We left Providencia, Columbia, which is located off the Nicaraguan coast on July 2nd. We hoped to arrive in Key West, Florida on July 8th. The window planning is tricky with this passage, trying to time a decent window to get across the most vigorous of the trade winds that set up north of Providencia while avoiding undue amounts of tropical moisture and also transiting while no tropical development is expected is no small order. For this entire trip north we’ve been consulting with WRI (Weather Routing Incorporated). The stakes are too high to misread internet weather information and put ourselves at risk this time of year. I’m happy to pay a professional to help. Anyway, we had a good cocktail of everything mentioned above and made preparations to leave. Diesel was jerry jugged, water was made, and the last of our local currency was spent on a case of beer (as is our customary way to get rid of any currency we’re not going to need). Finally, we said good bye to the friends we had made, upped the anchor, and headed west.
The first two days were to bring the most wind, seas, and the hardest navigation. In addition, there have been reports of boats getting harassed off the coast of Nicaragua. Because of this we stayed well offshore – a longer and rougher route. We did see a few fishing boats and hear some interesting radio chatter from them, but did not note any aggressive activity. Still, we ran the AIS silent and showed no running lights at night just too be safe. The seas and winds were lighter than we anticipated and we ended up making decent time through the banks and into the northwestern Caribbean by day three.
Cooking is always tough the first few days of any voyage as we are getting used to the boat’s motion. As the days progressed we ate better than we had on previous passages. Meals included chicken fajitas, lobster, and pasta with meat sauce. I even attempted making some naan which turned our almost perfectly. Then there were copious amounts of ramen and PP&J for those nights and days when no one felt like cooking. We passed several cruise ships in the evening and night, I wondered aloud who was eating better.
We progressed north east toward the western end of Cuba with fantastic 10-15kt trade winds slightly forward of the beam (our best point on sail). We decided we needed some sort of binimi on the boat: the sun is brutal and we’re not really tanning people – this might be an understatement (we’re the whitest people ever). We were also south of the main shipping lanes so night watches were uneventful.
One crazy thing I still can’t explain is what happened the night we rounded the west end of Cuba. Sailing along, suddenly through the VHF a low, clear voice says “so long…so long”, or some Spanish gibberish that sounded similar. The transmission was super clear so it must had been close. We were about 15 miles off the Cuban coast at the time. It freaked both of us out big time – there were no ships around and it had just gotten dark. For some reason a creepy voice in the middle of the night when you’re offshore is really unnerving. I think it was just someone on shore messing around with the VHF…
The last 30 hours of the trip were spent motoring due to our angle to the northeast winds after rounding Cuba. After finally hitting the gulf stream and enjoying that favorable current, we motored up Key West channel around 7pm. As we approached the town I saw hundreds of people had turned out to welcome us! Actually it was the start to the sunset festival which happens every night. The paradigm shift from being alone at sea for 6 days and then motoring past thousands of people staring at you (and the setting sun) cannot be understated. All in all it took 6 days 8 hours to go 820 miles, not terrible for the old gal!
From here we will hang in Key West, reprovisioning and take care of some boat projects before starting to head north!
This article was syndicated from Cruising – Beautiful Crazy Happiness