Key West, Florida, USA –
January 17, 2020 –
There are these days in life when you are doomed to lose, when the shit is just not dropping off your foot, and if you keep shaking it, it eventually lands on your face making a bad day just worse.
Today was one of these days for me. Which is not entirely true, to be honest. The first half of the day was great. The passage from Cuba to Florida was bumpy but fast. I arrived around noon, found a vacant mooring ball of the City Marina’s mooring field but from this moment events developed downward.
So I get my dinghy ready to find the dinghy dock and check in with the dockmaster. But the out-boarder won’t crank. I do what good mechanics do, give it a critical look including the use of loud and inadequate language which makes me seem even more professional. However, the out-boarder is little impressed so I punish it with negligence and replace it with my electrical baby, even though I suspected the ride a bit long for the battery. But the choices are limited and off we go.
(Did I mention I dropped my good knife into the water?)
The good news of the day: Eventually I did find the dinghy dock and the dockmaster’s office, that was just 2 nautical miles from the mooring buoy. The next problem occurred when I wanted to pay for it. It turns out I lost my one and only working credit card, the choices are I left it in the ATM in Cuba or in the middle of the Straits of Florida, both equally inaccessible.
The reason the other cards ain’t working is that the banks keep identifying my excessive traveling pattern as fraud and keep sending me new cards to my home address… which was where exactly??
So the only chance is to get cash from an ATM using my European EC-cards. Finally, after at least a marathon distance of walking I find an ATM that at least gives me 200$ (daily limit?) out of one card. Feeling like a king I return to the dockmaster to pay my due.
Then I make the fatal mistake and check my emails. The most recent is a friendly note from the US Customs and Border Protection that “unfortunately my clearance has not been approved and I may not enter the US at this time”. What the hack??
You may need to know that non-US sailors have to report each arrival to the US using a dedicated app of the US CBP. Only the first time you will need to see the authorities at a port of entry to have visa and boat documents checked and obtain a cruising permit that is valid for a year. I did all that in Puerto Rico.
So the above email was the reply to me reporting my arrival in Key West. So, theoretically, I wouldn’t even have been allowed to leave the boat. Too late for that anyway, I think and use the last millimeter of my shoes’ soles to hike to the local CBP office.
Now here comes a funny part: some governmental buildings in the US do not permit cell phones to be brought. So they ask me to hide it in the bushes in the front yard, mentioning the two black limousines on the curb, adding I wouldn’t need to hide it too well, as long as those limousines are there, nobody would go looking for it anyway. Ok, I do as I was told and “hide” my phone on the lawn in the front yard.
Then I have a nice chat with the guys from CBP and we all agree that my threat to the safety of this country is minimal, especially since I can’t even rent a car without a credit card to show off my German autobahn driving skills. And so my short time as illegal immigrant is already history. With a stamp in my passport and the second smile on my face for today I leave the building, pick my phone like a flower and start my second marathon back to the dinghy dock.
And so the lonesome cowboy of the seas (me) rides on his dinghy into the sunset. But only about 2-3 cables. Then the sunset comes faster than the dinghy wants to ride – battery dead. So I pick up my emergency paddle and save money for the gym (for the next 6 months at least!), paddling the dinghy back to the mothership, which was parked where exactly? Anybody already forgot where he/she parked the car in a parking lot when it turned dark? Welcome to my world!
I hope I won’t burn my hand or more when I will just sit down in the cockpit with a genuine Cuban cigar and celebrate the best of this eventful day – its end.