By 7:30 a.m. the anchor was down off the Municipal Dock and the Q flag was up. All we had to do was wait for the officials to come out to us to start the clearance process. It all went quickly and the officials were the friendliest we have met in all of our travels. After a short trip to town to finish the paperwork process, and the purchase of a few items at the grocery store, we headed back to the boat and hauled up the anchor. We motored across the harbor toward “the gorge.”
One last problem needed our attention. During the insurance survey for this trip it was determined that the cutless bearing was worn. We decided to have it replaced now so it didn’t create a problem later. The stop was short and the repairs quickly made at Marathon Boatyard. Sea Trek moved out of the Travelift bay and made a short trip out into Boot Key Harbor where we again anchored and waited for weather.
After a day or so of strong winds coming from the direction we were going and a few squalls now and then, the weather turned calm and we motored the 50 miles to visit with friends in Key West and say goodbye. Living in Marathon we had forgotten the throngs of boats coming and going in Key West Harbor. Cruise ships docking at the main piers, tour boats in an endless parade and the ever-present sportfishing boats (waking everything and everyone) greeted us as we made the turn and headed for our anchorage behind Garrison Bight.
The accepted route is to cross the Gulf Stream twice. Heading south from the Keys, most boats cross directly to the coast of Cuba, find the counter currents that usually run about 12 miles out, then follow the coast until just due south of Cabo San Antonio. From that point, most turn west and make a run for Isla Mujeres, crossing the Stream again, except it is now the Yucatan Current. But Herb’s research of the currents in the areas that we would cover revealed that the currents were very close to the Cuban coast and would be against us most of the way. Instead, we determined that a better plan would be to go due west into the Gulf of Mexico until we reached a waypoint of about 24 degrees north and 088 degrees west, then turn to the south heading for Isla Mujeres.
On April 20, with the outlook for good weather, we left Key West behind and had a great sail with winds on our port quarter to the Marquesas Keys about 25 miles west. Again we planned to go to the Tortugas for a few days and visit with our friends who bring the tourists out to the fort on the big catamarans. A check with Herb that evening told us our weather window was now and might not look better. So the following morning we pulled up the anchor and changed our plans. We were heading for Mexico.
The entire passage took us 68 hours — short by offshore standards — so we did not have the time to get into a good rhythm for sleeping and watch standing.