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The cruise started with the usual boat preparation and improvements in Cape Canaveral. We installed a new 3 blade propeller, which improves handling under power and reduces noise and vibration, installed a windvane self-steering gear since we find that the electronic autopilot breaks down too often, and a variety of nuts-and-bolts improvements such an automatic oil-change pump (changing engine oil is much more awkward in a boat that a car, and it is often impractical to have it done by someone else). We even finally installed some sound insulation for the engine that we had in store since about 1997. The engine noise is fairly low now, but it is very hard to completely silence the engine in a boat.
We left Port Canaveral on 5th December, and had a fast run to Key West, a bit over 300 nautical miles, (550 km) in 43 hours. The only problem was that the Gulf Stream was within a mile of shore around Miami, instead of the ten miles off as forecast by NOAA, so we had to duck in close to shore to avoid being slowed down badly by it.
Key West is an interesting town, proudly ignoring many American laws regarding public order.
In addition to having something like 350 bars in an area about one mile by half a mile, there are a number of good museums and related places. We visited Hemingway's old house, which was made very entertaining by a great tour guide, and an exhibition of a sunken Spanish treasure ship found near Key West by Mel Fleming a few years ago with around $400 million of silver, gold etc.
The island has a turbulent history. One detail is that when cock-fighting was made illegal many years ago, the owners were forced to liberate their birds. Since the island is a bird sanctuary their descendants are everywhere, including restaurants etc.
West end of Cuba
End of Cruise
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