Head for Cuba, then turn right


Sailing route from Key West to Isla Mujeres

…so, we made it out of Key West finally and headed west towards Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, before heading more southerly down into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the Caribbean.

Chart of Key West and the Dry Tortugas

One of the old sailors in Key West, Terry, who’s done the trip a few times told us that all we needed to do was simply, “Head for Cuba and then turn right!” But after some consideration and lots of research we decided to take the advice of Freya Rauscher, whose cruising book of the area everyone swears by, and cut the corner a bit more, across the gulf of Mexico and avoid any chance of pissing off the US Coast Guard by getting to close to Cuba (there are stories of people getting their boats impounded!).

The problem with our choice of route is the current that comes whizzing up from the Caribbean Sea, through the Yucatan Channel and into the Gulf of Mexico…. The very same current that would be up to several knots trying their best to push us back to the U.S.

So we spent the next 4 days trying to stay on our course of 228°T with often uncooperative winds and to the point of fighting a current so much that we were actually not making any way south at all.


We spent the 4 days and nights of the trip hanging out around meals (which we had precooked in Key West and frozen for convenience underway) and then one of us heading down for about 4 hours sleep – or at least as much as you could get down in the pilot berth sweating in the humid air that was almost more that even two small fans could have any effect on. While on watch, by day and by night, we entertained ourselves reading, playing on the computer, catching up on podcasts or simply sailing, looking out over the water in the moonlight and watching the lights of the enormous cargo ships heading straight for us, or the flashes of lightening beyond the clouds and hoping that the storms wouldn’t cross our paths. Well, after all we had our trusty friend Artie…. The autopilot! A saviour on the long trips – he stops you getting totally worn out.

Linday driving

We made it across in good time, and only had to use the engine really on the last day, when the wind died…. And in retrospect, we reckon Terry’s advice was the best and have vowed that if we ever make the trip again we will, most definitely just head for Cuba and turn right!