We made an overnight offshore passage from Marina Hemingway, Cuba, to Marathon, FL, on February 16 and 17. It ended up being 126.8 nm and took us 24 ½ hours. It was a comfortable and fast trip, for which we were both grateful.
The ship traffic between Cuba and Florida was nuts. There were so many AIS targets on the chart plotter, and they were all huge ships or cruise ships. We’re the little sailboat icon in the middle of the screen.
Checking back in to the United States was remarkably easy, mostly due to some prior planning. Back when we were in Fort Pierce, FL, we had our interviews for the Small Vessel Reporting System and were assigned our identification numbers. This is a program run by the US Customs and Border Patrol that allows registered boaters to take advantage of expedited checking in from foreign ports. The greatest benefit is that you can simply call the CBP when you arrive rather than having to come in for an in-person inspection.
So when we arrived in Marathon, we anchored outside of the entrance channel. Our Q (quarantine) flag was already flying. I called the CBP and gave them our float plan number, and five minutes later we had cleared in. It was the most anticlimactic end to our Cuba trip that I could imagine, and it was great. Down came the Q flag.
We spent a week in Boot Key Harbor, where we were able to get a mooring again, much to my surprise. We met up with friends and did some refueling, rewatering, and reprovisioning.
Then on February 25, we threw off our mooring lines and headed for Bimini, Bahamas. We knew we wanted to arrive in Bimini in late afternoon to take advantage of high tide, so we left Marathon at about 3:00 PM.
On our way out from Marathon, with Sombrero Reef Light in the distance.
Our plan was to edge out and pick up the Gulf Stream, riding it much like a conveyor belt. Due to Marathon’s location, the winds were contrary to current in the initial part of the trip, so we were close-hauled for a while. Because we weren’t in a hurry, we fell off the wind a little bit to increase our comfort level and to keep the sails from flogging. As we progressed north and east, the winds became more favorable. When we hit the Gulf Stream proper, we really flew, reaching 7+ knots speed over ground. It was so neat flying along at night like that.
The night passed uneventfully, and the next afternoon we pulled up to our slip in Bimini Blue Water Marina. This marina is very popular with cruisers for a number of reasons: it’s only $1/foot, the dockhands are excellent, and the docks are in good condition. As the day went on, slip after slip filled with boats from Boot Key Harbor. The BKH Gang ended up being us, s/v ‘Bout Time (with whom we spent time in Cuba), s/v Nellie Bly, s/v Moonshadow, and s/v Empress. s/v Zen and s/v Corporate Sailout, also BKH alumnus, had departed just before we all arrived.
It is difficult to express how ridiculously beautiful the water is here.
Our trip to Bimini was 133.1 nm and took 24 hours. We figured we’d be staying about a week due to weather and were ready to hit the town” and explore.
Here we are, snug in our berth. To my delight, we ended up with Dylan the Corgi to our left and Molly the labrador retriever to our right. And THAT’S why I carry dog treats.
The marina is about 50/50 sailboats and sport fishers/motor vessels.