very nicely, if the wind comes from the north or east it can make the passage choppy and potentially dangerous. Additionally, weather reports were mixed with Chris Parker telling us that we should not leave on Saturday as we had to arrive by Sunday night or Monday morning. A low pressure system was expected to come down the coast of Florida, bringing a lot of squalls, winds in the 40-50 mph range and thunder & lightening, sailors' worst nightmare. On Friday night at about 8 PM we decided to make the passage, leaving the following day at 6 in the morning. We needed to have a fast passage in order to avoid this bad weather.
Overall we had a great passage given the weather conditions. Leaving Puerto Morelos, Mexico, we were pushed by the Yucatan Peninsula current which gave us an additional 1-2 knots of speed to our motor-sailing speed, making our first day fairly fast. By night and throughout the second day our speed was painfully slow (4-5.5 knots), even with our engine at higher-than-usual revolutions, as we bordered the coast of Cuba on a counter current of 1-2 knots. We could see the outline of the Cuban mountains on the horizon and lights from towns at night as we cruised just 15-20 miles from its coast. We kept on motoring until about 2 AM of day three when the wind changed direction to the SE at 10-15 knots giving us a wonderful beam reach. Also at this point, we were well into the Golf Stream current and we started flying! Kikuyu had sustained speeds of between 9 - 9.7 knots for about 4 hours, settling to high 7's to high 8 knots for most of the remainder of the trip. Because of this, we were then able to arrive to the channel entrance of Key West by 1:30 PM, just a few hours ahead of the storm.