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Back in the USA...

We'd been apprehensive about the passage from Mexico to Florida. The currents in the Yucatan Channel are very strong, and not all of them go in your direction. If the wind has any north in it at all, it combines with the current to produce wicked seas. It's rarely an easy passage.

But we lucked out. It wasn't perfect, we were still beating and close reaching most of the way, but it was fairly comfortable and very fast. We arrived about 18 hours earlier than we'd planned. The passage took three days. Off the northwest coast of Cuba, we had a beautiful sunrise, and then later watched a marlin swim lazily by, yards from the boat, with his dorsal fin wagging out of the water. We put our fishing lines in and almost immediately hooked a Mahi Mahi (we'd already caught an enormous tunny just out of Isla) !

Good Hope lost their autopilot the first day out, so we'd been staying close to them to be their "navigational aid": they had to hand steer and it's much easier to steer towards an object than to stare at the compass for hours. On the third day, near dusk, we rounded the sea bouy and headed for Key West. Good Hope radioed over and played Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" over the mic... there's Good Hope rounding the sea bouy, and Zora at the next marker:

The first thing we noticed about Key West (before we even got there!) is that it is justly famous for it's sunsets. We witnessed some spectacular ones:

We'd come in from the west, and as we neared the main channel at Key West it was dark. It was also the hour when all the sunset cruise charters come in, and the narrow channel was filled with milling boats. A hundred feet away the cruise ships and waterfront bars were blasting music. There were millions of lights. For tired sailors who've seen nothing but the sea for three days, it was total mayhem!!! We managed to get through the throngs, however, and get ourselves anchored. Clearing back in to the US was surprisingly easy (considering the state of Homeland Protection post-9/11) compared to other countries we've visited. We were a bit overwhelmed by culture shock as we walked the streets of Key West. It felt very, very weird to be back in the United States.

It was blowing hard out of the direction we were going, but we wanted to get a bit further north before Easter weekend. Neil's dad was coming to visit and Olivia and I had plans to rent a car and go visit my Nana and Grampa Bob on the west coast of Florida. So we left our friends on Good Hope and Simba shaking their heads at us as we headed out into the Hawk channel into 25 knot headwinds. It took is three days of tacking back and forth to travel the distance we'd normally make in a day, but we arrived rather proud of ourselves for having done it. We made it over the 6-foot entrance to the dock and gratefully tied up at Jack and Sunny Canning's house in Islamorada, Florida. We could scarcely believe it as they showed us the shower, pool, hot tub, and told us we could borrow their convertible to do errands. This luxury seemed all the more so after three days of cold, wet, beating into choppy seas. Neil and I took the car to the large grocery store, the Winn Dixie, and experienced a major dose of culture shock. We wandered around in a daze, unable to believe the colossal amount of STUFF to choose from. The cereal aisle alone was bigger than most entire grocery stores we'd seen in the last year. It seemed incredible to us.

But you adjust quickly. Liv and I rented a car and drove the 15 hours to Homosassa to visit Nana and Grampa Bob, and after an hour or so on the road I felt completely normal. We had a great visit with them, and my Aunt Debbie, with Easter dinner and beading projects and trips through Nana's photo albums. On the way we drove through the Everglades National Park and saw lots of alligators. When we got back to the Keys, Neil's dad was there and we had a wonderful visit with him. It was like being at a luxury resort, with the pool and all the wonderful food and social activities. Liv even went out fishing one day with "the boys" and caught Mahi for a big dinner feast by the side of the pool!

Next: closing the circle...crossing back to the Bahamas