We drove down to Key West on a Wednesday and spent the night on the boat. On Thursday, we picked up final provisions in preparation for a sail time of 3:00pm. It was estimated that this sail would take approximately 20 hours. The boats were released in three different waves.
The boat was very comfortable with two staterooms (and two heads). The two heads would come in handy as the evening wore on.
Although, we all took some kind of anti-nausea drug – half our crew (2 mates) became incapacitated as the sun went down and night fell upon us. Thankfully, the Captain was ship shape as was yours truly. The ride was a bit bumpy but not crazy. The winds were S-SE at about 23 knots. The seas were about 6ft. So, we had the wind at our back and that was a good thing. Unfortunately, at about 10pm Thursday evening we lost the autopilot. It seems the stern got pushed around a bit with the mizzen up and put enough strain on auto that an aluminum plate that the gears were attached to broke at the solder lines and fell into the bilge. So, that meant manual sailing the rest of the way. Later that night or early morning the console GPS went kaput. Then the handheld GPS battery died. We did have other backups but since there were so many boats going our way we just followed the stern lights of another boat until dawn. Captain Tom handled most of the steerage duty – but did hand-off to yours truly for an occasional break.
With two mates out of commission our two-hour watches fell to the wayside. Did I tell you it was a long, long night?
There was nothing quite like seeing Cuba on the horizon. From this point it would still take about 3 hours to get to the marina harbor. What a sight, though.
There are communication protocols that you follow when requesting entry to the marina. The Cuban authorities had small spotter boats out to liaison with customs and the sailboats so we would know when we could enter the marina. Our first stop was the customs dock where a number of authorities would come aboard to check our passports, inspect the boat, take our temperatures, ask questions, etc. Once that process was complete, we were assigned our spot in one of the marina canals.
We had finally arrived! I think we all slept pretty well that night.