Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Boot Key, Florida: beautiful until it wasn't

The sun has just set beyond the Seven Mile Bridge.  The wind, which as you know if you have read my poems, is poetically more essential to me than blood, is blowing through the forward hatch against my skin. Ironically because as I approached the Florida Keys it did not blow at all.  A crystal glass of Laphroaig sits on the floorboards.  I arrived Laphroaig-less and was able to buy a bottle ashore today.

This was the most beautiful of passages, until it wasn’t.   Twelve hundred miles were full of fine sailing, and the last one hundred full of frustration and despair.  The above image of GANNET’s Yellowbrick track only suggests the agony of those last miles.  I was aiming for Key West, but the wind was weak and then died completely and we were helplessly carried northeast at 2.5 knots.  Only skill and chance enabled us to get an anchor down last night here off Boot Key, which encompasses Marathon, Florida.  It took us seven and a half hours to cover the last sixteen miles.  I have sailed from the Caribbean to Key West twice before and not encountered such strong current.  That frustration is closest to me now.  In time the beauty will prevail.

The passage did not begin well.  I woke at 5:30, put the Torqeedo on the transom at 0600.  Tested and it started.  But when I was ready to leave at 7:45, it wouldn’t start and the display read “Error 33”.  I don’t know what that means or how to correct it.  I have emailed Torqeedo asking for explanation.  I cursed various nonexistent gods, walked down the dock, came across a St. Lucian with a Cigarette boat who towed me from my slip and thirty yards before I could sail and refused payment.  Beyond that for almost two weeks it was so wonderful that I began to consider if good can be appreciated without evil, if all sailing were that good would we enjoy it as much as we do having known gales and hurricanes?  I think not.

Last evening at this time I was emotionally exhausted.  My tolerance for frustration had been exceeded for more than a day.  This morning I got up, re-configured the Great Cabin to harbor mode, pumped up the Avon for the first time since Darwin, Australia, wiped myself down with fresh water, put on clean clothes, and rowed three-quarters a mile to shore where problems that I had worried about were easily solved.  Anticipating possible problems is a useful trait and preparing for them wise.  But it is fine when they prove to have no substance.  

I found a slip in which to leave GANNET.  I got a haircut.  I had a good lunch and a cold beer, though I really wanted a frozen Margarita.   Got a new sim for my iPhone and back online. And finally on the fifth attempt got through to the Customs and Border Patrol phone line to report my arrival, though I still have to appear in person at a local office tomorrow.  I also found a well-stocked store that stocks Laphroaig.

And I obtained necessary-for-marinas boat insurance at a cost of three times what it was when GANNET was in California.  I expected an increase because of the chance of hurricanes but was told that it was also in part because Florida has a high claim rate.

The CBP official, who knew distances, asked twice about my last port and when I repeated, “Rodney Bay, St. Lucia,” said, “That’s a long way.”  Forgive my pride when I replied, “It’s the shortest passage I’ve made in years.”

In rearranging GANNET’s interior it was strange that everything was dry.  Only two or three waves came on board in 1300 miles.

I sleep in the V-berth tonight.  I sleep with Carol next week.