welcome back to America

After laying awake most of the night being rolled like crazy, we finally got up at 3:00 am and got underway. We figured if we were going to get rolled like that we might as well be moving. Moving didnt stop the rolling as much as we had hoped, but hey, we were getting closer to a nice calm anchorage on the other side where we could sleep. In the darkness of the waning moon, we could see the Milky Way so brightly it actually illuminated the sea. Millions of stars twinkled above, and below, on the water, bursts of bioluminesence sparkled in our wake. A magical departure, even if the rolling was maddening.
For the first few hours we had such a faint puff of wind we could not keep a sail full and had to motor. The seas were calm. By mid morning the wind started picking up and we eventually were able to raise both sails, turn off the motor, and fly along on a broad reach. As the wind picked up from the east-northeast, the seas soon followed suit. Soon we were in 6 foot whitecapping waves and flying along at 7 knots! That is almost an unheard of speed for us! Wee Happy shook her freshly scrubbed ass, bouncing and boogeying her way briskly across the Gulf Stream. There was no standing, cooking, weaving, or other actitivites done on board today, we were just hanging on for a wild ride! We made amazing time and pulled into the Fort Lauderdale/Port Everglades inlet around 1:30. The waves were steadily increasing and by the time we approached the inlet they were huge. But the biggest waves were from the wakes of the dozens of powerboats speeding recklessly in and out of the inlet on all sides of us, completely oblivious of the effect their huge wakes have on our wee sailboat. At one point I feared we would either capsize, or be sent onto the rocks on shore, but Wee Happy managed to hold her ground and weathered it well. Captain K commented that the longer he sails this Albin Vega, the more confidence he has in her sailing ability. She may be too small to live aboard, but she sure sails beautifully! Past the giant criuse ships we went, and down a section of the ICW. Everbody and their dog was out for a joy ride on Memorial Day weekend. Major motorboat traffic clogged the waterway. We had not realized what a circus Fort Luaderdale would be on a holiday weekend. The closest anchorage was a few miles down in a strange “lake” surrounded by megamansions. (and I mean MEGA mansions, with MEGAyachts parked in front of them. This is the flamboyantly wealthy part of Florda). There are about 100 powerboats anchored here partying. We were dead tired and salty and just wanted to sleep, but instead we got boats doing donuts around us at top speeds towing intertubes full of screaming children. The water is a brownish green color, and the visibility is zero. While we were dropping our anchor I actually saw a turd, and not from a dog, floating in the water. All around us people were swimming. Even though we were crazy hot we opted out of swimming here. Like I said, the Bahamas spoiled us.

Next we were supposed to check in with U.S. customs. We had been told to call an 800 number when we arrived at our anchorage, and that customs official took all of our information over the phone and told us we had to show up in person to the Port Everglades customs office. This is the place all vessels arriving from a foreign port are supposed to check in, so we figured it was on the water, or near the water, and that we could access it easily by boat. After all, ALL the people going to that office are on boats and obviously not in cars. We asked the customs official how to get there by boat and were told we couldnt arrive by boat……ok……they are located near the cruise ship dock, where we were not allowed to go. We got the address and with some difficulty found a place to land our dinghy within a mile or two of the place. We walked for a ways along a very unpedestrian highway until we reached a security gate for the cruise ship docks. The security official turned us away, saying that we couldnt walk to the customs office but that we had to take a cab. Ok……we walked back to the big intersection and managed to get a cab. The cab driver took us through the same security gate and the same official let us through. WTF?!? I guess it is a good thing that we got a cab, though, because it turned out to be really far down a weird no-mans land industrial road that would have sucked to walk down. The customs office intself turned out to be in a office type building that had NO SIGN whatsoever on the outside of it stating that it was the U.S. Customs office. There is no way we would have found it if it hadnt been for that cab driver. Once inside the customs office, it didnt take long for the official to stamp our passports, and then we had to get another cab back to our dinghy, which was miles away. We asked the official to call a cab for us, and he acted shocked that we hadnt driven our own car there, even though we clearly had just arrived there to declare entry for our sailing vessel! I was appalled and furious that they would make it so difficult. When you arrive in an airport they dont expect you to figure out on your own how to get a boat to the customs office! Anyway, our biggest tip to any other sailors who may be going abroad is to take the trouble before you leave to get “the local boater option”, which allows you to clear customs with only a phone call and you dont have to report to an office. We didnt do that before we left and now we wish we would have!
The funny thing is, we easily could have just not checked in with anyone when we arrived back in Florida and as far as I can tell no one would have known the difference. There seems to be a surprising hole in the Homeland Security thing when it comes to boats entering Florida from the ocean.
So here we are back in America…sure wish I could say it felt like home sweet home!
– Capt’n K & Lal

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