Are you still in Marathon???

That's the question we are asked over and over lately, and the answer is yes, we're still in Marathon, and not because we love it so much, although we can't complain. Yesterday and last night the winds were howling, and buoy reports in the Keys were 19 to 27 knots from the northeast. That is the direction we need to travel. About a week ago, we stuck our nose out into Hawks Channel to see if we could move up the Keys to somewhere around Tavernier. We have a hard and fast rule - if we get underway and it's not fun, we turn around and stay put. That's what happened and we turned back to Boot Key Harbor and picked up a mooring. The winds have not let up a bit here, even though it has been much lighter on the mainland and in Miami. We just can't get there from here. The harbor here in Marathon is packed full because no one in their right mind is moving. When things do settle down a bit, it will look like someone pulled the stopper out of the drain. There are lots of other folks besides us that are waiting for the opportunity to cross over to the Bahamas. At some point, the wind gods will blink and we can make a run for it.

So we're doing what we always do and make the best out of the situation we have. A long time ago we came to the realization that things happen for a reason and we should just accept that and wait for the outcome, which is usually for the best. We have decided to pretend that we have actually planned to spend 2 months here and do the cruising thing like everyone else. Our visit with friends delayed our departure for two weeks and then the need to replace the leaking water tank cost us another couple of weeks and then the winds came up and have not subsided for weeks. This isn't very uncommon for the Keys in the winter time but this will be the longest weather delay so far for us. Our previous record was 10 days. Every day flies by with chores, topping off the water tanks, shopping, visiting with friends and doing local stuff.

We decided to go to Customs and Border Protection and get what was formerly known as the Local Boaters Option card so it would be easier to clear back into the U.S. from the Bahamas. The card and Customs sticker would allow us to clear in by making a phone call instead of having to visit a Customs office. This isn't guaranteed but is usually the case. This is now known as the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) and requires EACH crew member go to the website and fill out the application for participation. It's important that each person that will be on the boat when you return complete an application before you go to Customs. There is also a form to register the boat which must be completed. At the end of completing the form, you are asked to schedule an appointment. You can't just show up so be sure and make the appointment. A confirmation email is then sent to the email address you provide. Here is where things went a little wrong for us.

Our confirmation email, as well as the SVRS website, stated we needed to report to the Simonton St. address in Key West. There is a daily shuttle that runs from Marathon to Key West several times a day. The one-way fees are $4.00 per person and $1.50 for seniors over 60. Not a bad deal since if we drove down we would use more gas than that (not to mention having to rent a car), so at 10 AM, we caught the bus a few blocks west from the City Marina entrance. The bus makes several stops along the way, and the trip to downtown Key West takes about an hour and a half. We got off the bus on Simonton St. a few blocks from the Customs building. A security guard at the door informed us that Customs had moved to the airport about 2 years ago and that we would need to go there, even though the paperwork we had in our hand said Simonton St. When we called the airport, they were very apologetic, but stated we would have to come to the airport. Luck was with us since we had a friend that worked at the nearby courthouse and was able to get free and take us to the airport. It seems that the website has been incorrect for a long time and had not been corrected. We also called the day before and no one mentioned this.

The Customs Officer couldn't be more helpful and friendly. He went above and beyond to help us get through the process and even waived the requirement that we could not come back until the following Wednesday because we had only filed an application for one of us online. We couldn't do it there at the Customs office. An option would have been to go to an internet cafe in Key West and then come back, or if we had a smart phone, we could have done it there. Time was not on our side and we were at the mercy of the bus service at this point. We decided to come back and were told we could do it on Monday, even though Monday is not normally a day to process the applications - it is usually reserved for clearing in cruise ships. We had a nice lunch at the restaurant in the airport, the Conch Flyer, and caught the bus back to Marathon. After we returned, we went online, completed the missing application and scheduled another appointment. The available dates are only Tuesday through Thursday, but we had already been given the OK to return on Monday. Surprisingly, we received a phone call from Customs in Key West instructing us to go to the airport and not Simonton St. and telling us that the website had just been changed. As we said, things happen for a reason. We like to think we had something to do with getting this corrected since we were pretty vocal, in a friendly way (this is U.S. Customs after all), about the problem of the wrong address.

That was our excitement for the week. Once again, the forecast is for lighter winds starting on Tuesday, so we have paid up our mooring until Monday night. Since the forecasts are more often wrong than right, we will wait and see once we poke our bow out on Tuesday morning.We're asking all of our friends and followers to cross their fingers and toes for lighter winds so we can make a break for it and escape the Boot Key Harbor vortex.

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