Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bienvenidos a Mexico!

This is the cold front we raced to Isla Mujeres, and as the cheery lighthouse and flat waters show, we made it! In this nice anchorage, we will not have to worry about the dreadful effects of twenty plus knots of north wind against four knots of Yucatan Gulf Stream current that is happening just over the hill.

It was a trip of about three and a quarter days from Key West, maybe 362 miles? There’s a superstition about bad luck for starting a trip on a Friday, but it was trumped by a full moon, a fair breeze and a weather window just our size. Bad luck might also be ignoring opportunities like these. So we downloaded a satellite image of the ocean currents, made a last cell call to Verizon to cancel our service (out from under that monthly nut!) and motored out the Northwest Channel from Key West, bound for Mexico.

It was pretty nice, too, with that full moon over pale shallowish water that glowed green even in the dark. Our last view of US territory, other than the arbitrary ‘economic zone’ on the chart, was a row of shrimpers, like dogs at a fence, patrolling the perimeter of the Dry Tortugas Protected Maritime Zone at dawn the next day.

One of the greatest new toys aboard is the AIS, which tells us when a ship is within a dozen miles. Better yet, it displays name, bearing, distance, closest point of approach and even dimensions and destination. So instead of ‘ships passing in the night’, we had the Harriette N and the Laura Schulte, 28’ draft, or 584 feet long, bound for Santo Tomas or Lagos, carrying hazardous cargo Class A or Class B, passing within 1.65 miles, or 4.72, in 14 minutes, or 28.

I’d been expecting a larger US Coast Guard presence, maybe even rafts of Cubans, but, other than the ships in bunches, one fast sport-fish was all we saw, and all we heard on the radio was the increasingly distance voice of “US Coast Guard sector Key West.”

I can also report that Cuba has no ‘loom’. When the sun goes down it is dark there. They have not been afflicted with the stain of the mercury vapor lamp, or overlit in any other way, and the night sky remains a presence, and place of beauty and wonder.

Back in the old days, we would have lurked offshore waiting for daylight to enter any strange new harbor. And we are each cautious people in our way. But we did have enough faith in the various data-providing services aboard, electronic charts foremost, reinforced by radar, plain GPS, paper charts and even rough dead reckoning, that we took on the mile-and-a-half wide south entrance to Bahia Mujeres in the dark, and lived to tell the tale. In fact, after a hot shower and a glass of wine, we just slept straight through til morning, when the main act of this voyage really begins.


mmarvin said...

What a pleasurable way to spend a Sunday morning, vicariously living your journey (which is about as close as this landlubber will ever get to a trek like yours!)

Thanks for taking time to share your experiences. I'm especially interested as your latitude goes down and your temperatures up; Annap has had wind chills pegged at 0 for the last few days (it's ok to enjoy a little schadenfreude!). I'm watching the ice mass grow along the shoreline of Whitehall Bay as I type.

Two days from inauguration here. Save for airplanes trying to cruise the Hudson River it's all anyone can talk about. I'll give you a first hand report in a few days as we are going to brave the weather and crowds for a first-hand experience.

Keep those posts coming, and I'll keep my nautical dictionary at the ready! Happy new year (feliz nuevo ano??) to you both! Michael Marvin

jwechsler said...

Nice job! Really wonderful to be able to tag along on your adventures. Fun to think of you and Doug in Isla, one of my old haunts in Mexico.

Galesville planning a Ball @ the Hall on Inauguration Day. Black tie or jeans and glitz.

All the best!

darcykaat said...

Delighted to know of your safe journey to Mexico. Stay wary of pirates! Or keep your pirate costume handy to advise them they are too late!
FYI - my biopsy was negative, so I certified for a few more miles. Suzy & Pete left for Costa Rica yesterday. Much love, darcy

Sally said...

From Sally and Tom: Hi Ann and Doug! We are living vicariously through you right now! We are in Colorado ski-ing which is not too bad but would sooner be on the water!

It was a thrill to read your notes here Ann (I am tardy in replying). It was not only exciting to read, tripping over every word, but also it was so beautifully written; it reads like a good book. We are so envious of you. We will do this trip one day so we are particularly interested in your blog. (We have never seen a blog before!).

Your comments on no lights at night in Cuba were both overwhelmingly sad but at the same time, one is envious in a way of their simplicity. Mind you, they might not view it like that!

Will post comments on other sections of your blog. Keep it going! Stay safe!