Expedition Around North America
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Roatan (Honduras) - Miami (USA)
(February 4 to 16, 2009 )
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Leg 16
Roatan (Honduras) - Miami (USA)
(February 4 to 16, 2009 )

February 16, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
26°07’N – 080°08’W
18h15 local time

Cargo and cruise ships sail off shore but some of them keep close of the coast and cross our route. We have to watch them carefully. We arrive as planned before sunset in the channel towards the labyrinth of the harbour of Fort Lauderdale. We pass the bascule bridge and enter the harbour itself. A multitude of short inlets gives people the opportunity to get their boat just there, in front of their home. We sail up the river towards Fort Lauderdale downtown. Just after the bridge of the 3rd Avenue, we find our berth and finishing the 16th leg of the expedition.

Were on board for this trip, from left to right :
Vincent Berthet (France), Clifford Harvey (Canada), Suzan Chapman (Canada), Randy Falkner (Canada), Pierre-Charles Gueroult (France), Philippe Rouillé (France), Lee Wolf (Canada), Olivier Pitras (France), Laurent Ceresoli (France).

Crew Roatan - Fort Lauderdale - Vincent Berthet

Crew Roatan - Fort Lauderdale
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 15, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Off shore “Old Rhodes Key”, Florida.
25°19’N – 080°04’W
23h15 local time

At dawn, all hands are on deck. A heavy fog has wrapped the anchorage area. The radar and the GPS helps us to stay mid channel with the current coming from beam. Every echo on the radar is carefully analyzed but we are watching for the big one - a possible cruise ship. This big one turns out to be a US Coast Guard entering Key West. With this fog they are busy with all the boats calling on VHF to be rescued.
When the channel clears up, we start our route along the huge archipelago that marks the southern Florida Bay. The traffic is dense, mainly sport fishing boats, going back and forth in all directions.
By mid morning, the fog clears up, a power boat comes to us to ask where is the North !! The current is strong. Here, the Gulf Stream is squeezed between Cuba and Florida. We are going fast. The night comes soft and calm. We should arrive tomorrow morning slightly before sunrise.

US cost gard - Vincent Berthet

US cost gard
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 14, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Key West, Florida, U.S.A
24°34’N – 081°48’W
20h50 local time

Beautiful weather today, we can dry the inside. The preparations for the next stop over are still going on.
The next topic about the weather promises to be very interesting.

The wall  - Pierre Charles Gueroult

The wall
Photo Pierre Charles Gueroult
(Click to enlarge)
February 13, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Key West, Florida, U.S.A
24°34’N – 081°48’W
21h00 local time

Maintenance, cleaning, office job for today. The wind is calm, moisture enters everywhere. It is too warm to switch on to heater, yet we need to dry out the cabin. Keeping hatches open does not help.
A big low-pressure system is building on the Gulf of Mexico, drifting westward with a great power. It does not affect us except we have no wind. We will set sail from Key West to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Key West  - Pierre Charles Gueroult

Key West
Photo Pierre Charles Gueroult
(Click to enlarge)
February 12, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Key West, Florida, U.S.A
24°34’N – 081°48’W
21h40 local time

The night is calm. Only a couple of little waves remind us we are at sea. The traffic is more dense here, mainly fishing boats. Soundings are decreasing.
At dawn, we are at the entrance of the channel North of Key West. From the initial 9 to 10 meters, the depth is now 4 to 3 meters but the channel is well marked. Islands are flat. In the distance, only two huge antennas indicate the presence of a town. On the final approach, we discover major activities on the water. Glass bottom boats, day charter sailing boat, jet ski, speed boat, cruise ships. We cast anchor at 10h30 next to the commercial pier. We go to shore to clear US customs/immigration. The town is crowded with tourists, mainly Americans. Key West is definitely an "in" destination.

Key West  - Vincent Berthet

Key West
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 11, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
North “Dry Tortugas”, Florida Bay, Florida, U.S.A
24°47’N – 082°44’W
22h55 local time

Since three days we wear a coat at night. We can feel the tropical zone is over. The wind is still contrary but turns to our advantage while we are approaching “Key West” which should be our next stop.
The sea is getting flatter and the current helps us. It makes sense to access at Key West by the North. Entering in Florida Bay will cut the swell down. We call a Chinese cargo ship to find out if there are military operations in the training zone we should cross. Unfortunately the watchman does not speak any English. We will see. In the North of “Dry Tortugas” (Which is by the way a target for shooting naval operations) the swell disappears as planned. We enjoy to sail in flat and calm waters.
At sunset, the crew count another member.

Bird  - Vincent Berthet

Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 10, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
80 miles North of the gulf of Guanahacabibes, Cuba
23°49’N – 084°52’W
22h40 local time

The sea changes continually. Here, sharp and short, there, softer, further on, crossed and turbulent, that is a real show. The wind is changing too in force. We are manoeuvring a lot the front sails.
In the middle of the day, we are sailing through a zone covered with jellyfishes. Slightly before 4 PM we are ready to wave the tropic that we had crossed in the Pacific by 111° of longitude West on November 29th in our way to Acapulco.

Against the wind  - Vincent Berthet

Against the wind
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 9, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Yucatan Channel
21°57’N – 086°15’W
23h30 local time

The night fulfilled our wishes. We set sail again with no delay. Navigating against the wind takes time. In the North of the Island, the current is strong and the sea is huge on the shoal. We are released when we get more water because in such a sea the boat is suffering a lot. The current we had from the back while sailing along the Yucatan coast, pushes us now we are off shore “Cabo Catoche”.
The moon is full and the sky clear. We can enjoy it and use it to negotiate the biggest waves. Cuba is 70 miles in the East.

Cozumel  - Vincent Berthet

Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 8, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Cozumel, Mexico,
20°24’N – 087°01’W
22h00 local time

Just after sunset, the wind decreases one step. The sea is still big and choppy but our advance is OK. The current gets stronger while we are approaching the coast. Our route leads us right to the strait between Cozumel Island and the continent. We decide to spent the night there, sheltered by the Island.
Dolphins are welcoming us in the South of the strait. Then the swell flats down and we are finishing the afternoon by four hours of smooth navigation. We cast anchor in 6 meters of water paying a lot of attention to put it only on sand to protect the coral.

Dolphin  - Vincent Berthet

Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 7, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Off shore Cayo Norte, Mexico
18°32 ‘N – 086°51’W
22h40 local time

After the passage between Barbareta and Guanaja Islands, we sail in fair and deep waters. We start our ascension of the coasts of Belize. The sea is rough and uncomfortable but slowly we can point more and more while the wind makes a slight veering.
At noon, a dark bar of clouds breaks over us. The wind increases. With very little sails we face it. The night comes lighted by the moon ; What a nice companion ! We are able to sail East of “Cayo Norte”. We are looking forward to get rid of this nasty front.

Watching the wind  - Vincent Berthet

Watching the wind
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
February 6, 2009 (time onboard = UTC - 5)
Between Barbareta and Guanaja Islands
16°20’N – 085°58’W
22h30 local time

At 11h00 we start to sail out of our anchorage. Shoals are visible. We are zigzagging in between. Outside, we set sails to struggle against the wind. We decide to clear Roatan by the East between Barbareta and Guanaja Islands. The current is contrary too which is not good for the route. We are heading to the continent. When we tack, off shore “Punta Coxinas”, we realize how strong the current is. Slowly, we make our way to the passage. When the sun sets, we are still in the South of Roatan.
The moon, almost full, illuminates our universe. The dark hills of Guanaja are visible. In two hours we should be clear with this passage.

Leaving Roatan - Vincent Berthet

Leaving Roatan
Photo Vincent Berthet
(Click to enlarge)
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