Sailing and travel tales

Across the Gulf

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We started off in a choppy sea and 15 knot wind and soon had both the fore
and the main sail up… but as the day wore on the wind dropped and we motor
sailed, past a turtle and one lonely pelican, to our overnight stop on a free
mooring ball on the coral reef 20 miles east of Key West.We had spent an
evening  while at Marathon in a working bee splicing ropes for mooring buoys
around Florida’s protected sea reserves so were quite entitled to moor here.
Overnight there was absolutely no wind and next morning we motored away then put
up the parasailor spinnaker  and made 2 – 3 knots in 4 – 5 knot wind. It was OK
to go slow because we wanted to come into Cuba at daylight not the middle of the
night. The day was beautiful with warm sun and flat sea but my stomach was still
ooky from the sailing the day before. The wind picked up to 10 – 12 knots by
midday then 15- 17 knots in the evening. We decided to take the parasailor down
before dark and start motor sailing with just the foresail. We knew that by
midnight we should expect it to rise to  +20 knots but we had to go slowly  so
as not to beat the sun to Hemingway Marina in Cuba.
At about 2.00am doing 4 knots in 18 knot wind and two thirds of the way to
Cuba – over 60 miles off the American coast – the US Coast Guard appeared at our
stern. They had sneaked up in the darkness then turned on floodlights checking
us and the sky above out. They flanked us for about 5 minutes then called us on
the VHF. Boat name? where are we going ? where had we come from? how many people
on board? nationalities? what was our reason to be sailing here.. over and over
they asked and I got really mad with them and said our boat is CALUSA  NZ1665 ..
a  NEW ZEALAND boat stressing the NEW ZEALAND word at every opportunity .
I said we were on the way to The Hemingway Marina …
 They asked where that was !!!
I said in CUBA.
 After about 10 minutes of to and fro they decided to go
then shut off their lights and vanished into the darkness as quickly as they
came. No I do not think they were after us, they are after people running drugs
from South America. Their spotlights were scanning the skies for a plane that
might be air dropping drugs to us. It was very startling the whole episode
and I was about useless with seasickness so Andreas was pretty much on his own
on watch after that.
The seas climbed and the wind climbed gusting to 30
knots at times. It was hell on board but the boat was fine. I was too sick to
even take photos of the 3 – 4 meter seas around us when light came. Then came
the real worry of the trip – finding the marina and getting in safely.
Jimmy Cornell,s book has it wrong – the writings and the co ordinates.
Luckily we had worked out that there was something wrong. with either
the American chart plotter map which did not name the Hemingway Marina anywhere,
or the books ( we have two Cornells, a newer one in German – nearly right – and the older one in English –
very wrong ) About 10 miles off the coast I called up the Cuban Coastguard and
the Hemingway Marina on the VHF and the man who answered alerted us to the fact
that maybe we were not on course too. So then there was this terrible problem of
him with his very accented English trying to convey to me, very seasick in a
raging noisy sea on a VHF with very bad transmission, the correct  co ordinates.
Luckily it did not really mean extra miles for us, we just had to turn to meet
our new target about 10 miles east of where we had been heading. Several VHF
calls later checking and rechecking we sighted the entrance to the marina. A
narrow entrance between two breakwaters of broken concrete blocks.
And there on the bank on the side of the channel into the marina was the man we had been talking to
on the VHF frantically gesturing to us where to enter.
 With his help Andreas negotiated perfectly with both engines at full speed at the right moment on top
of a wave and we whooshed into the calmer waters of the marina.

Written by teoranga

September 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Pretty much like it was, Whooshed into the marina, and everybody said ” Welcome in Cuba”


    September 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

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