Friday, June 11, 2010

Sailing to America and Space

This was our first long sail of undetermined destination and length and our first voyage of more than three days that we had undertaken since our early-January sail from Suriname to Tobago . Our intention was to see how far we could sail before the weather forecast suggested that we head into harbour. Our minimum target was approximately three days towards the West to Great Abaco in the Bahamas and our maximum included a turn to the North after the Bahamas, destination Cape Fear, North Carolina for a total estimated trip of eight days. Unfortunately, weather forecasts suggested that a cold front was moving into the area on our 5th day and we decided to pull into Cape Canaveral, South Florida, rather than chance the northerly route.

The trip was relatively uneventful and we arrived at the Cape Marina as dark was falling on the 7th of April. We were welcomed near the entrance to the channel into Cape Canaveral by an incredibly frisky humpback whale that breached an amazing 20 times or more in the distance. The other member of our welcoming committee was an enormous Disney cruise boat with Mickey Mouse ears which unfortunately seemed to impress the children even more than the whale.

Having heard dreadful stories about US Immigration procedures for foreign private vessels we set-off early on the 8th bearing all of our official papers, including the multiple entry visas obtained in Trinidad, and headed for the Customer and Border Protection office, now part of the Department of Homeland Security. Sounded scary. We were pleasantly surprised at the relatively informal reception that we received and extremely pleased to complete the entire procedure within an hour. Amazingly, they didn't even need to visit the boat! We then had the afternoon to spend at the enormous playground near the marina. This was the first real playground that the monkeys had seen since we left Gomera in the Canary Islands in October.

On our second day in Cape Canaveral we rented a car and made the obligatory trip to the Kennedy Space Centre. The space centre has become a bit of a tourist trappy theme park but it was still quite thrilling to be there and study the progress of space travel up close. The speaker of the day was James Lovell, who captained the Apollo 13 moon flight and coined the phrase “Houston, we've had a problem.'' (A common misquotation is “Houston, we have a problem'”but apparently the problem had been solved before the communication went out, hence the past tense). The monkeys had good fun as well and have now added 'space shuttle', 'rocket launch' and 'astronaut' to their vocabularies.

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