Once the weather looked good enough with no north in the wind over the north flowing Gulf Stream, I informed the dockmaster so the meter could be read and the bill prepared. They added a 10% tip which I had taken off the bill, as we prefer to tip people for doing a good job and all we got in the way of service in the marina was for our lines to be taken when we arrived and we expect any marina to do that as a minimum. The lady who took our credit card payment also asked for a tip but I explained we didn’t have any cash as we were leaving and you don’t need Cuban money anywhere else.
I asked if we could move to the Customs dock before sunset and wait there for clearance at about 0300 but it is not permitted and we were forced to go there in the dark. The main issue was not to run into the buoys marking off the swimming area. It didn’t take long to check the paperwork, issue the zarpe for anywhere in the USA and board the boat again to make sure we weren’t harbouring any Cubans.
The forecast was for S/SE winds of not more than 15 knots, a brief period with E winds and we hoped to ride the Gulf Stream for a while to increase our speed and make Fort Lauderdale by the late afternoon the following day. Jack took ‘Rosa Fascia’ to Bimini, leaving a few hours before us so he had time to clear his crew off the boat and clear out himself, making the 50 mile passage to Fort Lauderdale single-handed.
Leaving Marina Hemingway is not an issue with the lit channel markers and our inbound track on the Navionics Chart on both our iPads. These are more accurate than our helm plotter at times and easy to navigate whilst sitting snugly under the sprayhood on passages. The passage was a very good one making 100 miles in the first 12 hours and arriving in Fort Lauderdale for the 1000 bridge, our first requested opening. All the traffic had to be stopped whilst just Beyzano sauntered through the gap once the 2 sides had lifted up. The Florida bridge tenders listen to VHF 09 and open at differing times, the first one in Fort Lauderdale being at 00 and 30 past the hour. We saw a lot of traffic during our voyage, including a Coastguard plane that circled and checked us out. The radio was busy again, including our friends on ‘Freya’ who heard us asking the Coastguard about a storm weather warning given out on the radio. Not good to hear ‘all vessels should seek harbour immediately’ when you are miles offshore but it was for another area luckily.
I have to admit I felt relieved that we were in US waters. In Cuba you are very much on your own, unlikely to get any response to a call for help as nobody seemed to have a VHF radio. No weather forecasts were transmitted and we rarely heard any traffic. Once near the USA we knew that help would be on hand if required, quite comforting.
We had 2 reefs in our mainsail and 2 in the genoa overnight and still saw 10 knots speed over the ground. There were a few choppy areas but no squalls and it was enjoyable and fast. If you time it right weather wise, crossing the mighty Gulf Stream shouldn’t pose any issues. Miami was passed at night, a huge orange glow over the city, followed by a coastline of high-rise buildings until we saw the sea buoy off Fort Launderdale and the red and green markers of the channel. We headed in, called up the bridge and then a couple of marinas. That weekend the beach hosted a huge event and it was busy in town. Bahia Mar Marina could give us 2 nights so we opted for there at an astronomical cost of 3 dollars a foot per night, the most we have ever paid. A dockhand took our lines and we were in amongst the superyachts in a slip much bigger than we needed, for once but there was still only 0.4 metres under us at low water. The ICW had good depths and we hope that continues so we can motor north when the weather isn’t good outside.
Next we tried to call the Customs and Border Protection office to report our arrival to no avail. The automated message said to wait for an operator but nothing happened so after 5 attempts the marina office told me just to go to the Customs office instead. So we got a taxi there for 16 dollars only to find that they wouldn’t process us without an arrival number from the telephone only officer. So I continued to try on their phone and eventually got through. Then it was a quick process for both Immigration and Customs with the latter costing 56 dollars. As we were leaving the county within 48 hours, I didn’t need to leave our registration papers with them to collect when we left and that saved another taxi fare. We do need to clear in at every port though, paying loads of money each time, which makes it even worse than Cuba. If we can get a ‘decal’ for the year it will be cheaper and easier but they only post those and we are on the move. If we can, we will stay somewhere a few days to enable FedEx to get the paperwork to us as it will be cheaper in the long run.
The following day we got a new SIM for our phone and a data chip for the iPad, although the marina WiFi is really good and it is great to be in touch again, skyping the kids with video for the first time in months. We also did a big supermarket shop after 8 week and 2 days without being able to buy anything more than eggs, dodgy bread, a few tiny onions, crisps, rum, biscuits and a jar of little pickled onions. It was amazing! We saw a superyacht crew stocking up with 12 trolleys, 1 only containing fresh flowers. They told us they would have to do another similar shop in the afternoon. Finally we used 4 washing machines and 3 dryers at the marina to do the laundry, at a cost of 2 dollars per machine.
We walked to the beach over the pedestrian bridge direct from the hotel and saw the event being set up. Countless food and drink stalls, another selling Stetsons and boots, plus a few on the theme, marine conservation. The music is Country and Western on one stage with other styles on another. Should be a good weekend and a shame we don’t have time to stay for it.
We found out on Facebook that our friends on ‘Moondancer’, Steve and Linda, were anchored not far away and they came over for coffee this morning. Great to see them again after almost a year and catch up on their sailing season. Jack is ‘buddy’ boating with us again on ‘Rosa Fascia’, happily admitting that he has been glad to follow us the last 3 weeks so he doesn’t have to make any decisions! Today we head north again as we want to make progress towards the Chesapeake and visit a couple of towns along the way. In any case, our cruising permit states we need to be out of the county by 1441, so we need to leave.