Straight to Panama or Scenic Route?

Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015

Today we have no wind (unusual for here). We’re motoring along pleasantly, heading for the western tip of Cuba. We should be there in about 6 hours, and then we have to make a decision — do we head straight from there to Panama, or take the ‘scenic route’?

We’ve been using the satellite tracker to post our position every 4 to 8 hours, so y’all can see where we are on the BPO website. The three boats ahead have 400+ miles to go to San Blas; we have about 800 to go, assuming we go direct. There are 6 additional boats on their way from Martinique; they have distances to go similar to ours. But they will be going downwind, and probably have more wind than us (certainly more wind than we have now!)

Goodbye Key West, Goodbye USA!

Sunday, 18 Jan 2015

We left Key West mid-morning to a fanfare of conch shells a’blowing, plus blaring boat horns, and waves from friends plus a few people  I had not even met.  I think if our “sea trial” had gone badly, we would not have wanted to return to the same marina after such a farewell!  But things have gone well.

I am SOOOO happy to be moving again!!

As a bonus it has been a beautiful sailing day.  Now getting dark, and we are ambling across the Gulf Stream, which is relatively peaceful for the time being.  Flying just our large spinnaker, and fiddling with the hydro generator, trying to get it working consistently.  We’ve stocked our freezer for the first time, so we are drawing more current than in the past, and we need the hydro power or else we’ll have to run engines to charge the batteries.

Monday 19 Jan 2015

During Bill’s night watch he was hailed on the VHF radio by an invisible Coast Guard boat.  They must have been close by, since they referred to us as a catamaran.  But no lights or AIS signal on their part.  They asked a lot of questions about the boat, the crew, and our destination.  And then off they went, apparently, still unseen.

At sun-up we discovered a new problem with our port engine.  It ran, but the control system to give it throttle and shift gears was non-functional.  We put in to Club Hemingway near Havana to sort it out.  Quite a parade of officials came aboard.  All very nice, but all asking for “tips.”  In addition to cash tips, one gentleman searching the boat took a liking to Bill’s deodorant, which fit neatly into his pocket.   Then we also had to pay for visas and a sailing permit, and of course a docking in the marina. This is all the stuff I don’t like about cruising, that I thought would be good to have Jimmy take care of for us.  But this time we’re on our own.

In any case, we had an interesting meeting with the Comodoro of Club Hemingway, who told us the long history of yachting in Cuba.  We took a taxi to downtown Havana, and had a walk around.  I’m glad I got to see Havana, but it’s a shame that we’re in a hurry.  We hope to be ready to leave in the morning.

Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015

Although we spent hours tracking down our problem, in the end it was just a loose wire connection to a terminal strip deep in our electrical locker.  We managed to get underway around noon, and now we’re sailing westward along the north coast of Cuba.  The wind is being somewhat fickle, and we had a brief thunderstorm, but once again I am happy to be moving.  I’m looking forward to getting around the western tip of Cuba, so we have a clear shot to Panama.

Time to Go!

We’ve had more ups and downs. Both engines seem to be running okay. But this morning they were not charging the batteries. An urgent call to the electrician resulted in their working fine when he arrived… Just like taking your car to the mechanic! Then a blockage in a fuel line, but that is something we can track down ourselves. Bottom line…we plan/hope to leave tomorrow.

We borrowed a car today for a major food shopping trip. This afternoon we “stopped work early” to go into town with our fellow BPOers-still-in-Key-West. We checked out the Seafood Festival (artists, rock band, and…seafood), and walked to the sunset pier where the tourists and the street performers mix. It was a fun time, and it felt like the right way to spend the night before departure. A touch of sadness saying goodbye, and hoping we will see them again.

The plan tomorrow is to leave for a “sea trial,” and if all goes well, we won’t return. Instead of not going until we are ready, we’ll try turning things around, and “go unless we have to return.” And do we ever feel ready to go — to complete our escape from the clutches of Key West!

For friends/family wanting to contact me, I won’t be able to receive email at my usual address until we get to a place with WiFi. Most likely that means not until Panama on/about February 10th. We have the ability to send and receive text-only emails via the radio. Hallie knows how to do this, so if you want to contact me, contact her.

I also won’t be able to post my usual blog entries without WiFi. I plan to send short updates to Hallie via the radio, and ask her to post them. Photos will have to wait until Panama.

For those watching the position of the boats on the BPO web site, our position might not show up for a few days, or it might be intermittent, because we may choose not to broadcast where we are initially. Not to worry, it will get straightened out after a few days.

Photo of us with our official BPO number, and photos of 3 “neighbors” on the dock.

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