Friday, 4 April 2014

March, 2014 - KEY WEST, FL

Our stay in Key West was memorable, but not in a good way. See the SV Passat II - Postcard below for details.  We will avoid Key West in the future.  The highlight was our bus trip to Marathon to have lunch with the Waterway HAM radio group.

The anchorage by day.
Anchorage sunset.

The boat that most likely sideswiped us during the "Norther".

Hen and chicks on the street.
The 7 mile long bridge, from the bus to Marathon.


SV Passat II - Postcard from Key West, Fl

 We made it to Key West, anchoring just as the sun set March 5th, ahead of a "Norther" predicted for the next day.

Early March 6th we phoned in our arrival, got our clearance # and went in search of Homeland Security to complete our check-in.  In 2009 this entailed a short walk and a few minutes of paperwork to obtain a one year cruising license.  No one was at the downtown office and we were directed to the Airport. A one hour plus bus ride latter we presented ourselves at the airport.  There we were informed that all the officers were busy with cruise ships and were given a 2 pm appointment, a 1.5 hour wait.  By 2 pm it was clear that the "Norther" was arriving.  Black skies, increasing winds, with gusts; you know the signs.

At 2 pm we had our interview and filled out the forms.  As we had come directly from Cuba a boat inspection was required and we would not be eligible for a cruising license.  This entails a slightly increased cost and a requirement that we do paperwork to enter and clear all ports we enter.  This entails more paperwork and less convenience for us and vastly greater work for the Homeland Staff.  The net result is that we will reduce the number of ports we visit and spend money in.  Not sure who is being punished.  The process was delayed at least a 1/2 hour as their credit card machine was down.  They would not take cash.  Finally, with all the boaters expressing concern with the rapidly deteriorating weather, they waived the fees and sent us on our way, with us promising to bring the boat in for inspection as soon as the weather permitted.

As we left the building the skies opened up and we were treated to a soak to the bone in 30 seconds deluge. Next bus 45 minutes.  Lineup for cabs a mile long.  We did not get back to the dingy until over an hour later.  By then the winds were gale force, with storm force gusts.  No way we could get back to the boat.  The marina staff printed off a list of nearby B&Bs and we went in search of shelter.  You can compare accommodation availability in Key West at his time of year to Bethlehem that Xmas some 2000 plus years ago.   We finally saw a "No Vacancy" sign and dragged our soaking wet bodies and various dingy gear (oars, pump, safety kit, etc) into the lobby.  They took pity on us and gave us a reduced rate ($292.00 US) for the night, including a continental breakfast.

By this time Sandra was in the early stages of hypothermia and I was not far behind.  The first order of the moment was to convert the Air Conditioning to Heat.  The next was a hot shower.  The shower was huge, but had only one shower head.  We struggled to share it in a loving and caring way (My turn, NO MY TURN).

The balance of the afternoon and well into the evening I spent in the bathroom drying our clothes with the hair dryer.  Sandra continued her struggle to get warm in bed and get our new cell phone to work.  At 7 pm the clothes were dry enough and the rains reduced enough or us to go out and eat.  Then bed and a sound sleep.

After breakfast we head down to the dingy, to return to the boat.  We find that it had been holed in three places.  They were small holes and we were able to get back to Passat II, with Sandra manning the air pump.

At the boat we found a series of gouges on the Starboard side.  Another boat had come loose and sideswiped us during the Gale.  Sigh.

Did I mention that it had taken us hours to get our cell phone up and running?  Before I forget the number is 305-304-5546.

It took another full day before the weather settled down enough for us to go in for our boat inspection.  After wasting the whole morning calling the two local numbers, with no answer, we finally connected after we had gone to town to by a repair kit for our dingy.  Made an appointment for 4 pm.

Returned to the boat to find a rope tied around the rudder.  Had to go into the water to free it.

Made the inspection appointment.  Lost the 5 Cuban Cigars I bought to smoke with my sons at son Mike's wedding (sorry boys).

Welcome to Key West.

Wishing you all fair winds and calm seas.

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