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.