This Prestige 500 had a fuel capacity of 390 gallons, the fuel burn rate was factored in, and the math showed we should take four additional 55-gallon drums of diesel. I decided to double it and take eight drums to play it safe. Loading eight fuel drums proved to be a double-edged sword as the additional weight had us at the brink of piercing safe stability parameters, not to mention barely having the space to load all those extra fuel drums in the cockpit and swim platform. We opted against loading any barrels on the flybridge in order to maintain the center of gravity as low as possible.
We planned to depart Fort Lauderdale with all eight barrels onboard and fill them at our final departure point of Key West. This plan was scrubbed and replaced with a full fill-up of all barrels in Marathon instead of Key West, the reason was to get accustomed to how the boat handles the full weight of the additional fuel barrels. It was safer to test this while we were still running along the Florida coast. The Prestige Yacht ran flawlessly from the Marathon to Key West even with the additional 3,000 (approx.), pounds of extra fuel weight plus gear stowed onboard for the trip. This Prestige handled the extra weight better than other fully loaded comparable yachts I have delivered to the Caribbean.
We were weathered in Key West for a couple of days, so we took advantage and went diving for lobsters for the trip. We managed to catch seven lobsters whose tails we froze along with the Sirloin Steaks we planned to consume when we reached the Cuban coastline.
We left Key West at 0500 for Day One of the delivery. The weather was perfect, and we had a smooth trip across the Florida Straits. It was so calm that we grilled steaks and lobster on the flybridge while watching several pods of pilot whales on their way north. Running with extra fuel was a bit slow, but we ran at about 7 knots without any fuel concerns. Our planned route took us toward Cuba and along the Cuban Coast, staying at least 15 nautical miles off the coastline. The current slowed us down by 1 knot, but it was preferable to dealing with a Cuban Gun Boat claiming we were in their territory.
All went according to plan as we steamed west along the Cuban Coast for about two days. However, once we reached Port San Antonio (the westernmost Cuban port) the sea started to get a bit lumpy. We knew we were in for a bad run once we left the protection of the Cuba coast so we battened down all loose items and rigged straps to the bunks so we would not roll off the bunk when napping. Those naps never happened.
Once we left the Cuban coastline and entered the Yucatan Channel things went from rough to crazy rough. The seas were confused, one wave came at us from one direction and another from a different direction. We estimated the waves to be about 12 feet and steep, some broke right on the bow cracking the windshield. These conditions lasted for about 70 of the 110 miles it takes to get across the Yucatan Channel. Resting was impossible due to the severe rolling and pitching, but the boat took it like a champ. Putting the boat on Autopilot was not smart in those conditions but we had no choice as stopping the boat was not an option in those heavy seas.
Visibility was poor and made worse by the shattered windshield on the starboard side where the lower helm station is located. Fortunately, our Raymarine radar ran flawlessly. Running the boat from the flybridge was not safe in those conditions. Fortunately, there was zero traffic in those rough conditions except for commercial cargo ships traversing the tip of Cuba on their way to Florida, Louisiana, and other commercial ports.
With approximately one hundred nautical miles to go, across the Yucatan Channel, we knew there was nowhere to hide from the relentless battering by 8–12-foot waves and 30+ mph winds.
With the roughest part now behind us, we decided to alter course just a bit to make a close pass on the island of Isla Mujeres. After several days of running in rough seas, we were exhausted with no sleep, so we decided to drop the hook on a shallow spot by the island and clean ourselves and the boat up.
Finally, we were done and ready to head to the airport but, before we could leave, the new owner showed up with his large family close behind. This is normally something we are used to; however, I knew we were in for some trouble when I noticed their bags full of snorkeling gear and about forty of those colorful foam noodles. We were not in any shape to go back out but fortunately, their new Captain was there, so we handed the boat over to him and after a quick Captain's briefing, we were finally on our way to the airport and home.
- Captain Tony Pedraja