Waiting for weather in Havana

Thursday afternoon I gave up on the blog……the internet kept falling over and the photos wouldn’t load……and I was fed up with using lots of internet access cards too.  While I was doing all this Richard had been chatting and ended up challenging the crew of Florentina to a game of boules – so the guys came and played – with the German female contingent opting out.  Richard wore his French hat to gain a psychological advantage but was let down by my shoddy performance.  The final result of the tournament was Germany 2 – England 1.   Oh well, never mind….. 

Time for boules

Back on board, feeling a bit chilled from the north wind, we had some dinner and an early night after a nice sunset.


Friday morning I tried again to publish the blog and it failed.  So we decided to walk to the hotel for a better consistent signal – this is just so frustrating.   Richard listened to Chris Parker, the Caribbean weather guru, on the SSB.  These cold fronts just keep on coming through.  The northern coast of Cuba is pretty inhospitable and, although there are lots of cayos and mangrove areas inside the vast reef which runs along the coast (10 miles out in places) this inside run cannot be attempted at night as the charts are pretty sketchy in places and it needs eyeball navigation.  On top of that a north wind makes the cuts into these areas pretty difficult too.   So we are thinking instead of doing a straight 30 hour passage to the end of the island rather than days of daylight hops – especially as we are not allowed to go ashore at our destinations – before making an overnight passage on to Mexico across the Yucatan Strait.   We want to avoid north winds and, guess what, Chris is predicting three cold fronts coming through on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday….and the front that we are in the middle of hadn’t even blown itself out yet.  So it was starting to look like we might be here for a while.   

At the hotel – I finally got the blog published.  Yay!    We need more internet cards so decided while we were out and about we’d walk to Club Havana where we know they had some previously.    Walking along from the hotel I spotted a hair salon – so popped in and made an appointment for Saturday. 

We walked slowly and checked out the fishermen’s village and some of the local streets along the way.   At the Club they sold us some cards – that’s a relief.    But will have to be more careful about how we use them this time!

Fishermans village Typical Cuban village street

Walking back we spotted some unusual shapes and colours down a side street so went off to take a look.   Well – it is a tribute to the architect Antoni Gaudi – and there are all sorts of mosaics and strange buildings.   We also spotted a little dog up on a roof who thinks he is a mountain goat LOL.

Mosaics 1 Mosaics 2 MosaicMosaics 5 Old cars in Mosaic land Top Dog Mosaics 4

As we went past a pretty ordinary-looking building we were tempted in by the guy outside who promised us a garden oasis in the city. 

Garden Oasis bar

Sceptical but interested we followed him in – through a modern nightclub type bar – and were amazed to find ourselves in a little paradise. It is brand new and only been open a month, we never expected to find anything like this here in this small town.  

Oasis 1 Oasis 2 Oasis 3 Oasis 4 Oasis 5

We sat down, ordered a beer, looked at the menu and got tempted.  We ended up with chicken and pork from the open fire pit with rice and salad.  Was absolutely lovely….and the total cost was only 17 CUC and that included four beers!    And clearly the hummingbird thought it was an oasis too as he flew from flower to flower….   What a treat – we suddenly didn’t feel quite so fed up about having to stay here because of weather.  


Moving further down the street we explored more of the Gaudi-inspired area and were absolutely fascinated by this hidden gem of mosaics.   On the way back the sky was full of mare’s tails – which indicates another front is coming.   Great…..sigh…..

Mosaics 6 Mosaics 7 Mosaics 8 Mosaics 9

Mosaics 12 Mosaics 11Signs of more weather coming throughWe walked back to Morphie and Richard continued with the construction of port fillers.   What are they for I hear the non-sailors asking?  Well, in extreme conditions, it is possible for ports (windows) to get smashed by big seas.   That can be a catastrophic event and so we are thinking about what we would do in those very rare circumstances – and this is all Richard’s idea.   So that was what the jigsaw was for!!!   Pretty good so far eh?  He’s such a clever clogs.  We didn’t do anything else for the rest of the day other than chilling in the cockpit and having another early night.

Work in progress

Saturday morning I left Richard continuing with his port fillers and wandered off to the hairdressers.  And, of course, it wasn’t open.  Oh well…..obviously I had the first appointment of the day…and she is on island time.   So I sat at the bus stop opposite and read my book for a while – but gave up after 25 minutes.  Clearly she was going to be a no show.  Feeling really fed up I wandered back.

Richard had by now finished the port fillers and had thought of a way of securing them in place – there will be wood batons fixed inside across the hole….   Great job!   I must reiterate for all the family and friends that read this that this is a very rare occurrence – so do not worry!   But we certainly feel happier knowing that we have something ready if that situation were ever to occur.  

Port fillers Port fillers 2

Forced back down below because of the cold we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching movies….

Sunday morning and we did a few boat jobs – and the wind has died down and the wind is now coming from the north east.   Hmmmm……interesting!   We decided to return to the outside bar which is located between the end of Canal 1 and Canal 2 – and it was rammed.    There was some sort of car event going on……there was loud music, people dancing, and cars doing doughnuts!    It was kind of funny – here we were taking photos of the old cars – while the locals were all posing in front of the BMW that was centre stage.    We sat out on the wall for a while enjoying the sun and watching some boat traffic – the declining wind had encouraged people to get on the move. 

Getting busy Bar selfie Watching the boats come by Car show

Car 1 Car 2

Car 3 Car 4 Car 5We went up the stairs to Papas restaurant – which is actually a Chinese.   It is pretty shabby chic but the food smells were good so we ordered a late lunch.    Wow – it was great!!!  Thoroughly enjoyed it – and clearly it is a favourite as there were many locals in there having family occasions.   And we would have taken photos of the food but we couldn’t wait to tuck in LOL.


Back on board and we sat in the cockpit and listened to music – waving at Pieter and his crew as they headed out to a restaurant in their dinghy – and watched the sun go down.    It was another moody one because of the heavy cloud cover.

Pieter & crew No sunset again tonight

This morning – Monday – and Chris Parker thinks that the weather patterns are moderating which means we can make a passage to Mexico on Sunday / Monday of next week.   So we used one of our internet cards to confirm it with other weather websites – all looking good….   But first we have to get down the coast – and there are north winds forecast during the week.   So we’ve decided to get out of here tomorrow, Tuesday, and make a direct run to Cabo San Antonio.   We’ll chill down there for a while on anchor and wait for the passage window.  We’ve checked it out and we can go ashore there as it is an official port of entry which means we can also get our exit Zarpe for Mexico.   It is slightly exposed in north winds so we’ve been doing a bit of research and have found a couple of cayos we can tuck behind if we need to….so all looking good.

So I’m blogging while Richard is doing engine checks.   We’ve also dropped some laundry off – no self-service allowed here – and have been to the Dock Master to start the checkout process.   We’ve been told to come back at 5pm to finalise it and then we’ll be good to go at 10.00 am on Tuesday after a quick detour to the customs dock for our official Despacho. 

I’m not sure if we will be able to find internet at our next destination – so it may be we’ll be off line until we arrive and have got ourselves legally checked into Mexico.   But we’ll be in touch when we can.   Oh yes, and Happy Mother’s Day to my mum for this coming Sunday – hope you like the flowers!  Lots of love xxxx


Happy Mothers DAy

Bye for now.


Varadero to Havana

Saturday and the weather window was still looking good – so we walked across to the marina office to pay our bill.   Without the receipt you can’t get a customs clearance to move onto the next port.   Next stop was the customs to let them know that we would like to leave at three on Sunday.   All sorted…..

We then returned to Morphie and did final engine checks and put waypoints into our plotter – then we moved her off the med mooring and docked her alongside.  There are not many boats left here in this vast place.  Later on we returned to our favourite pool and said our sad farewells to Durnia.

Alongside ready for the off Saying goodbye

Back to Morphie and we did final engine checks / waypoints before we headed out to the cash restaurants – decided to try the Mexican but didn’t fancy the menu – so ended up back in the Argentinian steakhouse again, which was OK.    Then we wandered into the hotel foyer to check the internet and we did a bit of people watching while the security guards watched us!  They have treated us OK but some of the other cruisers have had real difficulties moving around the complex – not really fair when we’re paying to use the facilities in our marina fee.

Last night in Varadero

Sunday morning we walked to the coffee shop as we had found that they sell French baguettes first thing in the morning!   So we hurried over there – mission accomplished – and Richard did final checks while I got our passage food ready.    Later on the customs girls turned up – looking anything like customs officials – especially the fishnet stockings and the skirt no wider than a belt!   We got our exit paper and we are ready to go….   Slipped away from the dock at three as planned – saying a final goodbye to Varadero – and headed out through the channel which is well marked and pretty wide most of the way, just watch out for our friend Mr Flatpack!!!

Heading out Flatpack

We decided to go out the way we came in rather than cut through closer inshore as the coast of Cuba bends and we would get a straighter shot at our next destination.  We turned to start our downwind run on genoa alone – the sea was bigger than expected and the currents stronger – and the wind was about 20 knots too.   We were flying – surfing down the waves with boat speeds above 8 knots – and at one point our ETA at Hemingway Marina was going to be in the early hours of the morning.   But we were anticipating a very strong current going against us as we get close to Havana so we didn’t worry about it at this stage.  We reefed down and enjoyed the sunset as we headed into our shifts after dinner.

Sailing into the sunset

The moon came up and it was beautiful – lighting up the sky so much that it didn’t feel like night at all….making it easy to spot the significant number of ships around. The night continued and it was very rolly so we both found it difficult to sleep but did our best as we kept getting slammed from all directions with rogue waves.    The wind calmed down a little so we shook out the reefs during the night.   

Moonlit night

My shift and, of course, I get the cruise ship.   He was heading at our bow so I radioed him – yes he could see us – do not worry he said.  Well, that’s fine for him to say, but I thought less than a quarter of a mile turning directly across us as he entered Havana was a bit close for my comfort zone – so I changed course and pointed at his stern.  Looks like a long way away from the photo as he finally crossed but believe me he wouldn’t have been if I had stood my course!

Cruiseship crossing

As we neared Havana on Monday morning the current against us was significant – and we slowed down to two knots across the ground.   Amazing skyline…

Sunrise at sea Havana skyline

We never did get shore power in Varadero and the overnight use of all the instruments was taking its toll on our batteries so we decided to motor sail the final 20 miles.    We picked up speed a little and made it to the entry waypoint…which we’d taken from the physical chart we had as we had spotted that the Garmin chip was hopeless for the detail of Hemingway Marina.   The channel is well marked and wider than we thought but it was pretty shallow either side with breaking waves over the reef that we were passing through.  Thankful for the advice to do this entrance in an east wind….  Check out the differences on the charts below.

Garmin chart Actual chart

We came alongside the customs dock – showed our clearance – and we were told to go to Canal 1.  We were a bit disappointed as we knew that Canal 2 had better protection from northerlies and, allegedly had power and water.    Well…..Canal 1 also has power and water….and actually the power is the right voltage!  Yay!   We had fenders and lines already on our port side (for the customs dock) so rather than swap them all over we turned around in the canal and got Morphie docked alongside.   The dock hands tied her up for us – connected our power and (low-pressure) water – and the dockmaster came on board to do more paperwork.   All completed – hands shaken – and we then did our spring lines.    We were a bit shocked to see the huge rock protruding from the wall just ahead of us in the water – glad we didn’t need to take some extra room!

Tied up in Canal 1 Rock ahead of us

We then washed Morphie down and chatted to some cruisers we had last seen in Varadero.  They told us that the hotel across the road had no internet tickets so we had to walk to Havana Club to log on.  Wanting to tell everybody we were safe we went on the trek – it was a long dirty, dusty, walk.  Just what you need after an overnight passage with little sleep!!!  Anyway we got there – admired the beautiful building – and purchased some internet cards and a celebratory beer at the beach bar. 

Club Havana Havana Club beach Club Havana 1

Tiredness was overcoming us so we quickly headed back to the marina – locked down – had a shower, watched a beautiful sunset, and then went to bed!

Welcome to Hemingway

Havana sunset Havana sunset 2

Tuesday morning we went exploring the marina – this place is rundown and pretty dirty, but we knew that….and even the canal wall has disappeared in places!   

CAnal 2 Dead yacht More old cars

Broken canal

There is an abandoned hotel at the edge of the complex and a couple of stores – although you have to watch where you put your feet even in the shop as the floor is all broken up.   We found an unusually parked car as we wandered to the Hotel Aquario which is alongside Canal 2.   This is also run down and has a real strange view of art in my humble opinion LOL.   Interesting to see a couple of racing yachts being stored here too….

Abandoned hotel Novel way of parking Hotel Aquario Watch where you put your feet Art Art 2Racing yacht 1 Racing yacht 2 We went into the hotel – yes no internet cards – and asked about using their pool.  Yes for 10 CUCs each per day (at 1.33 to the pound) – so went and had a look to see if it was worth it.  Doesn’t look too bad from the photo but definitely not clean and Richard decided he would need a few jabs before venturing in…   So looks like our pool days are over for now – shame!   We also found out that they have discontinued the shuttle bus to Havana so we need to research other options – there is a bus service for sure.


Walking back we went into a snack bar at the end of Canal 1 which is where local taxi drivers hang out to see if we could do a deal.    The beer was bad so we went next door and found a three lane bowling alley, football on the TV and general noise!  The Cubans are very excitable and loud so we made a quick exit after one.  We wandered to the end of the dock and found another bar – which looks over the water – and isn’t too bad if you can avoid looking at the litter of old cans lying around in the sand….   They had a Chinese next door and some people were eating – it looked good so we tried just a dish of rice and it was quite tasty if a little dry.  Not bad for 3 CUCs.   

Heading back we chatted to our immediate neighbour Pieter and his crew.  They are planning to go into Havana on Wednesday so we have decided to go together to see if we can get a deal on a taxi….   Back to Morphie and we had an early night.   One observation about Marina Hemingway is that we were led to believe that the general public could wander the docks and hustle you for work / tips / gifts etc.  But we’ve found that the security here isn’t bad and we haven’t had any requests for cash yet.   That said, wouldn’t fancy leaving the boat here unattended during the evening.

Wednesday morning we met our neighbours and wandered down to where the taxis hang out – and we came across an old American taxi which was willing to take all six of us (at a squeeze) in one car for 20 CUCs.  Bargain…..so we headed off….on the 40 minute drive.

Taxi to Havana

We arrived into Havana and went our separate ways.   We have toured the city before and visited the museums – which we remember vividly – so really just wanted to wander around, soak up the atmosphere, and admire the beautiful architecture.   The place is just the same as it was 10+ years ago – but much busier with more hustlers;  more beggars; more construction;  more tourists;  more pollution;  more dancing; a huge cruise ship;  and generally just more madness and mayhem than we remembered!    It was scorching hot and the main difference we spotted was the amount of street food being offered – but there were still queues of Cubans at all the local shops – from bakers, butchers, (empty) department stores, banks and the mobile network office…..   We wandered around admiring the sights avoiding the unofficial ‘tour guides’ and the ‘photo opportunities’ with locals dressed for the cash-generating occasion.    We decided our feet had had enough so we took a buggy ride around the City – which we thoroughly enjoyed – seeing the tourist areas and the local areas side by side reminding us of the poor conditions that some people live in here.      We ended up in a local restaurant having an average meal (on the rooftop up and down some pretty horrendous stairs!) but with great musicians before we headed back to the Capitol building to find a taxi to take us back.   We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Havana again.   Check out the sights for yourselves below:

Havana 1 Havana 2 Havana 3 Havana 4 Havana 5 Havana 6 Havana 7 Havana 8 Havana 9 Havana 10

Havana 13 Havana 14

Havana 20

Havana 16 Havana 15

Havana 11 Havana 12

Havana 18 Havana 19

Havana 23 Havana 21 Havana 22 Havana 24Havana 25 Havana 26 Havana 27Havana 29 Havana 30 Havana 28Havana 35 Havana 31 Havana 32 Havana 33 Havana 34We got a great deal – 15 CUC in an old Lada – and so back to Morphie for a quiet evening on board and another early night!

This morning – Thursday – and we awoke to a north wind.   The sea is raging and boats are trapped here until it subsides – probably Saturday / Sunday….    So people are pulling themselves off the wall by taking lines ashore to the other side of the canal but we don’t have any cleats on the other wall opposite us so we’re just staying put and watching our fenders.  

Morphie pinned North winds today Line ashore

Not sure what we are going to do with ourselves – we have decided not to return to Havana again – so I guess we’ll just have to catch up with the long list of boat jobs.   While I’m blogging Richard is busy making some fender boards and some wooden blanks for our ports just in case one of them ever gets damaged.    

The internet is really poor here so please be patient when waiting for the next blog..   Bye for now


Having fun in Varadero

Sunday night – Valentine’s Day – we took a short walk along the promenade and were greeted by a wandering band and their dancers.  Very noisy and not sure what type of music it was but everyone seemed to be enjoying them following the minstrels around like the pied piper.   

Travelling minstrels

We then headed into the waterfront seafood restaurant for a special Valentines dinner.   We were greeted with pretty rum drinks….

Welcome drinks

….then our starter turned up which was salmon and shrimp ceviche…along with champagne and a bottle of white wine for later….

Salmon & shrimp ceviche

Time for bubbles

Then the main course of fillet steak with foie gras was delivered to us – sadly a bit too ‘blue’ for our taste – but there wasn’t any option to return it as the waiters were moving around delivering plates to everyone without paying much attention to anything else – but we soldiered on and were happy to pour our own champagne LOL!

Happy Valentines Fillet steak

Then desert turned up which was a lovely chocolatey and strawberry concoction.   It was all very nicely done – sitting on the balcony overlooking Morphie in the marina….    And we were royally entertained by members of the local philharmonic orchestra who played in restaurants to earn some extra money – they were very good!

Desert Happy Valentines 2 Symphony

After coffee we left the restaurant onto the promenade and there was a show going on.    This overlapped the all-inclusive and the cash area so wasn’t sure whether we could get a drink or not to watch the show – we asked a waiter and he was happy to serve us, so we took seats had another couple of glasses of wine and enjoyed the spectacle.  The lead singer was very flamboyant and reminded us a little of Shirley Bassey….followed by some acrobatic dancers.    What a lovely end to the day.

Singer Happy Valentines 3 Dancers

Monday morning and Richard finished the varnishing in the heads while I had a massage, which was a lovely treat.  Don and Michele from SV Hemera asked whether we could help them to try and resolve an autopilot issue.  Not experts but happy to try.   So we went on board….and decided that the autopilot needed recalibrating as it may have reset to factory settings whilst on the hard and disconnected from any power source.   Really just an educated guess as the compass differential was showing blank settings.    We decided to leave the calibration for another day as it involved a sea trial and ended up staying on board Hemera…. and chatted…. and drank beer alternating supplies between the two boats… and chatted… and drank beer… and then rum….    Was a lovely impromptu afternoon / evening which meant that we returned to Morphie for a very early night.

Tuesday morning we were up bright and early and boarded Hemera – cast off – and went just to the lagoon beyond the marina.   We started doing slow and wide 360s before the harbour master appeared in the chase boat – making sure we weren’t heading off anywhere we’re not allowed to go!  We finished the 360s in one direction and it looked positive on the instruments but then it fell over again…. so we did 360s in the other direction and it looked even more positive until it fell over again.   Damn – they need this working as they are heading to the Bahamas and beyond to Prince Edward Island, Canada, this year and that is a long way for hand steering.   But we did find another option in the manual so hopefully that will fix it – all fingers crossed for when they get a chance to swap the cables over.

They headed off into town while we took ourselves to the pool near Morphie and took a cooler with us as we are not allowed to buy drinks at this bar.  During the afternoon we enjoyed watching the birds using the (freezing cold) pool as their bath and the large American motor yacht that arrived into the marina.  This caused a lot of excitement and the officials were queuing up to get on board – along with every other staff member who came out to watch it all going on.  

Bird bath American Yacht arrived

Don and Michele joined us for a final couple and, having had enough sun, we left for the afternoon.  Big downside to the wind dropping today and the weather heating up is that the bugs are out in force – we all got quite badly bitten sitting around….

Later on that evening the four of us headed over to the Argentinian Steak House for dinner – had a lovely meal with great company – was a lot of fun.   On our way back to the boats we came across another show – so we took up a couple of empty seats and watched.  More dancing and the guys definitely enjoyed the skimpy outfits a lot!!!

Argentinian Steak House Don and Michele Another dancing show

Wednesday morning and we said our farewells to Don and Michele who are heading into an all-inclusive resort as their son is flying in to get married.    We are going to be the security detail for their boat while they are away – although it is illegal for Cubans to come on board private vessels there is no security from other tourists who wander around.   Actually we are thinking of charging them to wander our dock as we have featured in many holiday photographs, including one wedding and one model shoot so far!!!   

We went for a walk and found the other apartment complex pool.   This one has a cash bar – so we decided to spend the afternoon here…  But the walk is a long way and we’d already done it once today there and back so took dink for a run out.   Check out the view of the marina from the other pool – not to mention the whole area still under construction.  This place is absolutely huge!    Lovely cloud formations today too….

Other pool View from the other pool Still under constructionAmazing clouds

Oh yes, and for some perspective on sizing, check out the US yacht against the apartment buildings.

Big boy

We had a lovely afternoon bobbing – yes the water was actually warm enough to go in – and came back for a quiet night on board.

Hot day

Thursday morning and we awoke to a brilliant blue sky and pretty warm temperatures.   So we decided to go to the beach after doing a few chores like changing beds etc.   This is a public beach so although we have to walk through the hotel grounds – armed with our marina passes – we can take beds there.   But again we took a cooler as we were not sure whether we could get drinks.

Varadero beach 2

Varadero beach is a very long strip of sand and, with the wind blowing from the north, it had some pretty impressive waves breaking.  Varadero beach Busy day on Varadero beach

We lazed around for a while and did a bit of bobbing in the sea – first time this year!!! – before returning to Morphie via the hotel’s large pool.   We were not questioned by security so we sat down for a little while to watch the goings on – obviously this is all-inclusive as lots of people are drinking lots of alcohol – and there were quite a few Manchester accents!  Richard was tempted to engage about the latest Spurs football results LOL.   It is very pretty although not a lot of shade to be had.

Melia Marina main pool Melian Marina main pool 2

We have decided not to take up the option for an all-inclusive day pass at 87 CUCs (around £65 each) as we thought it would take a lot to spend it.  For example, in the cash area, beers are 2 CUCs and our Argentinian steak meal only came to 60 CUCs for both of us which included three courses and wine!   

Thursday afternoon we returned to the pool near Morphie for a couple of hours – had a nice time with a couple from South Korea who now live in Canada – and chatting to the lovely friendly staff.   After a lot of sun and another lovely day we had an early night.

Friendly staff

This morning, Friday, and our laundry has returned – Jose the dock master takes it away and returns it done just like magic!   The sky is grey and the front has arrived – with very strong winds again – and it is pretty chilly.  We have been to the Cadeca for more drinking vouchers and are now sitting in the cockpit blogging /reading.    I think we will probably have a lazy stay on board day today although Richard is planning to do pre-departure engine checks while I sort out the route to Havana.     

The weather is looking good for a Sunday afternoon departure – an overnight sail along the coast – and into Hemingway Marina on Monday morning.   The east winds will give us a downwind run, although will be slow as we are heading straight into a strong current, and easterlies give us the best conditions for entering into the marina’s narrow channel through the reef.   We’ll continue to watch closely as we have to give 24 hours’ notice of departure to get our clearance documents – but hopefully next time you’ll hear from me we’ll be in Havana, the real Cuba!!!

Bye for now


Key West to Cuba

Tuesday night we went to the Schooners Wharf Bar which is another live music venue.  We had an appetizer each for dinner and settled down with a bucket of beers from the happy hour special.   The band then started up – and they were absolutely fantastic turning their hand to pretty much any type of music requested.  We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed our last (chilly) night in Key West.

Live music at Schooners Wharf

Wednesday morning and we did our final preparations.   Richard managed to negotiate an extension to our checkout time so we didn’t have to leave until 12.30 – as the girl in the marina so loves his accent LOL – so we wouldn’t have to go on the hook prior to our departure from the USA.  All ready to go so we relaxed while eating a massive brunch of burger, sausages and eggs – the final meat products from the freezer and the last of our fresh eggs.  I also cooked dinner for later.  So we will arrive in Cuba, very well fed, with just some milk and butter in the fridge – the rest is all processed meat and cheese which are allowed.  Yay!   We also took down our US flag, not sure it liked the strong winds…

Remains of the US flag

We moved from Galleon marina onto the Conch Harbor Marina fuel dock to fill up our tank and spare diesel jugs.   It was all done at a leisurely pace so we finally slipped away at one o’clock ready for our overnight passage to Cuba.    As we motored away from Key West we were sad to see the boat still wrecked against the breakwater….   

Going past the sunken boat

We said a goodbye to the lovely Galleon Marina and the sky was blue and the clouds were fluffy…. just shame about the temperature!!!     The wind, of course, was less than forecast so we motored along for a short while…..and had another very brief dolphin encounter.

Goodbye to Galleon Wharf

We were shadowed by a US Coastguard boat all the way out…. and then he left us and another one turned up.  This time he was towing a big rib so we were anticipating a boarding – he just stayed behind us keeping the same distance – but we were very aware of his presence.  Especially when we had a few fighter jets go overhead, which prompted Richard to start humming the theme tune from Top Gun LOL.

Finally 12 miles out – and now with the genoa up and motor sailing along nicely in 12 knots of breeze – the Coastguard turned for home as we entered international waters.    The Gulf Stream was very close to Key West so we crossed that pretty early on but the currents pushing us east continued throughout the passage – and they were very strong most of the time – so we tried to stay high of the rhumb line.   At times we were going through the water at 7-8 knots but were only seeing a speed over the ground average of 4.9.


After dinner – and no sunset because it was so cloudy – we went into our shift pattern.   The currents continued to play with us and the waves were throwing us about a bit – with a reasonable sized sea running too….   But we were having fun – or at least we were until we got nine ships on the AIS all at once – with two of them ‘not being under command’…    Oh well….seems like we found the shipping channel….   There wasn’t any distinct pattern to their movements so we just kept clear – although we did give ground and dropped below the rhumb line by holding our course when a big tanker was coming our way LOL.

Finally after a few hours the ships went away and we were the only ones out there….   Big waves and strong currents dominated and the wind picked up to around 23 knots – great downwind sailing under a reefed genoa.  It was a pretty dark night with only a sliver of moon but the clouds gave way to a spectacular starry night….    Bliss….

Thursday morning we were welcomed by the sun rising over the sea.  We had managed to climb back above the rhumb line and were heading towards our first waypoint off the coast of Cuba.   Ten miles out we made the requisite radio call to announce that we were incoming – to no answer – but at least we complied.  


The north coast of Cuba, which is a lee shore most of the time, is pretty inhospitable looking – and then you spot the large buildings / hotels which are a feature of this tourist area of Varadero.  We spotted the first markers easily and then it was just a matter of following the well-marked channel (avoiding one dead green marker – no.3 – the buoy was still there but the top had been flat packed by a wave).   Richard hoisted the flags – Cuba top with yellow Q flag underneath – and got out ropes and fenders for our entry into the marina.  Suddenly it is very busy with tourist boats coming out and about and we turned into the entrance avoiding all the construction work around.    The marina contacted us with instructions so we pulled alongside the dock they reserve for clearance – being met by the dock master and a doctor. 

The doctor came on board and asked us some health questions – all fine thanks – and then the dock master took our passports off.  We asked him not to stamp them and he said fine, no worries.   The doctor spoke pretty good English and then the dock master was back with our passports and visa forms so we had all the documents to fill in.   I had prepared a boat / crew list information sheet in Spanish already for them so they were pleased about that…..using my information to complete their numerous forms.   Then we had the question and answer session…..and we had all the right answers in the right places….and they left us with a handshake and a “welcome back” as they had asked whether we had been to Cuba before.   Only about an hour in all and was less intimidating than many of the previous Caribbean nations we had entered.   Interestingly no agriculture guy came on board to check out our supplies and no sniffer dog for drugs – both of which we had been warned about – perhaps they had a day off???   No poking around in cupboards either….nor sealing up our flares / GPS so that they couldn’t be used…..all very civilised.   Guess it depends on the guys on the day – we were lucky I think – although we had nothing to worry about because we were compliant with their rules.  Maybe our confidence about that was why it was such a pleasant experience?!?      

We then went to the Marina Manager’s office for more paperwork – all done – and then went for a wander to find a Cadeca to change up some money.  We used sterling (GBP) cash rather than use our debit /credit cards – and avoided using US dollars as apparently they charge a surcharge for that.   We received an exchange rate of 1.36 CUCs to the pound.   We then purchased an hour’s internet for 1 CUC so that we could let everyone know we were safe and sound and returned to Morphie.

Marina office

Here in Gaviota Marina – which is absolutely vast with more than 1,000 places when the new bit opens (which is the construction going on) – it is designed predominantly for Mediterranean mooring with lazy lines to mooring balls.  There is an option of going alongside for three times the price so we decided to go for the stern-to option.  We got dink down off his davits and tied him alongside and then got ropes and fenders ready at the stern.   The Marina Manager turned up in his rib – they untied our lines – and then led us to our new berth which is quite close to one of the condominium complexes / the laundry (which is actually closed right now) / showers / the small store and the all-inclusive hotel.  There are numerous restaurants, bars and small shops along the boardwalk here – but, as marina guests, you are only allowed to use those in the ‘cash area’ – the rest are exclusively for the all-inclusive guests of the hotel and two apartment complexes.

Empty marina

We motored inside the mooring balls – as the lazy lines are not tied to the dock.   They handed me the bow line and I tied us in tight while Richard manoeuvred us around – lots of windage pushing us on – so I kept him off the dock, they tied up the stern lines and I released it a bit until we were set into the correct position.   Job done – very pleased with our performance!   

Morphie med moored

As we were adding spring lines from mid ships to the dock just in case there were any wind changes the large catamaran (that had arrived from Key West about an hour behind us) was coming inside the balls to the position near us.   Then the wind caught him and the guy hit the dock – hard – and the hull scraped along the metal barrier which protects the pilings – and he continued to run the boat down the side and gouged out a chunk about a quarter of an inch deep for a length of two feet….  And numerous other scratches too – ouch!!!   The owner was not a happy lady.   We all ran to help minimise the damage by pushing him off but it was pretty bad.

Damaged cat

After all the excitement we decided to plug in to shore power but had been warned to check the voltage first – good job we did as it was running at 150 volts and we are a 110 volt boat – so not suitable for us to use.  We have a step-down transformer on board but the plug didn’t match.  So the electrician has gone away to scratch his head and see if he can resolve it somehow.  At the time of writing this he hasn’t so we have resorted to running the generator for an hour a day to top up the batteries.

Jobs done – and we couldn’t be bothered to do anything else – so we sat in the cockpit for a while having a few celebratory and restorative beers before heading for a hot shower and a very early night!   We slept very well.

Friday morning Richard washed the salt off Morphie while I went exploring.   I had a look in the little store near us and bought some pork liver pate…  Strange concoction of things in the store but at least you can buy frozen chicken.    I am amazed at the size of this place – it is absolutely vast.   And empty!!! 

Empty marina 2

The hotel seems pretty busy from wandering through their lobby and I worked my way through to the condo swimming pool and asked the young lady whether we were allowed to use it as marina guests.  Yes she said, no worries.  Fab….looking forward to that later.

Huge empty marina Melia resort Rooftop pool

I returned to Morphie and we spoke to the South Africans on the catamaran – they are going to haul out here now for about a week as the hull was flexing around the deep gouge and they were worried about it, as well as an engine problem.   We wandered up to the pool just to admire the views and have a beer and were royally welcomed by the young lady I spoke to earlier.    We ordered a couple of Cristals – we also tried Bucanero, another local brew, but found it a bit strong!  

Local beer

We had a couple of beers each and then went to pay – and she told us ‘no, you can’t pay here, this is all-inclusive area only’.  We said, but you knew we were not all-inclusive guests – and no bracelets to show for it either – and she said no worries.  So we embarrassingly tipped her royally and hope that she did not get into trouble – she told us to come back anytime we liked!!!

Moving on we came across a couple of nice classic cars in the car park – and were stopped by security wanting to know who we were – showed them our marina passes and all is well.  Lesson learnt – do not leave the boat without them!   

Old cars 2

Old cars

We went into the luxury hotel and found out the prices for either an evening pass or a day pass and are thinking about whether to do this for a day whilst here – think we can push the boat out for one day!!!   Oh yes and I booked into the Spa for a massage on Monday….looking forward to that.


Wandering down to the cash area of the boardwalk we popped into the Tapas Bar for a couple of plates and had a couple of cocktail beers and were very pleased to find that they were only 2 CUCs each….   A bit of a change from Florida pricing!

Tapas bar Tapas selfie

Saturday morning and we went off in search of a bus – we crossed the road and picked up the Hop-on / Hop-off tourist bus that runs right around Varadero, which is pretty reasonable at 5 CUC per person valid all day.   We enjoyed the views of the hotel complexes – two of which we had actually stayed at in the past – and got off at the Plaza America.  

On the bus Plaza America Driving around the hotel area

We had heard there might be a market here but, not really, just little stalls selling the same usual tourist stuff along with a bank and a pharmacy.  But it did have access to the beach so we wandered down there for a little while…..

Beach Beach 2 Beach 3

Back in the mall we had a soft drink before rejoining the tourists.  We found out that the fruit and veg market was in Santa Marta – not possible by bus from here – but a taxi driver quoted us 16 CUCs to take us there and we thought that was a lot of money just to get some fresh provisions – so we declined.  As we walked away he said 14, then 12, then 10!!!  Looked a bit shocked that we just carried on walking despite his best price LOL

Back on the bus….we enjoyed the sights as we came into downtown Varadero….and got off again for a wander.    This is a bit more like Cuba – the hotel district is the Disney version – and at least downtown you meet locals who are selling their wares from small kiosks / tented markets.   

Downtown Varadero 1 Taxi anyone Downtown Varadero 3 Downtown Varadero 4 Another type of taxi

Back on the bus and we got off at the end of the line before it turns around – the road itself carries on towards Havana.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the local restaurant there on the river – which is one that we had visited by tourist boat before when we went to a ranch….  

On the river Lunch stop

We reminisced about our trips to Cuba in the past and remembered meeting a couple from Scotland who were sailors – and we talked about our dreams of owning a boat and going cruising someday.   Can’t believe it – we sailed here!!! Woo hoo….  

Back on the bus – sitting on the top deck you have to duck to avoid getting hit by trees as you go along the road – and we enjoyed the sight of pelicans being fed by the local fisherman and then we headed back towards the hotel district.    We went past a restaurant called The Beatles – check it out – it’s definitely a long way from Liverpool LOL.

Waiting to leave On the river 2 Beatles cafe

Back to the marina – another classic car – and then we had a couple of beers sitting on the boardwalk watching the tourist day boats return from their booze cruise / snorkelling / fishing trips – and then wandered back to Morphie via both the little fruit market store and the grocery store.   It had been a long hot day so we had a quiet evening on board.

Another old car

This morning – Sunday – we got up a bit later.  I’m blogging in the cockpit while Richard is rubbing down some teak in the heads which has got water damaged.  It is Valentine’s Day so we will probably go out for dinner this evening – quite fancy the cash restaurant that sits over the water.

One of the 'cash' restaurants

We’re quite enjoying being tourists here in Varadero – especially now that it is actually sunny and quite warm during the day – while we wait for a weather window to make the next overnight passage to Havana.  Bye for now.


Final days in the US

Thursday afternoon by the time we had finished our jobs the wind had picked up and it was getting decidedly rolly.  We telephoned the marina and we received our confirmation e-mail.  The dinghy ride into town is definitely no longer a sensible option so we stayed on board and had a visit from the guy on the boat behind us asking if we knew about the bad weather due to come in overnight.   The answer was yes – we had a lot of scope out – so were confident we would be fine.    But he said it was coming from the south….  So we double checked and it was due to come from the north and much stronger than the original forecast.  Hmmmm….   Clearly he wanted us to move, so we picked up and reset just before sunset into a nice space with lots of swinging room – on an 8:1 ratio with 120 feet of chain out in 15 feet of water.

We had an early night – then the wind picked up combined with torrential rain.  Morphie is nodding furiously into the waves and then we swung through 180 degrees – the movement forcing us out of bed and into the saloon.  We went up into the cockpit at around one in the morning to do a spot check and were horrified to see a huge steel derelict boat too close for comfort on our starboard side.   So in 35 knots – with higher gusts – and very little visibility we picked up our anchor and motored our way through the unmanned unlit boats – and re-anchored even further away.  Was really hard and very wet but we managed to get away from the “hulk” as we nicknamed him.   

Derelict boats 1

We got ourselves dried up and dug out our heavy offshore waterproofs and sat in the cockpit keeping a watch all night – until sunrise when the wind subsided a little and we went back down below.

Morning after the night before

The wind continued to howl all day Friday – not really going below 25 knots all day and often in the 30s – with the direction changing a couple of times forcing us out into the rain to double check our position.  Luckily we didn’t need to pick up again.  Phew!   By now we can see some boats lying on their side and some have run aground…. and others have lost their masts.

Still blowing 26 knots

More dead boats Derelict boat More dead boats 2

Thankful for our new anchor we held fast.   So we spent the whole day wrapped up in blankets on the sofas reading – damn uncomfortable and cold!   And that is where we stayed all night too…doing meerkat impressions popping up to check our position relative to the derelict boats.      Was a pretty spectacular stormy sunset – and yes that really is a tourist boat out there!!!

Stormy sunset

This was a very different situation than we have found ourselves before – usually in an anchorage we are surrounded by manned boats all showing lights and all looking out for each other, with horns blowing to alert people to dragging anchors.   Here in Key West we felt very vulnerable as these boats are wrecks, with nobody on board, and many appear to have been abandoned years ago so we are the only ones who can keep us safe if any of them drag…..    We found it all a bit stressful.

Saturday morning – having had very little sleep – we are relieved that we have a marina place booked.   We waited until 11.30 and checked that the slip was available and yes it had been vacated – so picked up anchor and motored around the islands and into the shipping lane and spotted a boat that had dragged in the storm and sunk right off the breakwater with just his mast and sail flapping above the water.   What a nightmare….  

Dead boat

We got into our allocated slip perfectly and I left Richard sorting Morphie out while I did the paperwork.  The weather forecast shows another front coming through Sunday and then again on Tuesday – so I tried to get our stay extended until Wednesday.   The answer was yes but not in the slip we had just pulled into.  But thankfully they found us an alternative slip so we moved – which was tricky as the 25 knot wind was on our side and tried to take us in – but Richard managed brilliantly and we got tied up just as the heavens opened.

And it rained – and it poured – and it rained – and it poured – and it continued to blow old boots.  But we decided to brave it anyway and went out wearing our oilies….leaving Morphie snug as a bug in her slip.

Safe in a slip - raining hard Tucked in nicely

Are we really in Florida?  This weather is really getting us down now….    We tried the Galleon’s Tiki hut first then wandered down the strip to The Green Room.  Great songster – shame about the beer selection!  

The Green Room 1 The Green Room 2 The Green Room 3

Some weird people about partying- particularly the hen party quickly followed by the stag party wearing some very revealing shorts!!!   Obviously their holiday wardrobes didn’t extend to warm clothes LOL.

The Green Room 4

Moving back towards the Marina we popped into the Island Dogs Bar – listened to the female artist for a little while – and then headed back to Morphie….  Another freezing night but at least we were cuddled up in bed and didn’t need to keep a watchful eye.

Island Dogs Bar Island Dogs Bar 2

Sunday morning and it was time for more chores – after hot chocolate for breakfast in the cockpit still wearing our oilies!!!


This time it was laundry and catching up on the internet followed by a wander downtown for a final drinking voucher top-up from the ATM.   On the way we talked to a guy who was on a very small racing boat and who had just come back from the Cuba race – he hated Varadero as the marina is miles from anywhere so no opportunity to mix with the locals other than those working in the nearby resorts.  They themselves didn’t get to Havana because they were time curtailed by the weather for the crossing back.   Later on I spoke to another guy who had done the same trip and he loved Varadero – particularly the modern marina – versus Havana where the marina was particularly dated.   Interesting….   Oh yes, check out the little racing boat the first guy raced.   Very low freeboard so he got swamped on the way back with water in the cockpit up to his knees most of the way!

Small race boat

While we were out and about we came across a manatee which was being treated to a fresh water drink by one of the guys on the dock.  Manatees absolutely LOVE fresh water – he was rolling in delight LOL!   However, giving them water really isn’t encouraged as it brings them into marinas and into contact with boats which is the main cause of injury to these amazing creatures.

Manatee enjoying the fresh water

On the way back to Morphie we checked out the wreck on the breakwater again…his sails are ripping now….and then we spotted the little race boat leaving for home, which was somewhere near Tampa on the west coast of Florida even though it was still blowing 25 knots and very choppy.   But at least they have places to sneak into if it gets too bad as they planned to hug the coast a bit.

Heading home

We had a lazy afternoon and dinner on board – trying to eat the contents of the freezer as the importation of fresh meat into Cuba isn’t allowed – and wandered the strip.  Well – it is Superbowl night – and there wasn’t a bar without people yelling at the TV.  So when in Rome and all that we returned to the Galleon’s Tiki Hut and watched the game ourselves…..  

We chatted to an interesting guy who was down with some friends for the Superbowl and they were Bronco fans so we decided to support their team.   The adverts between the play were really funny and the half time entertainment was an eclectic mix of Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars….  Coldplay – really????   Not sure how they got top billing – Bruno was his usual amazing self….and Beyonce twerked her stuff whilst making some political statements…..   Back to the game and it all got a bit tense then suddenly another score and the Broncos were guaranteed to win – and the bar erupted….   We had a great evening.


Monday we worked out what needed to do before we headed to Cuba – the weather forecast is looking good for a crossing overnight on Wednesday but not into Havana, which has a tricky entrance, so we are now planning to go into Varadero instead.  At least we’ll be on our way….   Oh yes and we have telephoned Customs & Immigration at Key West airport – where we have to go to check out – and they told me, unlike the marina, that we don’t need a notarised document.   We’ve decided to go Tuesday so that we have time to get this sorted in case they change their mind – all depends on the official in charge on the day I guess!

While I’m in the lobby of the Galleon resort starting the blog and updating my computer to Windows 10, Richard is on board doing serious engine and pre-passage checks.  When I got back he’d even cleaned the waterline of the beard that Morphie had grown this season while we’ve been sitting in marinas…..    Doesn’t she look lovely?

All clean again

Later on we headed to Publix again – we’ve found out from our interactions with the race guys – that some of them had their dairy products confiscated….   So I’m after bread – which isn’t available to purchase in Cuba as each household receive bread as part of their weekly grocery allowance from the Government – and dried milk just in case.  

Another shopping run

The sun has come out finally – what a difference a day makes!   Looks lovely out there – and the pool is very inviting too….

Flat calm and beautiful Nice pool area Beautiful day in the marina

By the time we got back and got our groceries stowed it was getting late….so we had an early dinner….and headed over to Mallory Square for the famous sunset celebrations.   It was crowded with vendors selling everything from roasted corn / popcorn to quite nice original paintings and hand-made jewellery.   The performers were out too – so we watched some fire eaters; some acrobats; and a lovely little pig.  

Sunset crowds at Mallory Square Sunset entertainment 1 Sunset entertainment 2 Sunset entertainment 3

We watched the cruise ship disappear into the sunset and admired the beautiful view as the sun disappeared – wonderful colours….

Goodbye to the cruise ship Sunset at MS Sunset at MS 3

Later on we watched Hindu – a lovely old gaff-rigged tourist boat – return and watched more entertainment…..  

Hindu returning from her sunset cruise Sunset entertainment 4 Sunset entertainment 5

Wandering back towards Duval Street we went into the memorial park in Mallory Square which has bronze busts of significant people in history – so we read up on some of the stories, said hi to Ernest Hemingway, and enjoyed the stories of the ‘wrecker’ industry that sprang up on this coast many many years ago….

Ernest Hemingway bust Wrecker history

We ended up back in the Green Room having one beer – but no musician tonight – so swiftly moved on to the Island Dogs.   Chatted with some people – including a fellow Brit who now lives in Santa Barbara – and even met a couple of Coastguard guys…..    We had a really nice evening.  The night was a bit disturbed as the wind howled and the next cold front came through…..    Seriously fed up with all this!  

This morning – Tuesday – we headed off to Customs and Immigration at the airport.   We had to telephone a number to get them to answer the door as it was a secure facility.   They let us in and asked us where we were sailing to….   Cuba we said – wanting to be honest – and expected it to be a bit difficult.   Relationships have thawed but not that much.    Sorry, they said, can’t give you an exit clearance for Cuba.   Where else are you going?   Mexico we said.  Right answer they said!  So they stamped us up with a clearance to Mexico – and we were back out in less than 15 minutes.    Phew, had been dreading the whole experience…..

We then returned to Morphie via West Marine – Richard’s last chance to get some more boat-related supplies – this time it was varnish as we need to tackle the rail again…..  We spotted another protected cock – actually as the national bird of Key West it is a $2k fine to kill one so they wander around everywhere….   Oh yes and Richard quite fancied the Harley Davidson…..

Protected cock Richard fancied a new bike

By the time we got back, of course, the sun had gone down – so we carried on making the most of our internet access.   We contacted Panama for our marina / haul out reservation for August.   We contacted the Mercy Hospital as we haven’t been billed yet for Richard’s treatment in January.  We’ve paid up our credit cards and now we’re back in the Galleon lobby – I’m blogging while Richard is surfing….and re-checking weather.

Galleon lobby

Tomorrow – Wednesday – we are planning to leave around lunchtime for the 100 mile passage to Varadero so should arrive Thursday morning.    We don’t know whether we can get internet access easily in Cuba – but we’ll be in touch the minute we can!     In the meantime, bye for now


Moving on: Key Largo – Marathon – Key West

Friday night we headed into Skippers after dinner on board to listen to Scott play – and were given more complimentary drinks by the manager.   Thanks very much.


Saturday morning Richard went off to pick up his diving regulators from the servicing shop and took my new octopus with him so that they could put the old instruments onto it. In the meantime I was in the hairdressers trying out my basic Spanish on the Cuban-born stylist.

New regulators

We then returned to Morphie, checked the weather again for the final time, and went into the office to pay our marina dues. Then I took myself off to the laundry while Richard did some security enhancements meaning that we now have remote controllers so that we can turn the alarm on from our bed….  Very clever!!!  Saturday night we were planning to go out again but decided against it and had an early night.

Sunday morning we were up very early and slipped away down the Key Largo canal – into the Hawk Channel – in time for the sunrise.

Heading out the canal Sunrise at sea

We had a lovely downwind sail all the way to Marathon – bit of a gloomy day though.   On arrival we found out that the City mooring field was full and we had to anchor outside. We were surprised as there are over 200 moorings in there but, hey, never mind.   We had our anchor down off Boot Key at 15.30 after a thoroughly enjoyable 49 mile run.

Downwind sailing

The anchorage was pretty quiet and we enjoyed the view of the seven mile bridge as we sat in the cockpit eating dinner and watching the sun go down before turning in.

Seven mile bridge Good night

Monday morning and we awoke to a horrible morning – what happened to the forecast of 10-15 knot winds and a hot sunny day eh???  We saw 30 knots sustained in the rain and a white out….with some pretty significant gusts.  Oh well, time for a lazy morning then.

Stormy wet morning

We rode out this storm and, by noon, it had passed so we got dink off his davits and headed in….   As we came around the green marker we were welcomed by a couple of cormorants who were trying to dry themselves out….and then we spotted dolphins.

Showing us the way in

We slowed right down to a crawl and were really surprised when they came alongside us, under us, towards us and generally played with us for about five minutes.   What a magical moment!

Dolphins 1 Dolphins 2 Dolphins 3 Dolphins 4

We then entered inside the harbour and were surprised that it was full of quite old and almost derelict boats with only the occasional decent one amongst them.   Clearly this is a place that people live on boats most of the year…

Heading into Marathon Mooring field

We went into the City Marina town dock and, abiding by the notices, we went into the office to register.   We knew that we would have to pay to use the dinghy dock but was a little shocked when she charged us $24.   This is the daily mooring ball fee and comes with dinghy dock / laundry / showers / wifi / TVs etc etc but all we wanted to do was tie up dink and go shopping.  Even on questioning she said no that this was the daily rate for using the dock – and the receipt says daily dinghy docking too – what a rip off!!!

We then went for a long walk…..along US Highway 1…..and almost gave up by the time we got to Publix.   We got some fresh provisions and then came back to the marina via Home Depot as Richard had to get a jigsaw.

Time to go shopping

Heavily laden like pack donkeys we walked back to the marina and collected dink – pretty tired after that six mile round trip.   We was going to go to a waterfront bar – and the sun had come out by now – for a restorative beer but the outboard was playing up – so decided instead to go straight back to Morphie.

Morphie at anchor

Richard then fixed the outboard before we settled into the cockpit for a cold one.   Later on we did the passage plan for the run to Key West and checked out the weather….before having another early night.

Sun going down

Sun going down Marathon

Tuesday morning we picked up anchor and headed out into the Hawk Channel for the 42 mile run to Key West….enjoying another lovely sunrise at sea.

Sunrise at sea Marathon

Again we had another downwind run on genoa alone and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves…..even having another dolphin encounter. Fantastic.

Downwind sailing to KW

As we neared Key West we encountered boat traffic and had another yacht overtake us under motor – and then a cruise ship emerged.

Nearing Key West

We waited for it to cross before heading straight across the shipping lane into the shallower waters the other side – and were bothered by loads of tourist boats showing the remaining cruise ship passengers a good time.

Nearing Key West 2

Coming through the shipping lane

We motored alongside Trunk Island avoiding the large motorboats anchored off – and pulled into the preferred anchorage alongside Wisteria Island.

Nice boatThis anchorage is full of derelict boats too and seems to be a feature of Florida anchorages.   But these boats are being lived on…..

Derelict boats 1 Derelict boats 2

We found a sweet spot in about 10 feet of water and got a good set.   We had a quiet evening on board watching the sun going down and enjoying being on the hook before deploying all our security measures and turning in.

Key West sunset

Wednesday morning and we headed into town – a long and wet dinghy ride made cumbersome by the coastguard requirements to carry flares; whistle; lifejackets; hand-held radio etc etc…plus we had a couple of bags of rubbish to get rid off too.   We found the dinghy dock and went into the office to pay our dues – a positive bargain at $6 a day even if the dock is absolutely rammed with boats and we had to push and pull our way through them all to get a spot.  We then wandered the boardwalk and popped into all the marina offices watching the pelican feeding time along the way.

Walking the docks Feeding the pelicans

We have decided that we would like to spend a couple of evenings out in town in Key West and really don’t fancy that long dinghy ride (across the shipping lane) back in the dark – so the mission for the day is to secure a marina place for a couple of nights.   Well – this is their busiest season – and we were turned away from three marinas… Spotted this monster called Tiny along the way – what a beast!

Tiny 1 Tiny 2

Our final visiting place was the fanciest place – The Galleon – with lovely full-length floating docks – and yes they can fit us in for Saturday and Sunday. Only $140 a night….groan…..but we decided it was worth it so that we could walk out and about and see the famous sunset celebrations in Mallory Square as well as have access to fuel and a pump out.   So as our valentine day’s present to each other we booked in for Saturday and Sunday night – how romantic LOL.

Galleon Marina

Job done we carried on wandering and Richard found the zero mile marker….

Zero mile marker

We then headed into West Marine where we picked up more two-stroke oil and wax – and then went on a mini pub crawl down Duval Street. First stop was Sloppy Joe’s where we enjoyed people watching all the cruise ship passengers and listening to the Robert Plant look-alike.

Sloppy Joes Sloppy Joes 2 Sloppy Joes singer

After that we went to The Bull and listened to Dora – who was rubbish!!!   But it was good to see all the wall art depicting some history from Key West, although some of it was clearly imaginary…

Dora at the Bull Wall Art Wall Art 2 Wall Art 3

Then we moved on to Willie T’s where we had a bite to eat and quickly moved on as the singer fancied himself as a comedian and he couldn’t sing either……   Check out the notice on the wall in the heads….not sure I would have eaten here if I had read that first LOL.

Willie T's signage

We love the quirky nature of Key West – check out this cool looking dude in his shades….

Looking cool

Next stop was a waterfront bar looking over the dinghy dock before we headed back for the long ride – stopping to admire the mast and rigging sticking up from the sunken boat….

Dead boat

Then we sat in the cockpit and watched the daily sailings of the cutter-rigged sloops and more conventional catamarans taking out the tourists for their sunset trip.   Quite stunning….

Sunset cruise boats

This morning – Thursday – and I’m blogging while Richard is chilling.  We’ll go ashore later and revisit the marina as we haven’t had our reservation e-mail as promised – and we want to check out the documents we need for customs – which is a taxi ride away at the airport.  Apparently there is a form that we need to get notarised so want to make sure we have time to do this before the weekend – as we hope to be leaving on Monday for Havana if the current weather forecast sticks….

Bye for now