Friday, May 30, 2014

Back in Key West

Whispering Jesse docked at A&B Marina in Key West
My estimate of three days sailing from Isla Mujeres to Key West was off by almost a full day, even taking into account our late start from Isla Mujeres. The Gulf Stream current provided a definite boost, but the easterly wind limited our ability to actually sail. We made the most of it, though, by maintaining a northeast heading on our first day, which allowed us to sail a fast close reach, at speeds up to ten knots over ground.

The fun ended in the middle of the first night, during Mike's watch, when the autopilot beeped "Low Batt" and clicked off. Mike recovered control and started the engine, which would remain running for the remainder of the distance to Key West, as we doglegged our course to point straight at Key West and almost straight into the wind. We were able to get a little oomph out of the flat-sheeted staysail and the mainsail with the traveler holding the boom hard to starboard, but it was a tight pinch at the very edge of luffing.

Mike checking out Paul's iPhone photos at Amigos Tortilla Bar
We arrived in Key West shortly after dawn on Thursday morning and pulled into the same slip at the A&B Marina that we had occupied the year before. We secured the boat, took badly needed showers, and ate hot breakfasts at the White Tarpon restaurant. Then it was time for a walk over to the US Customs House with our passports and papers to clear in to the United States officially, except that the Customs and Immigration people were not there; they were clearing in a cruise ship full of passengers and wouldn't be back until later. So we wandered all around town, decided not to pay for tickets to either the Ernest Hemingway house or the Old Town Trolley Tour, stopped back at the Customs House but still couldn't clear in, and ended up eating an early lunch at Amigos Tortilla Bar, across from Capt. Tony's Saloon and kitty-corner from Sloppy Joe's. The food and the service were excellent, and I walked away with two souvenir plastic cups for the boat.

Kevin checking out the scenery from Amigos Tortilla Bar, with Sloppy Joe's in the background
The Customs and Immigration people were back in their office on our third try, and we cleared in without any difficulty at all, except that one person at a time needed to wait outside the building with all of our cell phones because they weren't allowed inside. They asked if we had anything to declare or any produce on board, and they took our word for it that we didn't without sending inspectors over to the boat. They barely looked at the zarpe from our clearing out of Mexico before welcoming us back to the United States.

Mike posing in front of Capt. Tony's Saloon, his favorite Key West bar
Paul and I headed back to the boat after lunch, me to prepare the boat for the next leg of the trip and Paul to make plans for leaving the boat, while Mike and Kevin continued to explore. We all met up again for happy hour at the Commodore Waterfront restaurant, the same place where we watched the Preakness the year before, and were attended to by Morgan, the same friendly red-headed bartender. From there, we walked over to Mallory Square to check out the street acts and then up Duval Street to Fogarty's for dinner. The night ended at the Hog's Breath Saloon with a PBR nightcap.

I didn't get a Spot sent from Key West, but here was our exact location:, -81.802313&ll=24.561989, -81.802313&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

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