by Ray Jason
AVENTURA was lunging over the crests of fourteen-foot waves and then plunging down their backs with rollicking gusto. My enthusiasm was considerably more tempered. In other words, I was semi-terrified. The passage from Grand Cayman to Key West had already been a test of my solo sailing skills, and I had hoped that on the last night before arrival, the conditions would be pleasant. But instead they were punishing.
The wind was over 30 knots and because it was in the opposite direction of the powerful Gulf Stream, the waves were not just large but they were also steep and confused. This was a perfect dark frightening night for anyone who wanted to experience the power and fury of Mother Ocean.
I had been trying to reach the Coast Guard by radio to check and see if all of the lighthouses along the reefs were functioning properly, but I was getting no response. Then suddenly another sailboat hailed me and asked for my position. We were about 5 miles apart and he too was headed for Key West. We shared some fear-laced humor about the abysmal sea conditions and then I asked him where he was coming from. There was a profound pause … and then he said he was returning from the “South Tortugas.” At first this befuddled me because I had never heard of these islands, and then it suddenly hit me and I congratulated him on his clandestine visit to “The Forbidden Isle - CUBA.”