Tuesday 19 May, passage Cayman to Chesapeake day 5: Today we zoom up the Gulf Stream and arrive at Lake Worth in West Palm, Florida.
But before commenting on today, a small addition is needed to yesterday’s activity blog. Before all hell broke lose in the thunder storm last evening, we had been tranquilly sailing all day. I got a little bored so started a job that is long pending: stripping and re-varnishing the teak that surrounds the wash boards. A task most people wouldn’t do while on a sailing passage! The wood work and joinery is very intricate around the hatch and needs quite a bit of concentration to strip it without damaging it. So with paint stripper and chisels, I make a start, up until it got too dark to see. And now I’ll have to find another quiet day or 2, to finish it. That’s the trouble with starting jobs that you shouldn’t have!
After the storm last evening we continue to motor north in ever decreasing wind. The lightening flashes are still going but now fading over the horizon towards Bahamas. At 6am Oana wakes me for my shift. The wind has increased to 10 kts and now dead astern from the south. I ponder sailing. We are in the high flow part of the Gulf Stream now, enjoying 4kts of current. But along with that comes quite confused seas. Motoring is kind of OK but there is not enough wind to pin the sails firmly against this bouncy motion. They would be flogging like crazy. So I decide to continue motoring and use the time to have a clean up.
The whole boat is now covered in damp salt after our action last evening. So while we are motoring and making water, I get the hose out and give everything a wash down, including a deep clean in the entire cockpit and companionway steps. I also give the forward head a good wash down. Another “casualty” from our troubles last evening was the toilet contents (clean-ish sea water) splashed everywhere as we slammed on the waves. The whole clean up takes me several hours right up until Oana wakes at 9am. She doesn’t seem to notice I’ve cleaned anything or at least doesn’t say anything. She is feeling sea sick and not a happy camper. Pity, because until now she has avoided seasickness. It would have been a miracle to undergo a passage without getting seasick.
We are now level with Miami and have just crossed our out-going track to Bahamas that we made 30-December. Since then, we have basically sailed some of the Bahamas and circumnavigated Cuba without actually stopping there! Not our most adventurous sailing season. But not the circumstances we expected either. We should have been finished Cuba and a bit of Mexico by now.
The wind is now up to 15-18kt so very good to sail downwind and not have any flogging. Soon we have poled-out genoa and 3/4 mainsail and going faster than we were with the motor. In fact, going like a train! I should really reduce sail, but what the hell, lets enjoy the thrill of doing 9-10kts and 13-14 SOG. The 65nm from Miami to West Palm gets eaten up very quickly and we enter Lake Worth inlet at 1pm. Almost exactly 4 days and 700nm since Grand Cayman. Very good speed. But a bit too much motoring. 37hrs in all. It’s a good job we topped up on fuel in Cayman or we would have arrived with just fumes in the diesel tanks!
Well, what do you know, Mahina (Ian and Michelle, our friends from Bahamas) are anchored here too. They arrived from The Exumas yesterday and we anchor right next to them.
And so starts the usual fun and games with CBP and USA check-in formalities. On Google we find the West Palm CBP office at the local airport, but they don’t answer the phone. We call the central Florida line for vessel arrivals and they tell us to check in using the CBP ROAM app… which we know doesn’t work for us 🙁 But anyway, we try. That alone is a tough one, because you need a working phone so they can text you a code to even be able to log in! And we dont have a working phone. We somehow managed to lose my UK SIM, leaving us with only a digital data SIM. So we can make calls using Skype, but can’t receive calls or texts.
Eventually, we do get logged into CBP Roam and answer the many many arrival questions and passport photo uploads. Only to instantly receive a message saying “arrival denied, contact local CBP office”. There, see, we knew Roam doesn’t work for foreign vessel arrivals! So it’s another Skype call to the central CBP number for yet another local number which yet again does not answer. We do several cycles like this. All futile. The numbers we get from them either don’t work or they redirect you to call the central number. So many catch-22s! OMG…. these guys! America first? Really?
Luckily, Michelle and Ian know an Australian boat here who recently checked in. Long story short, 2 hours later and 16 different phone numbers, we finally manage to connect to CBP in the local airport and arrange to go check-in tomorrow morning. Thank god! Just the kind of hassle you don’t need after a long passage when you are very tired 🙁
After lunch and a beautiful nap, we get the outboard on the dinghy ready for tomorrow, then leisurely do minor jobs and catch up on the blogs. Oana posts photos and looks at flights back home. Not good news there. Looks like all options to get into Romania are still close to zero right now.
One great thing about being here is we are finally cool again. The water temperature is now 27degC (down from 30 in Cayman) and air temperature very pleasant 28 compared to 32 in Cayman. Ooh …. it could even get to be chilly going further north! We will need the cockpit tent up for the next leg.
Then we go to bed for a blissful full nights sleep. Always a great feeling immediately following a long passage. After check-in tomorrow we need to start looking for the next weather window north.