Cruising 2007

To Return or Not?

Chapter 2: The Crossing

Just as we are set to weigh anchor, I discover I have the wrong A/C adapter for my computer.  No adapter, no computer.  No computer, no charts.  That is, no electronic charts, which means I have to rely on paper chartsówhich got me here from Seattle 10 years ago.  But who wants to do hand navigation and calculations any more?

Garrison Bight
Sunset at Garrison Bight

We motor around Fleming Key to Garrison Bight and, with the help of neighbor Rosemary, tie up in my old slip across the pier from the houseboat, retrieve the proper adapter, make a couple of phone calls, and we are off again.

From Sand Key, I set a course somewhat diagonally across the NE flow of the Gulf Stream, hoping to get the worst over first.  The plan is to get close enough to Cuba to take advantage of the west flowing counter current.  It is not a bad crossing, as there is little or no wind to stir up the Gulf Stream.  The downside of this:  With no wind to counteract, the Stream pushes us considerably off course, to the east whereas Mexico is to the west.

By midday the following day we are off the coast of Havana, Cuba.  There is a US Coast Guard Cutter lying here, about 12 miles off Cubaís coast, ostensibly to remind us that to go closer will put us in the territorial waters of Cuba.  At which time the Coast Guard would/could board the Sirius II to discover our intentions.  Going to Cuba means spending money there which is against US policy:  Trading with the enemy!  To avoid this, and a possible confiscation of the vessel and/or electronics, I set a new course to keep the boat 12 miles off Cubaís coast.

The results of this decision are immediate.  We are still in the broad area of the northeast flow of the Gulf Stream, not close enough to Cuba to get the counter current I want.  Bucking the current, with no wind, our forward progress falls to three knots and less, as opposed to the five knots I had planned.

By Monday afternoon, after more than 48 hours of motoring (our first night out we were able to sail for about five hours), I have to admit that we have a problem.  At this rate, there will not be enough fuel to make it to Mexico.  I  pour the 10 gallons of diesel from the jerry cans into the main tank and start looking for a port in Cuba to refuel, even though contrary to Americaís convoluted policy.  Even the US Coast Guard canít fault a sailor who puts into port for necessary provisions.  Can they?

Nigel Calderís Cuba:  A Cruising Guide reports that the industrial town of Santa Lucia, about five hours away (thus, five gallons of diesel under these conditions) is a port of entry and surely we can take on fuel there.  Arriving just before night fall, we tie up at the Guarda dock and are told we canít leave the vessel and must wait until tomorrow morning to do business.  That is when we find out that Santa Lucia is no longer a port of entry and we canít do business with them without proper clearance.  And we canít get proper clearance here.  My plea about lack of fuel doesnít faze the Guarda.

We are directed to the new port of entry close to the western tip of Cuba, Punta Morros, about 80 nautical miles distance.  Do I have enough fuel?  Fortunately, motoring much closer to Cuba we are now out of the Gulf Stream and are able to maintain a speed of five knots. 

Arriving just at dark, again we are told to wait until tomorrow to do business.  Then, as is the common practice in Cuba, we are boarded by officials from emigration, customs, agriculture, health and security all at the same time, some asking the same questions.  Before we can buy fuel, we have to officially check in to Cuba (and check out).  With the 23% discount Cuba now imposes on the US dollar (i.e., each $100 is only worth $77), this is by far the most expensive fuel I have ever purchased.  To be sure, I donít get any more fuel than I think I will need to cross the Yucatan Channel to Mexico!

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Copyright © 2008 Steven Jones. All Rights Reserved.
2007 Cruising