Friday, March 30, 2012

Arrival Florida

Our Caribbean passage continued through the Yucatan Passage and on into the Straits of Florida, somewhat equidistant between Cuba and a line off the Florida keys. The Scrabble Games on board were getting quite hard fought and we were enjoying the Admiral’s legendary cuisine and working though the days and nights on our watches. But, ahead, we were warned over the satellite email by Jo and Dan that the winds were going to increase substantially; around midnight Tuesday over 30 knots. We weren’t going to be allowed to get to Florida without a reminder of the force of nature. Right on cue, the seas built and just before my watch (000 to 0300) we had to reduce speed and fall off to the North. It was an uncomfortable night; good job that I had stowed the rods and fishing gear and we had checked again for any loose items that may fly around – apart from ourselves that is. As the wind climbed into the low thirties and the waves built to around 12 feet we plotted another course to the nearest point of shelter which would be near Fort Jefferson, Garden Key. By mid-morning we had decisions to make. Option A would be to arrive Garden Key around nightfall, anchor and then spend most of the next day getting to Key West. Option B would be press on towards Key West, enter the West Channel behind the reef for protection and arrive Key West around 2200 and anchor off Fleming Key in the dark. Since we considered that we were probably through the worst of the conditions we went for Option B. Of course it was only the humans that were interested in getting to calmer waters, Last Mango just chugged along quite happily, up one wave and down the next, churning a good solid wake through everything the sea put in front of her. Finally we closed on the lights of Key West and headed into the mooring field. Some difficulty finding decent space among the thronged yachts – some unlit – and also some difficulty getting holding on the coral and sand; finally the hook was securely down and tugged and we were at rest after our six day passage. In the morning we headed for our slip in the heart of Key West, we had to squeeze our 18 foot beam between two pairs of wooden pilings which were 19 feet apart ………… snug I think you would call it. Certainly sent the neighbors scrambling for their fenders. With our quarantine flag up we tried calling the CBP 0800 number for a while before heading in person firstly to the Federal Building and then a short taxi to the immigration folks at the airport for our check in and Cruising License. And there was the inspection, curiously enough the instruction is for these officers is to remove most of our fresh food. I cannot imagine how threatening French Brie, a Chilean apple, a Mexican egg, or a Panamanian onion would be to the agriculture of the United States, but anyway the remaining things we had in the fridge are now heading for controlled incineration. But then, we were in! Another One-Year Cruising License and the liberty to explore a new coast, it should be great entertainment. And talking of the latter, we headed into Key West to marvel at the quaint Caribbean town of Key West and its incredibly lively bars, restaurants, and attractions. Here is the report: The ale at Kelly’s was just fine, especially the third one. The food at Fogarty’s was really excellent value. The Steve Nicks’ – style guitar/singer at the Bull was terrific. The dueling piano player/singers at Pete’s were brilliant. And the blues at the next bar along were fantastic. The quality of the live entertainment was just excellent, I just might need to get the guitar out of the closet where it has endured a lonely passage.  And it was good to be on land……….well, at least for a short time. We spend one night in Key West and then day-hop up the coast towards West Palm Beach. Soon our crew will be heading home and we can make some plans, maybe.

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