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