We left Isla Tuesday evening. This required a visit with Inga. We may now always refer to her as Isla’s Inga. Anyone who ever stayed at El Milagro must leave with fond memories of Inga. Or, at least, strong memories.
In anticipation of our departure, Randall says to me, “We need to find out from Inga what the bill is.” This filled me with uncertainty, hesitation and yes, fear. I knew this job would be my task. I am the one with the strong rapport with Inga. I had been the one to chat with her one evening about El Milagro’s history. I had been the one who, unfortunately, asked Inga how she decided to settle here on lovely Isla. I had been the one scolded for asking probing questions. I had been the one who interrupted Inga’s “how I got here story” with an apologetic “you don’t have to say” and been sharply rebuked with “Aren’t you going to listen or what???” And, of course, I had been the one who ran into her several nights later and been asked in that thick German accent, “Who are you? Are you on a boat here? Where are you going?” I explained my connection here. “Aah yes, you have not paid anything yet,” she replied.
So I headed to Inga’s desk, practicing my lines. I prepared myself for her fondness for throwing both hands in the air and exclaiming, “You Americans. Where do you get your ideas!!” I could not find her so I waited. I did not want to interrupt any of her activities with my humble request to give her money. But time was pressing. We were down to the last chore. I trudged around the property reluctantly and finally heard her, chatting with friends. Dare I interrupt? I approached cautiously. She cut her eyes toward me. The parrots on her shoulders shuffled nervously. I waved money. Cash. The universal language. She got up slowly as one does with parrots on each shoulder. She walked to her desk and looked hard at me across the counter. “And your boat name?” she said. “Foxtrot,” I said. So far. So good. “And when did you get here?” she said. Now Randall would be able to answer precisely, without hesitation. Date, time, whatever. Me. No. I look at her. She is now staring at her computer screen. Is this a test? Does she know? Should I guess? Could I get away with “Day before yesterday.” Finally I mumble, “A couple of weeks ago, I think. A little more, maybe. Like 17 days, I think. Been so nice here. Lost track. Ya know?” I say the last two words hopefully but she gives no sign of sympathetic camaraderie with forgetfulness. “Well come around and look at the calendar,” she said with exasperation. I scoot around not sure how this is going to help. She points her cigarette at the Windows calendar. “You say two weeks. 17 days. Was it the first of the month, you think? Here?” She is pointing vaguely at the first of the month. “Yeah,” I agree. “It was around the first.” “And what did they say you would pay?” she also wants to know. “$200 a week,” I say joyfully, happy to actually know something that she is asking. She calculates. She gives me the total and looks are me for agreement. I nod. She is getting an account settled. I am relieved that there is no last minute price confusion and that she is pro-rating the additional days beyond the two week stretch. We are as close as we will ever be to being friends. Honestly, I will miss her. We guests meet at night and trade “Dealing with Inga” tips. It has been interesting. A challenge. Something to look forward to and brag about. As in, “I got Inga to tell me where she lives on the island.” (Way to go Michelle)
So we are finally all set. Braum, Myra, Penolope, Sebastion and their Aunt Tunne (rhymes with honey) walk down to the bow of our boat for last minute pictures and to throw lines. We have so enjoyed getting to know them and as we pull away, Myra says “If you are every in the Northwest Territories!!” “You are the first stop!” I call back.
We had a rough ride for the first half of the trip. The Gulf Stream sped us north but won’t quite let us out of its grip for the easterly turn. Finally, the east wind and north current let up enough for a gradual turn to the Keys. We slow down, of course, but the seas settle down and the ride is more pleasant. We take two hour shifts at night. Occasionally, I wonder if Michelle is regretting her offer to crew. It is great to have her company. We finally are close enough to start the ETA calculations. Randall curses his decision to angle up to the Marqueses Keys. The route seemed like it would provide a better sea state but the counter current was bad and the crab pots everywhere. We spent the fourth and final day at sea avoiding crab pots. I managed to snag one. We throttled down quickly and raised the saildrive prop out of the water. Randall used a pole to reach down and un-snag the rope caught on the prop. Luckily, it was just hanging on it and not wrapped around as is more often the case. Randall knocks the rope off and we watch with relief as it falls into our wake. At times like these, a sail drive rocks! Randall reminds me to go downwind of the pots. I quietly curse crab pots, crab pot fishermen and people that eat crab meat.
We spent the night at Boca Grande Key, just short of Key West. We get up early for the short sail to Key West. We were in a hurry to arrive with enough time to process in with the Border Control office. However, a storm slows us down and we linger offshore to let it pass. We get in with plenty of time for trip to Border Control and process in with the friendliest border patrol agents we have yet encountered. We follow up with burgers on Duval Street and beer at Turtle Kraals. We decide to head the next day for Marathon as rain and wind is predicted for the entire upcoming week. We had a great sail from Key West to Marathon and are now sitting snug at a mooring in Boot Key Harbor. Can’t wait to see if we know anyone around here this time around and to meet new boaters staying in the harbor.