Passage to Florida

Wing and a Prayer
Joy Hughes
Thu 10 May 2007 18:08

26:46.81N 080:02.41W


On Passage to Florida


10th   May 2007


Hi Folks

It’s only been two weeks since I last wrote to you but so much has happened I thought I should bring you up to date. A Potential Medical Emergency and a Storm what more can you ask for. If you’re sitting comfortably I shall begin.

We landed on the Cuban holiday island of Cayo Largo and I really mean Holiday Island. There is only about 6 large hotel complexes an airport and a marina on the island. No local inhabitants, all the Cubans working in these establishments live on the neighbouring island of Isla De Juventud. They are flown in and work 20 days living in residential accomodation returning home for 10 days. The marina is not really for transit boats but for the hotel tourist. They can go on fishing trips, scuba diving or go for a sail on the large catamarans to swim and snorkel round the reefs.

 We were boarded by officials as we arrived into the marina. Customs and Immigrations.  Doctor ensuring we were healthy and did not have any contaminated food. We had delightful dogs Cocker Spaniels running round the decks and cabins sniffing for drugs. I have decided this is the breed of dog I shall have when I get back home. In fact a very through search. But all very friendly.

We had a couple of days here whilst we repaired the main sail and decided to put the Blue Peter cruising Jib to rest. Beyond repair.  We shall now have to use Grahams racing sails.

So we set off again for Havana on the north coast of Cuba. We estimated it would take us about 5 days. We had a good sail along the south coast of Cuba along the west side leaving the Caribbean Sea and into the Gulf of Mexico. Here the seas were not friendly. The wind increased and went into the North West into our faces. Reefed down we tacked along the northern coast.

Whilst on watch on the last night, a rogue wave caught the boat flinging me out of my seat on to the cockpit floor. As I fell I hit my head on the side of the cockpit. Did I see stars? I touched my head and it felt wet. I’m bleeding I informed Graham, who was asleep below. The word blood got his attention pronto. On examination he informed me I had a nasty gash on the side of my head. Dazed and bleeding I may have been but I quickly informed him of where a pressure bandage could be found. I remember only to clearly Grahams F/A skills. The last person receiving an injury like this had a tea towel folded on to the gash and taped up with duck tape under the chin. Graham did a first class job and I was soon cleaned up and bandaged. Did I have a headache fortunately the winds eased and we arrived in Havana the following morning.

Once again we were met by the officials including the doctor, who Graham informed of my injury. He was very concerned. Came to the boat as soon as we had docked and took my B/P of course it was sky high. He ordered me complete rest (laughable on a boat) and informed Graham he was on site and to call him if I was taken ill. Well I had a very sore head, and remained three sheets to the wind for the next couple of day, though I still managed a trip into Havana. I had to attend the clinic and have my wound cleaned and dressed daily and have my B/P checked. Thankfully there was no charge for treatment it would have been another story in the states.

I thought Havana was a fantastic place you could image the decadent society of the 50s. The old film Casablanca. The buildings are on a grand scale and a lot of restoration work is been carried out with grants from Europe and China. Again we found the people friendly.

Slowly my B/P returned to near normal and we left Havana for Palm Beach Florida. A journey of 170nm two nights at sea. We had a rig inspection scheduled at Palm Beach, required by the insurance company before we cross the Atlantic this spring.

As the second night drew in we noticed lightening along the coast of Florida. We watched the storm on radar; hopefully it would pass before us. We could hear a lot of Coast Guard activity on the VHF regarding boats in trouble. We reefed down and kept a careful watch on the storm. Suddenly round 10pm it began to rain and then we heard the wind. We were caught on the edge of the storm. Thunder, lightening with wind of 55kts came at us. The sea was foaming. Graham hung on the wheel trying to keep the boat head into the wind and I clung to the gangway under the spray hood praying, intermittently checking the radar to track the storm.

It seemed to go on for ever, when it had eventually blown through an hour later we assessed the damage.

The Bimini had gone, the main sail was in shreds and we had lost the outdoor aerial for the Sat. phone. Shocked and dazed we limped into Miami Beach marina moored up to the fuel docks and climbed into out bunks, it was 4 30am.

We stayed in Miami for two days. Though the storm had gone through the seas have remained rough and high. Today the forecast was good so we left early to continue the remaining 80 miles to Palm Beach.

On motor with a jib and a tri-sail. No Bimini Hot!!

Well we have made it to Palm Beach. But guess what? The first Tropical storm of the season Andrea has appeared in our path. So we aren’t going anywhere for a while.