24 May, 2013

Welcome to America

Malua is at 24:37.18N 80:20.95W in the Gulf Stream at noon on 30/4/2013
The trip from Cuba to Florida was forecast to be an easy run with the wind from aft of the beam.  I cleared customs and immigration and took on 150 CUC of diesel - the last of my money.  Then set off out the marina entrance after Balvenie who had left an hour before.
The wind was quite north as I moved into the strong northern flowing Gulf Stream.  With the wind against the current the swell banks up into a close chop difficult to sail into however Malua had one reef and a full genoa to help power through the waves.  After about 8 hour of sailing I found myself up-wind of Balvenie and well ahead however the storm clouds and squalls where gathering in the south west.  Before I knew it Balvenie had lost their wind and were forced to tack west.  I kept going north wards towards the Florida coast. At about midnight I came close to a freighter so I tacked to the west.  I could see a red mast-head light but could not tell how far off it was, so I switched on the radar.  It was well inside one mile.  Just then Amanda came on the radio asking if I would go below them or should they change course.  I was on port so I dipped below them passing astern within  200 m.  Not bad sailing that two boat should be that close after 14 hours.
From that point on our paths diverged.  I went west towards the Gulf stream while they kept close to the coast.  While I did not see any ships I had to slow down to take some cat naps and to tack more north.  By daybreak Balvenie was well ahead with Eye Candy leading the pack.  I missed the squalls and lightening which drenched their boats but fell into a no wind hole that continues right to my destination.

I had not purchased the C-Map charts for the USA so my charts ran out just 3 miles off the coast.  My backup helped me as I motored into an easy entrance early in the morning - 4:30 am.  I dropped the anchor near Eye Candy and Balvenie.
We now had to call the Customs and Boarder protection to get an arrival number.  I did that using my travelsimm.  $45 later I got the entry number.  The three Aussie (NZ is part of Oz) boats went ashore to face the friendly face of our first bureaucrat.  As we walked in I knew that this was not going to be easy.  The fellow behind the bullet proof partition must have thought his office space had been invaded by aliens which of course we are in the American's eyes.  He gave the three vessels a hard time always stopping to deal with a locals as soon as they entered the office.  Each vessel has their own story which I will leave them to tell but a sorry story about the difficulties of getting a cruising permit.

I was sent directly back to Malua to get some additional original documentation.  When I presented it to the Customs officer who then scrutinized it as if it was a forgery.  Not a word passed between us as he held it up to the light, turned it over, round and back again.  He was too stupid to put one on top of the other to see the difference.  I was then put through the 3 rd degree as to my movements in the last 3 months.  After a further half hour I was presented with my cruising permit ( the first I received in Puerto Rico so this was just a second with different dates).  I also requested a new stamp in my passport to reflect that I had just arrived.  A note to the authorities: That officer needs training on how to deal with the public and Customs needs to limit the discretion that these officers have in granting cruising permits.

Welcome to America, the land of the free and coalition partners in the fight against terrorists who are not Australians on cruising boats.
Not a magical moment for Malua.

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