Gary Hostetler & Tom Rhodes
After almost 3 years, over 7000 miles, 154 cases of beer (remember Kenny was with us for 3 months), 43 bottles of no-name brand scotch, gin and rum (at an average cost of $6 a bottle), 170 burritos, 212 tacos and 1 tube of sun screen we have reached the final destination of our journey from San Francisco to Annapolis.
On Tuesday when we had planned to leave Charleston for Beaufort the weather in the Atlantic left us with no choice other than to take the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) or stay in Charleston eating oysters for another week waiting for a weather window. While it was a close decision, we chose to keep moving north. The ICW has been a relaxing pleasure at times meandoring thru uninhabited swamp land and rivers as well as populated coastal cities and at others very nerve racking watching the depth gauge go to 4 ft when we draft 5 1/2. Having only run aground once our main concern is making sure the dridges open according to schedule or when you call them. We will never complain while sitting in a car waiting for a draw bridge to open and close. At this stage of our journey we are determine to keep moving forward to the Chesapeake even if we have to "African Queen" it the last 50 miles. If Boggie and Hepburn can do it so can we - as long as there are no leaches,
We flew from Ft. Pierce to Charleston at 9 knots riding the gulf stream. Charleston is a beautiful old charming city protected by Fort Sumter which we sailed past on our port side upon arrival. While the Fort used to be the city's first line of defense it has been replaced by high slip fees and non-happy hour drink prices. Nevertheless we happily reach into our wallets to have the opportunity to eat oysters on the half shell, having consumed so many in the last couple of days that we are close to having enough pearls for a necklace. We thank the first guy who had the courage to eat one.
It is hard to put into words the feeling that we had at seeing the skyline of Miama and then docking north 110 miles at Fort Pierce. After 2 1/2 years off and on since leaving San Francisco to return to a marina where english is the first language, where you can drink the water coming out of the hose on the dock and the restaurant menu actually has items you can identify are such simple pleasures that we took for granted. Where 1/2 block away we find both a canvas shop that was able to repair our dodger and a marine service store that rebuilt our alternater both on the day we arrived - and not manana (which means who knows when we can get to it but does it really matter since we can't fix it anyway). Where imigration welcomes you with "have a nice day" after stamping our passports and us not having to go to 3 different places (on opposite sides of town) both when we check in and leave a port paying a "fee" at each of questionable purpose. We truly are lucky to be AMERICANS!
After motoring for over 30 hours in calm seas we are having a hard time believing this is the same stretch of water we visited 2 weeks ago. The gulf stream provided us with 2 1/2 knots of current yesterday allowing us at one point in time to post 9 knots - a Finisterre record. This speed came in handy as we spent half the night dodging so many cargo ships we felt like we were back in Panama Bay. The negative of all this is the diesel we are using may bring us to land sooner than we would like - the positive is we are within a day of Key West - for the socond time.
After motoring for over 24 hours in calm seas we are having a hard time believing this is the same stretch of water we visited 2 weeks ago. The gulf stream provided us with 2 1/2 knots of current yesterday allowing us at one point in time to post 9 knots - a Finisterre record. The speed came in handy as we spent half the night dodging so many container ships we felt like we were back in Panama Bay. The negative of all this is the diesel we use. The positive is we are within a day of Key West - for the second time.
After 10 days on Isla Mujeres we have run out of stainless and fiberglass polish and boat parts to put them on. When the sun shines you can't look directly at the boat without a welder's mask or you will run the risk of going blind it is so bright. Our plan is leave Monday around noon heading east for about 20 miles then turning north for perhaps 120 miles before picking up the gulf stream back to the east - which we hope to ride along with a favorable weather window to Charleston,S.C., bypassing Florida if possible. We have eaten every kind of burrito know to man during our stay here and can't wait to have a cheeseburger that we are relatively certain is made from beef. Adios of now
After 8 days at sea and within 84 miles of the USA we find ourselfs back in Mexico where we have spent considerable time - thou on the Pacific side. The difference on the Atlantic side appears to be the tourquoise blue water. Similar issues regading lack of basic repair parts that every boat needs but can't carry on board (like spare batteries) may help explain why some boats never leave. We will enjoy the down time and the best food in Central America but hopefully can celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the US.
At midnight with only 84 miles to Key West we were forced to abandon our heading which was into 8 ft swells every 3 seconds and 25 knot winds. To continue would have put us in a position to see if Sal (the guy who packed our life raft) really did put a bottle of scotch in it as we requested. We would rather that remain a mystery. Havana was no better option considering the conditions leaving us with no alternative other than doing a 180 which takes us to Isla Mujeres in 190 miles. Fortunately we can sail - sort of- at least we have turned off our motor.
3-5 ft. mixed seas and a 15 knot wind on our nose has taken a toll on the crew. All of our little bird friends have abandoned ship looking for a faster mode of transportation to the US. The slow going required us to empty our gerry cans into the fuel tank thru the fill cap inside the boat - quite the messy chore even in calm seas. Of course the engine stopped immediately afterward requiring us to open a couple of beers as we contemplated the hand that fate had now delivered. For once alcohol did not cloud our judgment as we retraced the fueling process to discover we had accidently shut off fuel to the engine. With 126 miles to go we stil expect to make Happy Hour in Key West tomorrow inspite of no help from the gulf stream as anticipated
We have had to motor for the last 30 hours with the only breeze being caused by our forward motion. A half dozen yellow and white swallows joined us yesterday and seem intent on escaping Cuba for the USA. Inspite of being told the rules they continue to have "accidents" on the boat which Tom cleans up w/out complaint - only 229 more miles to Key West
Having eaten tacos on the boat last night (and thus getting our Mexican food fix) we decided that they probably make a pretty good margarita at Jimmy Buffets so have made the decision to go straight to Key West. We have canculated our fuel, water, and food usage and believe our only risk is running out of ice. If need be we can pick some up in Cuba along with a couple of cigars. Adios for now
After 2 1/2 years of waiting for local fishermen to pull up to our boat with fresh lobster and fish to trade for a baseball hat & old t-shirt as all of the guidebooks suggest it finally happened yesterday in the middle of the Carribean - literally 100 miles from land. We had all of our sails up when no less than 6 different pongas with 4 fishermen in each attacked from all sides. Were it not for their holding up their catch for us to see we would have presumed something worse was about to happen. We waived them off, not wanting to douse our sails(they have had such little action until now) and continued on our journey with currently less than 300 miles to Isla Mujeres and a marguerita- or two.
We have averaged 6.5 knots since leaving yesterday at 11:30am for Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a distance of 600 miles with no rest stop between. Unfortunately, the great wind also has resulted in some rather large swells on our beam preventing us from making a pot of coffee and a challenge sometimes to stay upright - but as long as the boat remains that way we will gladly trade for the speed. Other than flying fish and an albatross (which supposedly is good luck) there have been no other signs of life except for what we found growing on the potato salad. Adios for now.
The beauty of sailing is how quiet and peaceful it can be - until you realize your'e missing a sail which explains why the off course alarm is going off. The shackle which holds the genoa up broke which ditched the sail over the side into the water. Fortunately we were able to recover it in one piece and motor to Isla Providencia where we have found the best anchorage in the last 2 years. Others must agree as 9 sailboats have joined us. The town which is a 1 minute dingy ride has 3 well stocked mercados, a handful of small restaurants, hospital, 2 dentists, 3 hardward stores, gas station and everything in between. The island has 5000 residents and we are guesing at least that many motor scooters as they are the standard mode of transportation. With gas at $9 a gal. we can understand why. While sitting here waiting for a weather window to go north presents few opportunities to put ourselves in harm's way to create colorful stories, it has allowed us to reflect and be grateful for the opportunity presented to us to be in this situation. In touring the island by "mule" (the motorized kind) we see so many who survive on what we might spend on beer if Kenny was with us - yet they all seem to have a smile & wave as we go by as if saying "Welcome to our Island"