Sunday, May 08, 2022

Made It!

 We finally made it back to the U.S. and it's wonderful. But the passage wasn't easy (we always ask our weather forecaster Chris Parker for an "easy" weather window). We left on Tuesday May 3rd and once through the reef at Isla Mujeres the wave height was the promised 3 - 5 feet, but as soon as we approached the Gulf Stream it turned into a total washing machine with higher, closer together and randomly directional waves. The bow hit the downside of some waves so hard it broke one of the inch thick teak planks in the bow sprit in half. But our boat otherwise can take a lot of this, we however have a harder time, especially to be honest, me. 

We had a great evening at the Varadero restaurant in Isla a few days before our departure - live music, wonderful food and fun company. That's Eduardo, Joe, Scott, Lindsey and myself enjoying our mojitos. They are new friends we've gotten to know at El Milagro.  

But eventually we got through the Gulf Stream and it calmed down. Well at least until 10 PM when a series of unpredicted thunderstorm/squalls hit us with winds up to 30 knots. And the wind was almost dead on the nose. Now up until this time we were motor sailing. There might have been enough wind to sail alone, but we were close hauled and we don't point up well. So we were being pushed in a northwest direction when we wanted to go northeast. Keeping the engine on helped us minimize the drift. We know that fuel is clean now as there have been no problems after that shaking up we had in the Gulf Stream!! Happily, we always reef our sails before nighttime, so when the storms hit we were a little better off. When things got too much to handle we just headed off the wind (of course, more off course). We didn't get any sleep that night. Scott managed to eat but my stomach was too queasy. 

The band was terrific and reminded us of our two trips to Cuba. Scott and I had lunch here the previous day so early that we got to know 3 of the staff - Jose, Saul and Coney. Coney didn't know that in England her name means a rabbit. In the Caribbean it's a small grouper!

At times like this I yearn for dawn and when it happens, everything immediately improves. The seas calmed down and were able to take a tack to the east. But the wind direction was too fluky so we finally just took down the sails and motored. New problem - loud knocking in the area of the prop and shaft. At first it was intermittent and then by the next day, constant. So any minute I was afraid that the engine would quit. Scott assured me it was the propeller and he had figured out the it was probably the rubber pieces on our Goring folding prop had worn (and of course, we later found out he was right!) And wouldn't you know, that second night, still a hundred miles from the U.S., the wind died down and we would have been unable to sail. So if the engine had quit we'd be drifting in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. But otherwise it was great. The sky was clear with millions of stars, not a cloud in sight and the seas were reasonable comfortable. We were both able to get some sleep and I managed to start eating again (toast, crackers and granola bars). 

Looking back at our Marina as we exit our slip. Joe was very helpful with casting off and brought our dinghy out to us. We left a little later as the day before the check out from Mexico took MUCH longer than it should have. We were lucky to finish before their offices closed. Still we managed to check out of the Marina, fuel up at a nearby fuel dock and leave Isla at 10 AM. 

The next dawn was quite lovely and we had only 5 hours to Key West. I was on watch and I changed our course to our original plan for Marathon, Florida. Back a day before, our ETA (estimated time of arrival) there was after dark and we didn't want that, so we changed our course to Key West. But a favorable current during the night and then entrance into the Gulf Stream (now headed east off the Keys) bumped up our speed over the bottom to 8+ knots so now we were looking at a 4 PM arrival. And reducing our engine speed eliminated the "knocking" proving Scott's theory.

And we picked up a mooring in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL at 4:30 PM on Thursday, May 5th and popped open our traditional can of beer to celebrate. The Marina allowed us to come in the next morning so we enjoyed a wonderful dinner. I always make a lot of dishes for the trip and even more this time as I was able to freeze several things in the communal kitchen. Scott had managed to eat the chicken salad, coleslaw, potato salad, and chaya soup during the trip. But we still had a whole roasted chicken, lentil stew, and homemade spaghetti sauce.  A good night's sleep capped a good day. 

Friday was a busy one with lots done and new problems. Our dinghy motor quit working for a start. Luckily a neighbor was heading into the Marina and he gave us a tow. We had made appointments for our second booster COVID shot at a nearby Walgreens and I had a pile of laundry A big "Closed for two days" sign greeted us at the Walgreens pharmacy - staffing problems! Scott called another Walgreens and arranged to get our shots there. We're ended up with 4 taxi rides that day and formed a friendship with the two drivers, cousins from Jamaica - Junior and Brian. Shots over, we headed in two directions. I did laundry at the Marina and Scott shopped at West Marine and Home Depot. We hitched another tow ride home at the dinghy dock! Repairing that motor is a high priority for tomorrow.

Another accomplishment was scheduling a hopefully quick haulout at a boatyard here on Tuesday afternoon to look at our propeller and cutless bearing. If the problem is the rubber disks on the prop then we're in luck. Scott has ordered new ones and they'll be here in time. If it's something else, we might have to stay at the boatyard. Time will tell. And so will I - next post!

We ordered one of their specialty plates - all 
seafood and amazing! There were several kinds
of fish, cooked in different ways, shrimp,
octopus, lobster, beans & rice and salad. 
And it was beautiful!

The restaurant was a local hangout more than a 
tourist destination. These women were having a 
fun get together while their nearby children 
played in a toddler pool.

In fact the place was hard to find, on a back street.
It fronted on the canal into the lagoon with a dock
that big boats tied up to rafted together sometimes.

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