Welcome to the (soggy) USA!

Graham Shaw
Wed 20 May 2009 16:45
28:14.1N 80:39.9W

Well readers, here we are in America, the land of the free. And the wet. And large portions.

The crossing from Grand Bahama across to West Palm Beach was fairly uneventful - we had heard nothing but horror stories about crossing the Gulf Stream, 25 foot waves, gale force winds and so on. The trip was dead downwind, so was a bit rolly, but otherwise rather dull.

Clearing in was, um, different to anywhere else. We arrived on Saturday, and Customs (and agriculture and health) clearance was effected over the phone (not done that before), and for Immigration we had to take an eighty dollar round trip in a taxi, to the airport to go and find them. Meanwhile any Mexicans who might have stowed away onboard could have taken a taxi to anywhere in the country. So much for homeland security!

We had to wait till Monday before we could move on though, as we had to get a cruising permit (from Customs again - clearance, health, agriculture and immigration can all be done at the weekend, but not cruising permits! Whilst at the Customs office this time, there was a fire alarm (false alarm we believe) and we had to evacuate and stand in the car park with everyone until the (very shiny, lots of chrome) "Fire Truck" arrived. Lucas was really excited - sirens and flashing lights and lots of firemen running around. Eventually we were all allowed back in, which took a while as everyone has to go through airport style security - every cutoms officer's gun having to be xrayed and so on. After parting with nineteen dollars we came out with the permit, and were free to set off.

So we did. And started on our way north up the Intracoastal Waterway. This is a huge inland body of water, some of it natural, some of it man-made which runs all the way up the east coast of the country, from Miami to Norfolk in Virginia. From there one is in the Chesapeake Bay, at the top of which is the Chesapeake and Delaware canal coming out in New Jersey. We intend to cruise up all this through the next few months, maybe even getting as far as New York.

So far America is great. We've eaten out twice already, and the portions have been so huge there's no way we could have managed dessert. Where else in the world do they cook chips (french fries, for any US readers) with sugar on them?! In all the years we lived in France we can't recall this with French french fries. All the while they're wondering why there is an obesity problem here?

Great that is, apart from the weather. At the weekend a guy on a boat opposite us asked if we'd seen the forecast - apparently storms were building over Cuba and heading north. He stopped short of saying "Those damn Cubans", but it was certainly implied! Anyway, half of Florida's rainfall so far this year has fallen since Monday (today is Wednesday), so you get some idea of what it's like. Right now it has actually stopped raining, but not for long I fear.