Isla Mujeres, what can be said other than we where a little let down by it and we where ready to move on. After a week of mediocre tacos and good dental work we pulled away from the fuel dock and made our way out through the harbor channel and headed for the north end of the island. The wind was forecasted to be in our favor for the whole trip so we were looking forward to testing out our mainsail repair. Once we made it out past the shallow reef breaks the gulf stream picked us up and calmed the seas as the current and wind pushed together giving us amazing speed.
For 3 blissful days, we had perfect sailing conditions. We jumped into the Gulf Stream and seriously flew up and around Cuba. At times we were doing over 11 knots! Our average speed was 6.8 with a max speed of 12.5!!!
We slowed down once we were about 50 miles off from Key West. I thought we were heading that way, as I have been looking forward to Z’s Pizza for the last 6 months. But nooooooo Jon informed me as we were closing the gap to Key West that we were in fact moving past and riding the nice weather all the way to St. Augustine. WHAT???!!! I swear there was almost a mutiny abroad. I was seriously upset about by-passing the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD ( or so I think) so I just went down stairs to make dinner and stew about the fact we still had another 3-4 days at sea (without pizza) till we reached St. Augustine.
After dinner we were about 40 miles off the coast of Key West, when Jon remembered about the VHF weather stations… something we had not heard in over 3 years. So we turned it on and the first thing we hear is the Emergency Broadcast Alarm. Not a noise you want to hear. It is then followed by ” All mariners should seek safe harbor immediately.” We all look at each other and then listened very closely to the broadcast. ” Severe thunder-storm with gusts in the high 40’s and 50’s moving around 30mph affecting these areas… bra sdjksajd dfjsfjds , blah blah , dsfkjsdhfsdjhf, key west, sfksdjfhsd ”
Seriously none of us knew the names or the areas they were listing, as we were all searching every map we had for the names stated. Once we heard Key West we wondered if it would affect us out here 40 miles off the coast? We then stuck our heads outside….
WOW, we all said as we looked at the very aggressive and yet beautiful square shelf squall in the distance. For the next 10 minutes Jon and Jet debated if it was coming our way, while I was saying over and over again:
Shannon:” um we should reduce sail” ” um we should put another reef in the main”
Jon then stated ” Shannon it is only blowing 10 knots out here, that squall… if it hits us will probably only gust into the 30s, so we got this, but just for you, we will put another reef in the main.”
I followed with…. ” Um I think we should take down the jib too”…
Jon: “lets just see what happens”
Shannon:…..” Um That is 100% coming our way, and the warnings stated gusts above 40 knots”
Jon” This might be a completely different system…”
Anyways while all this talking way going on…. what we should have been doing was taking down sails, getting on our foul weather gear, life jackets and battening down the hatches. So before it hit we decided that not all 3 of us had to be out side and get wet, so I stayed down below to put dinner away and close the port lights.
We never got the calm before the wind switched or any of the other warnings that most squalls give before they hit. The last thing I said to Jet before I went down was “Just watch out for an aggressive wind switch that could possibly jibe the main.
The rain came in a down poor then WHAM! Jibed main. Then not even 10 seconds later WHAM wind spun again. That was the wind switch warning….. we had been waiting for… normally they are not that aggressive….Jon rushed to the main to get it down just in time to leave only the high cut jib and staysail. But as the wind increased Prism was laid completely over with just the headsails. All of us were yelling ” shit shit shit” I was down below dogging the main hatches that were almost under water, while trying to keep the galley mess to a minimum. Jet was at the helm trying to bring Prism around and holding onto our new outboard which was trying to jump ship, while Jon was up on deck yelling “BLOW THE SHEETS! BLOW THE SHEETS”. Before Jet had the chance to blow the stay-sail sheets they broke free, causing the stay-sail to be ripped to shreds within a matter of seconds. Jon is still yelling ” BLOW THE SHEETS” which I can hear down below but Jet can not hear in the cockpit. So now I am yelling from down in the galley to Jet to BLOW THE JIB SHEETS!! But what I did not realize nor did Jon till he looked back, is that the Jib sheets on the main winch are in-fact under water. I can not open the companion way to relay the message because the cockpit is also full of water.
Jet sees what needs to happen, takes a breath and heads, literally under water to blow the jib sheet. AHHHHH pure chaos! Prism then flings upright. None of us know if the spreaders hit or not, all I know is that all the port lights on the port side were under water and the butterfly hatches were almost under water as well.
HOLY F*CK!!!! Jon gets the jib down and controlled the raging whipping sheets as the winds started to calm down into the 30’s. I come outside to see if I can help now that Prism is level again. While Jon was at the bow collecting what was left of the stay sail, Jet asked me to turn on the engine so she could have some steerage. Jon swears we put the engine in gear ( which we didn’t) and started to yell at us to take it out of gear, as he thought the staysail lines were still in the water. But the stay-sail sheets were gone, they obliterated the sail then took off into the deep blue never to been seen again. The last of the jib sheets that he was wrangling were still slightly in the water, but forward of the rudder. ( this is an ongoing debate between Jon and I, as I say the boat was only in neutral and the water was clear of lines ad he says the boat was in gear for a mil-a-second with lines in the water) He was and still is upset that we did not ask the captains permission if we could start the engine, cause we could have missed something that he knew about. (seriously he is still trying to make his point over my shoulder as I am writing this.) Okay Jon. noted…lesson learned. I WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN.
A side note from the captain: It is incredibly important not to wrap lines in the prop in these situations due to the bad sea state and the fact the if prop wraps lines or even worse lines and sails it can not only disable the engine but it can also jam the rudder because the prop is in an aperture between the keel and rudder. If this happens, Prism would be forced to lie-ahull ( a very dangerous and uncomfortable position to be in) while someone would need to dive into the water and cut the obstruction away, a very risky procedure that is avoidable if the engine doesn’t get turned on until all parties agree that there are no more lines in the water. -Jon
Anyway…….The stinging rain was blinding, but only lasted for another few minutes, till finally the winds backed down to the mid teens then nothing. The sky was still very ugly and dark and the sun was just about to set. We all sat in the cockpit allowing the adrenalin to leave our bodies, and once we caught our breaths we started to laugh.
We were lucky that the squall was moving in the same direction as the gulf stream, causing the seas never to get messy. So we had very heavy winds but the sea state was relatively flat.. thank goodness. We all learned a lot from that squall.
Anyways the squall took with it all the wind. So now we were just motoring, in the gulf stream still going about 6-8 knots. During my watch that night I calculated that we could make Miami by that afternoon, and well after that squall I was ready to be at anchor for a little while. So I adjusted our course and started to head to Miami. When woke Jon for his watch I told him of my choice and decision as Admiral of SV Prism to head for Miami. He gladly agreed.
Once we only 5 miles out from the entrance of the Port of Miami, I could see that it was not only me who was excited about giving our voyage a small break. Luckily we did not have to share the class A inlet with any large ships, only a few other pleasure boats. We wound our way in through the waterways and under the bridges till we found our anchorage spot literally right behind South Beach in calm and shallow protected waters.
It was not till we were enjoying our celebratory drink for making it back to the states that we realized that it was Memorial Day Weekend. That explains the crazy amount of pleasure boats and orange barrier markers all round south beach.
The next morning Jon heads to shore to find a phone so we can call customs and check back into the country. Jon found the police dock and used their phone to call customs where he spent more than an hour on hold. The Police station asked Jon to continue his phone call at the Publix supermarket down the street as they wanted to go to the beach to watch the air show.
Meanwhile Jet and I are on the boat, cleaning and being very impressed about the close drive bys we were getting from various military aircrafts. Seriously so close to our mast that it was deafening.
Jon returned about 2 hours later with quite the story. First he had a hard time finding the police dock, when he stopped to ask some locals he started of with ” Hey guys…where I am?” they responded with ” You’re in Miami man!” lol I wish I could have been there to see their faces. They seriously thought Jon had just made land fall after being out at sea in little ol’ Flakor. HA
Anyways back to customs… when Jon was checking in.. apparently if you are americans to check back into the country all you have to do it make a phone call. No one comes out to your boat, no one wants to see where you came from.. nothing… I thought this was odd. However…. we were not all Americans… because Jet was onboard we all had to go to the customs dock at the cruise ship terminal. On the phone they ask Jon if we had anything to declare. Here is how that went….:
Jon: ” Um well we have I think a avocado, an onion, we drank all the boose,….”
Customs: “alright that is all okay.. anything else…?”
Jon: ” oh um we have a little bit of ground beef left”
customs: “did you say ground beef?”
Jon: “yes but only enough for a few tacos for lunch today”
Customs: “please hold”
………..30 minutes pass……….
customs: ” Sir, ground beef is a different story…. you will need to bring it to our office today when you come, other wise it will be a $5000 fine…. Now do you have anything else to declare?”
Jon: ” Really? um.. what else should I declare?”
Customs: “Less the better”
Jon: “I don’t have anything else to declare.”
So while that convo was going on, Jet and I had already brought out the ground beef to make lunch, but we decided to wait till Jon got back. Good thing too! Once Jon go back to the boat we got ready to make the trek to customs, which you have to get to by land, you can not just tie up to the cruise ship dock and check in. As we are getting ready to leave the boat, Jon is in the galley and asks Jet and I if we had grabbed the ground beef that was sitting on the counter… we yelled “no” from outside while loading the dinghy. He then comes out locks up Prism and we make our way to the dock. The dinghy ride from the anchorage to the police dock is about a 15 minute journey… depending on the tides. This trip took about 10 minutes . After getting Flakor tied up… Jon asked ” Who has the ground beef?”
Jet and I both look at him and say ” you?” We seriously though that when he was in the galley asking if we grabbed the beef and we said no, he grabbed it. Yea no.
Jon then went back to Prism to get the seriously less than 1/2 lbs of Isla Mujeres ground beef. While Jet and I enjoyed the people watching that Miami has to offer. …classic.
OKAY, we had the ground beef and we were ready…. but at this point none of us had phones that worked in the US. We needed a cab or uber… so we walked around till we found internet at the Publix… bla bla bla…. we finally made it over to the cruise ship terminal where customs and boarder protection was located.
We walked in thinking we had everything in order. We had the ground beef, all our paperwork and Jet had her visa.
The less than friendly customs agent at the front window was grumpy, stern and had zero personality. Anyways, he asks for our passports welcomes Jon and I home then asked Jet to come in to be processed.
We then ask what they want us to do with the ground beef that was SO important to bring. He simply stated, ” Oh just throw it away”
SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!! ” We were told that if we did not bring this ground beef with us, so that it could be disposed in hazmat waste bin we would be fined $5000!”
Customs: “Well now that you are check in, it’s inadmissible now, just throw it away in the bin over there”
WHATTTTTTT??!! There are no words to explain how messed up this system is.
Meanwhile…..Jet is being held in the back, she had been told that she was issued the wrong visa and they were talking to the head customs agent to see if they would issue her the correct visa or deport her.
They voted to issue her a visa, then proceeded to lecture Jon that he knowingly smuggled a human into the US without the proper clearances, but that they were not going to press charges that would have resulted in a maximum of 5 years prison time or up to $20,000.
Once we were all checked in we found our way back to Prism, after stopping at the store to buy the best cheese we could find and afford to stuff our faces as a congrats meal for Jets first time in the states and Jon and I being home.
The next morning as we were enjoying our coffee on deck when a B2 stealth bomber flew at 500 feet above our heads. WHOA!!!!!!!!!!! After that blow by (as quickly as we can) we loaded up into the dinghy and found our way to south beach to watch the air show. HOLY CROWD OVERLOAD! The people watching in South Beach is like nothing I have ever seen, we could not believe the things we saw.
While walking down the path that lines the beach we ran into a pilot, cool enough… he was the B2 Bomber pilot! But sadly the drive by was a one time deal so we were not going to be able to see it again the next day. Oh well. We made our way out to the water and watched the last of the show with the plans to watch the WHOLE thing the next day.
After spending 2 days in Miami, all 3 of us were ready to get out of dodge. So early the next morning we made our way out of the port of Miami and anchored right in front of south beach, dead center of where the air show is centered. We watched all kinds of US aircraft fly over head including :
USAF F-35 Lighting II
USAF F-22 Raptor
USN F-18 Hornet
USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon
USAF F-15 Eagle
USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II
USMC V-22 Osprey
USAF B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber
USAF B-1 Lancer Bomber
USAF B-52 Bomber
USAF KC-135 Stratotanker
USAF C-130 Hercules
USAF HH60 Blackhawk Helicopter
USN USS Forrest Sherman Ship
USAF Heritage Flight
It was quite the show. Once it was over we took the favorable wind and started making our way up to St. Augustine.