27 December, 2009


Location: Marathon, Florida

Position: 24 42.371 N 081 05.706 W

Well, the decision’s been made. We’ll sail from the Florida Keys to Isla Mujeres, Mexico whenever we get a decent weather window. We’re excited and a bit nervous. Our route will take us around Key West, past the Marquesas and the Dry Tortugas, south across the Gulf Stream to within 20 miles of the Cuban coast, then around the western end of Cuba, across the Gulf Stream again (it’s named the Yucatan Current here) and over to the eastern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isla_Mujeres).

It’s a trickier trip than we usually do and we want to wait for fairly settled weather. We thought we may be leaving tomorrow but now it looks like maybe Sunday. Or next week. We are all provisioned and ready to go - we just have to stock back up on the foods we are eating and wait.
Cruise ships in Miami

We left Miami just over a week ago in a flotilla of 5 boats. Four of us will travel together to Mexico and the fifth will spend the winter in Marathon. The trip took 2 full days travelling along the southern shore of the Florida Keys and was one of our best sailing trips yet. For both days we had 20-25 knot winds and because it was coming from the NW, the islands kept the seas from getting too high. For you non-sailors this is like having your cake and eating it too. We sailed, with no engine, for the entire 2 days. It was fun but COLD. I know you have no sympathy for us – you who are sitting there with snow on the ground thinking we are a pair or wimps. But!! Don’t forget even though the temperature was in the 50s F we were sitting outside all day with 20-25 knot winds blowing right on us. It’s not like sitting inside. We had our hats and gloves on, our jackets, foul weather trousers and …… our slippers. Still it was a great couple of days. It was very similar to sailing in Maine what with dodging the crab pots and the cold weather – except Maine was warmer!

At the end of December our cell phone will be disconnected and we’ll be back to staying in touch via ham radio. The radio is a godsend: using it we can send and receive small emails, download weather, and make calls around the world to friends that have ham radios. Occasionally we’ll have Internet access, so we’re able to use that to call our families, too.

Several of our boating friends have already headed over to the Bahamas and we’ve been staying in touch using our radio. There are a couple of “nets” in the mornings where we all check in and share our locations. During these nets we can hail friends and, after moving off the net frequency, we can have a nice chat. We have also set up some times and frequencies that we listen to and chat on in the evening, if we aren’t too busy socializing (and neither are they).

We are living a very simple life with few modern conveniences and our radio is our lifeline to civilization. Usually after dinner we turn on the radio and set it to our designated frequency. We either listen to see if any of our friends call, or we will initiate a call to them. Sometimes there’s a lot of crackling and interference and it’s hard to hear but other times it is as clear as day. We are reminded of our grandparents and parents sitting around the crackling ‘wireless’ listening to news and drama.

As we all are now heading in different directions this is our only way to stay in touch until we see each other again. This could be 6 months, a year or 2 years from now. However long it is, it’s already too long! We’re feeling a bit sad as we prepare to put more distance between us and our friends and families. We miss them, but we’re also looking forward to new experiences. We’re glad we’ll be traveling with some old friends and, as always, we’re sure we’ll be making new friends along the way. And we get to learn Spanish! “Ay caramba!!”

Khronicles – Keeping Kith & Kin Konnected!

12 December, 2009


Location: Miami Beach, Florida
Position: 25 47.244 N 080 09.384 W

For some reason we just haven’t been feeling particularly creative or motivated Khronicle-wise lately. We’ve been busy moving south and getting Rachel and ourselves ready to go. We decided about three weeks ago to head to the Western Caribbean this winter. We’ll be going from Miami down to Boot Key Harbor / Marathon, Florida. We’ll stick around there waiting for weather and, when the time seems right, cross the Gulf of Mexico westward to Isla Majeras (Mark says “That translates to ‘The Island of Women’!!”) off the Eastern tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

The current plan is to hang out there a bit then work our way down the Mexican coast to Belize.

Our “week” in Vero Beach, Florida turned into eleven days. Our “few days" in Miami Beach, Florida has turned into a week so far with more to go. We have begged, borrowed and purchased cruising guides, charts and courtesy flags for all the countries we know, think, or there is even a possibility we may go to. We have worked on Rachel to prepare her for a long period away from spare parts. We’ve stocked her to the bursting point with food items that we may or may not be able to get. And then there’s the wine!!!

So it’s not that we haven’t been busy. Of course, along with making tracks down the east coast of the US we’ve also been visiting old friends and making new ones. We know we say this often but hanging out with friends is one of our favorite parts of the cruising lifestyle.

All that being said, Miami (spelled backwards it’s “I maim” – go figure) is a great place to sit at anchor. Easy shore access, easy provisioning and lots to do.

Mark: “Think ‘South Beach’”.

Julie: Whack!!

Mark: “Ow! Whaaat??”

And to top it off a friend just turned us on to this fantastic little Cuban restaurant over there that does breakfast for $3.65 – and that includes the coffee!

Miami is the farthest south on the east coast of the US we’ve been in Rachel, so we’re looking forward to seeing and experiencing new places and meeting new people. Once we get on our way again we’re sure we’ll be motivated to share our experiences with you all. Honest!

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel