Friday, February 24 Montego Bay, Jamaica

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 24th, 2017

This was one of the longest overnight sails since I left the North West, six “lonely nights”, roughly 600 nautical miles, as the crow flies. When I left from the Shelter Bay Marina on Tuesday the 14th the seas were still very rough from the unusual strong trade winds of the previous two weeks. I attempted to get as much easting as possible but could not sail close enough to the wind because in order to climb over the steep swells and waves I needed to have the sails a little fuller to keep some power to not be knocked to a near stop every time the boat slammed into the next crest. I was hoping to make it to Kingston on the East end of Jamaica in order to try and make it through Windward Passage, the channel between Cuba and Haiti, and from there work westward in the Eastern trade wind. But the best heading was straight north heading for the Yucatan Channel. My compass showed a twenty degree higher heading than my GPS showed over the bottom. Apparently due to a westward set caused by the strong trade winds. But then on Saturday I got a nice lift of about thirty degrees towards the east, towards Kingston. At midnight the wind strengthened and I had to wrestle the dacron genoa down to set the storm jib, it also became the end of that nice lift and now I was left with the only option to sail to Montego Bay. In the morning the wind had dropped to nearly nothing. When I turned the engine on there was a clanking metal sound. I feared for the worst. It turned out that the bolt that secures the flywheel that drives the alternator was sheared off. Fortunately there was enough wind left to keep the boat going and reasonably calm seas to replace the bolt. At the same time, with the steering on auto pilot, I could replace one of the two control lines to the wind vane. It had badly chafed but in the strong winds I could not dare to attempt the replacement. Both repairs are recorded on video for this part of the voyage.
I arrived at 9 pm Monday the 20th at the Montego Bay YC. Most of the moorage is on buoys in front of the very nice clubhouse and facilities. I am currently med moored to the dock to get water, fuel and fold the four sails I used on this trip. The goal to get as close to Cuba as possible and still be able to fly to the West Coast to celebrate my 80th birthday went haywire. Misinterpretations, miscommunications between me and my five children.
I expect to have my US Coast Guard clearance next week to spend 12 days in Cuban waters from March 15.
A NEW PLAN: Instead of heading to Cartagena from Cuba I plan sail to Ft. Lauderdale and then head again for Green Cove Springs near Jacksonville to my third haul out there and then sail north to do one of the two “Loops” to the Great Lakes and dn the Mississippi through the Hudson or St. Lawrence. And then sail from New Orleans to Cartagena in October November.

THE SHELTER BAY MARINA AT CRISTOBAL: This was one of the stops I regretted to leave. The isolated location, far from town, lent to the social interaction. There was only one (good) restaurant and bar. In comparison to another favorite marina, the La Cruz marina on Banderas Bay, where there were two restaurant/bars in the marina and many eateries within walking distance in La Cruz. So, you only interacted with your dock neighbors, at best. There ws a bbQ area, swimming pool, the daily shopping trips on the marina bus to Colon. Yoga, Open Mike on Saturday, etc. Here at the SB congregate the cruisers going north and south through the Canal and it is a favorite stop for those who visit the western Caribbean, close to the San Blas islands, Boca del Toro archipelago, etc. I made many new friends and hopped back and forth between the four languages I speak. The experience of the two Sunday morning devotionals we held in the day room, were a blessing to interact, sing with Christian cruisers.

CRUISING BRATS: One thing I wished I could have managed is to make a video letting these children tell you what I observed. There was one South African family with four girls, ranging from Marieken 16/18?, Fransje, ?, Sophia 10?
The Friday before I left a Norwegian catamaran tied up across from me. Within minutes three deck rats, with their father, were polishing the salt stains off the stainless steel. Susanna 12, Frederick 10 and Erling 6. The Dalen family. www.Langtur.yourhda.com where they write: (for my Norsk snakker Viking friends)
Naboen vår tvers over var Jack, som opprinnelig kommer fra Nederland men nå er amerikaner og seiler jorden rundt alene. Han skulle hjem på ferie et par uker etter for å feire 80-årsdagen før han skulle seile videre. You need a password to their site, it is the same as the first seven letters of the URL.

This picture taken from the Dalen blog

Erling playing with the neighbor dog, In background "Fleetwood"

Erling playing with the neighbor dog, In background “Fleetwood”

What makes these boat (b)rats so different is that they can have an adult conversation with any one. As an example, Frederick asked me what I had done for a living before I started this cruise. The last Sunday at the fellowship meeting, Marieken gave a very impressive and original account to the congregation of her faith. These kids look you straight n the eye. Even among my younger grandchildren when I try to communicate with them, they squirm away, from this dirt old weirdo, perfert, grandfather. But I believe that it has little to do with the cruising life. If parents would communicate more and give their children more participation/responsibility in the day to day routines, they`d accomplish the same. The two young grand nephews I have in Haarlem, can talk to me almost as well as these cruising brats.

NEW PLANS: I am expecting the US Coast Guard approval next week to spend 12 days in Cuban Waters as of March 15. Good friends are here who I met in Greece the last week of October 2011 on Chios, Berndt and Birgit Ferrara, from Berlin. See this blog under October/November 2011. I plan to sail with them to the Grand Caymans on Monday then to Cienfuegos Cuba and from there to Florida. I like to do my early spring maintenance for the third time in Green Cove Springs, near Jacksonville, Fl. then go North to spend some time in the Portsmouth, Va./Norfolk area with my youngest daughter family and then attempt the Loop through either the Hudson or the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes, descend the Mississippi and head for Cartagena from New Orleans in November.

 

 

 

Sunday February 12. “Ya”, circumnavigating without a drop of fuel.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 12th, 2017

On my arrival here, when I walked down the dock to check in with the marina office , I noticed an unusual looking sailboat. The Dutch ketch rigged “Ya”.

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http://duurzaamjacht.nl/english/

You will find all the particulars on the above web site. This is definitely the Pria of the Hybrid powered sailboats. However, Hybrid is the wrong classification since “Ya” does not use any fossil fuel whatsoever. Just solar, wind, and propeller generation. But “Ya” has the luxury classification in common with a Pria. Pressurized hot and cold water, micro-wave and induction oven, etc. The roomy and bright interior compares to some of the finest luxury sailing yachts. A lot of thought went into the construction methods and into, for example, the collection and conservation of fresh water, without mechanical water makers.

Peter Hoefnagels, the owner and skipper in the galley

Peter Hoefnagels, the owner and skipper in the galley

the electric motors

the electric motors

part of the solar panels

part of the solar panels

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can follow the circumnavigation of “Ya” at the above URL.

 

 

Saturday, Feb 11. Around the World at 80 years.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 11th, 2017

 

Yesterday was exactly 12 years ago that I pulled “Fleetwood” out of Gig Harbor on the trailer to Alameda, California. It was the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Little did I know what lay ahead. It started one of the very best periods in my entire life. I was 68 and it was more a joke when I added: “Around the World before 80 Years” to my e-mail letterhead. I have just changed it to: “Around the World before at 80 Years”.

I may not get away from here until Wednesday, when the wind and sea conditions are to return to normal after two weeks of very strong easterlies. I am still hoping to make a stop in Boca del Toro, about a hundred miles up the Panamanian coast. But then probably make a straight shot to Cancun and fly out to San Diego by the 26th to celebrate my 80th birthday on the 28th (Mardi Gras) at my oldest son’s home, with the rest of my 5 children and their partners. I am expecting approval by the US coast guard for a 12 day visit in Cuba starting on the 15th of March. That’s all the time I am allowed under the current regulations. Then I plan to head south to Jamaica, Antilles and Cartagena, Colombia. Park the boat there and hop on the bus to Tierra del Fuego, making frequent stops along the way. Then work my way north and east again in the Caribbean from November. I’d like to go up the gulf stream to New York next year summer and make the “Great Loop” into the Saint Lawrence and back down the Mississippi.

I have uploaded another YouTube video of my second bus trip from Puenta del Sol into Chinandega, Nicaragua on  January 10. It has some interesting market scenes and a bull chase by a local Vaquero.

Yesterday I rode my shiny folding bike into the nearby jungle reservation and the ruins of the 16th century Fort San Lorenzo on the Chagres River. I had hoped to show some Toucan and Parrot pictures but I was too late in the day for that.

Shelter Bay Marina, Cristobal, Panama

Shelter Bay Marina, Cristobal, Panama

Yellow crowned night heron

Yellow crowned night heron

Ft. San Lorezo and Chagres River

Ft. San Lorezo and Chagres River

Howler monkey

Howler monkey

Coati

Coati

Red Tailed Squirel

Red Tailed Squirel

Moonset Feb 11

Moonset Feb 11

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 7. Back on the Atlantic side.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 7th, 2017

The boat was measured on Monday the 30th of January at anchor near the entrance to the canal. That same day I learned that I would transit on February 3rd and the 4th. The agent, Erick, had the 8 large fenders and four extra long mooring lines delivered on Thursday afternoon. I had to shop for the food and drinks for the four line handlers and the pilot. A taxi driver charged me $60 for bringing me to a supermarket and to the farmers market for the produce. I finally received my debit card replacement in Balboa on Wednesday evening. My credit card had been sent to the Shelter Bay Marina in Cristobal/Colon where I arrived Saturday late afternoon. But it had been bouncing back and forth between here and Balboa through in-attention/misunderstandings. The line handlers were young Panamanian men provided by the agent. For most of the time I felt like a kinder garden teacher. Nice kids but they left their trash all over the boat, empty plastic drink bottles, etc. And on a small boat the four of them talked/argued so loud that it drove me nuts, mostly about their soccer heroes. And I’ll be telling the agent to teach them a few basic rope knots. I have only three berths available. Friday night we were anchored near the last locks and two had to sleep on the floor or in the cockpit. A couple good tropical showers came through and then the outside sleepers climbed down in the cabin.  The mooring lines were too thick for my cleats. The agent, Larry, managed to get us alongside a canal tour boat in the first lock. Mostly American tourists. I managed to sell two SoloMan books to them while we went up in the lock. In the next lock we went in side tied to the “Junipero” a power boat from San Diego on their way to Florida. We picked up the straw hat of Pete from Wisconsin, one of my “SoloMan” customers. Because we were not going to be able to get close to the tour boat and the lock wall, we tied the hat to the messenger lines that were let down to “Junipero” to bring the heavy mooring lines to the lock wall. The intercom on the tour boat announced our rescue of Pete’s hat and Pete stood there on the aft deck smiling. His bald head will be properly protected while he gets into “SoloMan”. Be sure to watch this recorded in detail on you tube video.

Pete's sombrero

Pete’s sombrero

I also posted a video of my VHF radio conversation with Thomas Puchner on the Austrian Schooner rigged 52 foot Wharram catamaran “Pakia Tea”. I saw the huge sails from a distance and then saw the details on my AIS screen. This took place on Tuesday evening the day after I left Gulfito, Costa Rica, in Panamanian waters. The conversation is in German. You need to check out the web site of the Pakia Tea: www.Planet-Ocean.org they are on a very interesting voyage, beautiful marine and underwater photography.Pakia Tea

Saturday evening I was having a beer with the “Junipero” crew in the Shelter Bay Marina bar when I felt ladies hands clasped from behind around my face: “Guess who, Jack?!” Turned out to be a lady I traveled with many years ago. We split up because it was like two captains on one ship. Then a week later she came up from behind in the same way, out of nowhere. Another one for my next book: “Small world encounters”. There is a lot more social interaction with the boat crews than in Balboa. Here we are moored in regular dock boxes instead of out on mooring buoys, so you can walk from boat to boat. Most of the boats here are going west and waiting their turn. Last week a large fleet of the ARC rally came west into Balboa. I have met several Dutch, French and Scandinavian crews. There is a very good restaurant, bar and a day room, a barbecue area, swimming pool and exercise room. It is far from town but the marina provides a bus in to Colon. This morning I went on this bus to try and find a few boat items and grocery shop. On Sunday there was no bus into Colon and I joined a worship service in the day room. A good crowd, I guess around 30. It was led by two couples who have been here some time. We had Baptists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, etc. I enjoyed it and was definitely inspired. We sang a few common hymns. I spoke about the May 4th 2016 concert in Amsterdam, where the chapter was recited out of my book “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” about the hymn “Abide with me”. One of the ladies had the text and we sang three verses together: “Did you hear us, mom?”

I just sent in my application to enter Cuban waters, to the US Coast Guard. This might take as much as three weeks to be approved. I should have researched the requirements earlier. It is fairly obvious that I need change my “around the world before 80 years” into “at 80 years”. But that suits me just fine. There still are very strong NE winds here. But after I get some of my maintenance looked after, I plan leave here in the next days and enter into the Chagres River which waters feed the Panama Canal. It is supposed to be a sight to see, for Toucans, Howler Monkeys, etc. , next the Boca del Toro archipelago, then a straight shot to the Yucatan Peninsula and from there to Cuba. I am still somewhat handicapped without a decent rowing dinghy. The cheapest I could find here was a 9 foot Caribe for $3,500 which is half of what I paid for this boat. I just read on Richard Spindler’s FB page that Costco sells an inexpensive dinghy and there is a Costco in Cancun, where I plan stop.

Guayacan related to Lignum Vitae and Ipe on Gatun Lake shore.

Guayacan related to Lignum Vitae and Ipe

 

 

Sunday January 29. Panama

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 29th, 2017

I left Golfito at 13.45 on Monday the 23rd, after being sent “van het kastje naar de muur” to check out. I first went to immigration, they told me to go first to the harbor master who told me to go first to immigration. Since customs was a long back track I decided to clear out with them they sent me back to the harbor master. I also had to spend waiting in the local bank to pay a $20 fee for the coast guard. All agencies were very kind and understanding but the whole process took 2 1/2 hours and lots of bicycle exercise. Thank God for my nifty stainless mount.

Winds were light. On Tuesday I caught a 12 inch blue fin tuna. It is all recorded on video. The sea and wind conditions were absolutely perfect. You will see it whenever I can win my battle with MS Windows 10 versus my USB connections. But on Wednesday the weather changed after rounding Punta Mariato. The winds increased and the seas got meaner. Much is written about rounding Cape Malo. The only place to hide before this cape is Bahia Benao. But this would be an anchoring in the dark and I decided to push on and figured that the winds would be less during the night. Not this time, the wind increased and was on the nose and the waves were steep and close together. There was no way to motor through it. I set the storm jib and took the main down and used the engine to maintain speed. But when I got closer to Cape Malo the electronic charts showed that I was going west instead of north. But when I looked ahead the bow was pointing north. The strong current here, around for knots, was pushing me side ways. I decided to try get away further west from the cape by easing the jib sheets to pick up more boat speed and get into less current. But the cape was disappearing to the east fast and before I knew it I was right on the edge of the commercial traffic lanes going to and from the canal. A steady stream of freighters. I turned back and I ended up closer to the Cape but miles below where I was before. You can see this weird exercise of going in circles on https://share.garmin.com/JackvanOmmen.

One would never expect these kind of current and tide conditions in the tropics. The maximum tidal difference here is 20 feet, if I am not mistaken that is 2 feet more than the Puget Sound. I must have hit it at the worst time. When the morning dawned I realized that I could raise the main with one reef in it. The boat came alive and sliced through the nasty steep waves like a knife through butter, assisted by the engine. I was fixed on the laptop screen and slowly started seeing me gaining some ground. But the waves got nastier, steeper. I would fall of the crests with a slam that felt like hitting concrete. The boat was at a steep heel, tacking up wind. Waves were slamming the bow, when I stuck my face over the dodger I got a snoot full and when I had to go to the fore deck to refasten the genoa I was totally soaked in salt water. The port red navigation light went out, probably because it was more under than above water, I tried to hook up an emergency battery powered light. Did not work but I was totally soaked. Until I found a spot on the stern pulpit.  Always dragging my safety harness tether and headlamp. I slept some on the alarm but was regularly awakened by some unfamiliar sound. Yesterday morning, while trying to grind coffee, a sudden nasty smacker threw me backwards from the galley into the chart table. I jack (punt intended) knifed my body. The back of my head hit hard and my left bun is blue and my left shoulder blade is hurting. But my lower back sustained some injury. The pain is just like when I had a pinched nerve in my lower back, in the sixties. I have Ibuproveno on board and that helps. I became very tired of this continuous sailing on the edge. And I have an additional problem. When I run the engine, cooling water is running into the bilge. I have to continually pump and sponge the bilges. Just the oil is cooled and the oil cooler needs to be replaced. Not that easy to find for an engine that was taken out of marine application, 50 years ago.

David on “Falcon”, guided me in to the Balboa YC when there was no response on thier VHF channel six. We had a drink together. Very interesting sailor, from San Diego. He left yesterday morning for a cruise in the nearby islands. I checked in with the canal administration on Flamenco Island and cleared in with immigration. Ken and Gail who I befriended in Gulfito gave me lots of good information since they spent time here at this YC. I met with the agent they had recommended Eric Galvez. He gave me all the required info for the canal transit. Tomorrow afternoon the boat shall be measured at an anchorage 4 miles back toward the canal entrance, then I get put in line. It might not happen until 10 days from now. I am anxious to get to the Caribbean but have plenty of chores. Most of the sailors here meet in the club bar/restaurant. Food is awful, drinks, internet and company are good. I  require to have 4 line handlers at a $100 each plus food and drink for two days and the latter also for the canal pilot. Lots of cruisers exchange this service on each others’ boats. My problem is that it will be tough to have six bodies on my small boat and to sleep the line handlers for the one night I’ll spend at anchor on the Gatun Lake. A very nice British couple met me afterward who are actually looking to check out the canal while being line handlers  on someone else’s boat. But I discouraged it because of what I just described.  With the canal fees, agent and line handlers I am looking at about $1,750. If my engine would act up and not make the minimum 5 knots and fall behind their schedule I could end up with another $ 800 penalty. That engine has never seen so much use as in the last two weeks. But it just keeps humming. Just for extra security, say a prayer for us.

I took a taxi into the old part of Panama City and went to 9 am mass at the church of O.L. of Merced. This was rebuilt after Henry Morgan the British pirate destroyed and pillaged the church and much of the old city in 1571. Ladies were cooking up a traditional Panamanian soup “Sancocho” with chicken on wood fires in huge cauldrons. I missed the priest’s blessing at 10.30. I wanted to partake in the noon serving of the Sancocho but decided I’d better try to find a fourth replacement charger for the Toshiba laptop, at the Albrook mall. I will go back there tomorrow morning when I really good repair man will bring me one from a store that opens on Monday. He also determined that my USB problems with the mini card readers is that they are no longer working, and not my suspicion of Windows 10. I figure it is the salt air everywhere on the boat. I bought another reader for the GoPro videos and it is (still…) working.

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contrast: old casco viejo and the new skyline

contrast: old casco viejo and the new skyline

O.L. of Merced

O.L. of Merced

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just wanted to brag again and name drop: I met the fastest man on terra firma Jim Neilson, here in the marina.

 

Sunday, January 22nd. Golfito, Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 22nd, 2017

After waiting in vain on Monday and Tuesday for the delegation of port officials to show up for my clearing into C.R., I gave up and departed early Wednesday morning on slack high tide from the C.R.Y.C. in Puntarenas. I decided to try my luck at the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos. That turned out to be a mistake. I was unable to cover the little over 100 miles before sun down. I arrived at 7 p.m. It was very difficult to distinguish the puny red and green entrance lights to the marina against the city lights. There was a fleet of unlit parked crafts to work through. Then when I entered the marina the guard told me to back out and anchor until the next morning. I told him that I was not going to try and find a spot between the unlit boats because I would not be able to determine my swing space to the other boats in the dark. I tied up at the fuel dock. A second guard undid my mooring lines. A crowd gathered. In the end a lady with some authority allowed me to stay, but I was not to step off the boat before I was cleared in. Then in the morning I discovered that I had lost my wallet in Puntarenas.  I had last used it on Tuesday evening, just before getting back on board. Sunday evening, after my four dry days from Nicaragua, I was dying for a couple cold Pilsners. The bar agreed to have me run a tab. But the bar was only open on the weekend. And the office was already closed for the day. I left the smallest  banknote I had 10,000 colonnes ($18) with my boat card in the bar. I searched for my wallet through all the possible and improbable places on the boat. Andrea at the marina in Quepos called the Puntarenas YC. They found nothing. It turned out that for me to clear in at Quepos the officials delegation had to be taxied in from Puntarenas at somewhere around $500……I decided to head for Golfito. The Pez Vela marina management, let me top off my fuel with 7 gallons at their expense and not charge me for the night at the dock. Now, how will I be able to pay for the expenses in Golfito? I arrived at 1.30 p.m.on Friday. I found a berth at the Fish Hook Lodge and Marina. Then had to work fast to get cleared in before the weekend. Thank God for my nifty $100 Pt.Townsend purchased stainless steel folding bike. I rushed to the Capitania, had photo copies done of my zarpe, registration, passport, down the road and my pocket C.R. coins, just covered it. The off to Immigration in the nick of time. Quarantine officer Ramon came to the boat on Saturday morning. Then I had to deposit about $65 into one of the banks at the airport to cover the Quarantine inspection. Customs at the airport took another half hour. There were no expenses other than the quarantine. This was not charged until Ramon was recently posted to Golfito. Just another hidden tax. My $ 100 folding bike paid for itself in just this operation, I would have needed to use an agent otherwise to visit these four offices. So besides wondering why there is no church picture on this Sunday blog, how did I come up with the $65? I found my bank pass for my Dutch Euro account at the ABN-Amro bank. I seldom use this account. It is where my tiny slice of Dutch social security is deposited. But when I tried it at the ATM on Friday it did not work. I telephoned the Dutch bank on Skype and they explained that all I needed to do was change my settings to “world” from “europe”. And, alleluia, that worked on Saturday morning. There is just enough in the Euro account to last until I get to Panama and I expect to receive my new bank/credit cards from the BofA there. I plan clear out of here on Monday and sail directly to the Panama canal, weather permitting. There are several good anchorages along the way.

I was told that mass here was at 7 a.m. Not a soul, then was told 8 a.m., after I came back from breakfast, again not a soul. Back to the marina it was determined that it should be at 6 p.m. So, you’ll have to wait for the standard photographic proof of my salvation. My dock neighbor is Ken from Olympia on “Sangreal” a Tratan 36. Ken sailed solo through the South Pacific and via Australia to South Africa where he met Gail in Knysna. They married a year later and sailed the same route as I did: St.Helena, N.E. Brazil and then crossed to Europe from Trinidad and came back through the Panama Canal and are now contemplating sailing to the N.W., via Hawaii and Alaska. We came across quite a few familiar places and some other cruisers.

just before a welcome rain shower fom the Fish Hook Marina.

just before a welcome rain shower fom the Fish Hook Marina.

 

 

 

Monday, January 16. Puntarenas.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 16th, 2017

My previous blog was on Monday the 9th. When I went back in to Chinandega on the early morning bus on Tuesday to get money on my Bank of America debit card it turned out that against the previous Sunday telephone call, followed up by an e-mail confirmation from the BofA, they had not released the blockage on my account after all. I was really angry. But I did manage to get US Dollars on my credit card at the one bank that has a correspondent relation ship with the BofA. But of course at extra charges. Now I am going ahead on this story to last night when I figured I could pull my Costa Rican cash requirements out of the ATM here. Well, guess what? The bozos at the BofA still or anew put another block on my bank account. I was ready to kill them. Poor David at the call center of the BofA received an earful of it in my Skype phone call to them. But miracles do happen, two hours later I managed to pull Costa Rican colones from the ATM.

My next battle is with another faceless entity of robots, Microsoft. I have spent endless hours already in Nicaragua and now here trying to figure out how to upload my videos from the Go-Pro camera to either of my two Windows 10 laptops. MS decided that they now do not like any of my USB devices. The card reader and even my external hard drive or the USB connection between the two lap tops. Whereas two weeks ago they still did. Either nothing happens or it will tell me that MS does not recognize the USB device, or error 45. I am sick and tired in having to earn another PHD degree in MS software applications, after MS makes another upgrade.  So, for the time being, until I can afford a Mac, I have no way to do anything with some good footage I have of the last 2 weeks.

Moon set on January 12th

Moon set on January 12th

The customs/immigration/port captain delegation showed up late Wednesday morning, to clear me out. I left Puesta del Sol at 13.30. By evening, near the main Nicaraguan port of Corinto, the winds started picking up. Out of the south east. The forecast was for easterlies. I tried to work my way back to the shore where the water is calmer but the angle was too close to the wind and became more and more uncomfortable. Instead of hugging the shore I had no choice but to cut right across the windiest part of the Golfo de Papagayao. It were the frequent gusts that were 5 to 10 knots above the average that tested my endurance. I have been in some nasty stuff but this had to be in the 40 knots plus. Similar to the storm in the Med that cost me my first “Fleetwood”. Waves would frequently slam across the port beam and any time I had to do a sail change or retie the dacron genova, slammed from its tie downs, I got hosed with salt water. At times there were short respites when I got a chance to lay down or get some food. But it was not until I got close to Ballena Bay in the Gulf of Nicoya that the seas calmed down.

forecast for early Thursday the 12th

forecast for early Thursday the 12th

My track from DeLorme

My track from DeLorme

track into the YC at Puntarenas

track into the YC at Puntarenas

Four days is a long time to get just a few short naps. My plan had been to get into Bahia Santa Elena for Thursday night or later into Potrero, but I could not take the storm above the beam with just the storm jib. Easing the sheets and going more with the wind aft of the beam was my only option. For a short period, I thought I might not even be able to make the left turn into the Gulf of Nicoya and be left to become the contemporary Flying Dutchman, if I missed the Panama Canal. I dropped the anchor in Ballena Bay at noon on Saturday and my energy returned to clean up the boat, cook a decent linguine a la vongole dinner with a can of chopped baby clams I found in the food locker. There was a lot of water in the cabin bilges. Usually this happens when I run the engine for a long period. I had cleaned the starboard side on Saturday but on Sunday morning there was another five gallons there. This worried me. Had the heavy pounding loosened the keel bolts? I pumped and blotted both sides and I came to the conclusion that most likely the water is coming in from the following seas through the hand bilge pump through hull, which gets under water in heavy seas and significant heel. I will keep an eye on it and do a test with colored water pouring it down the through hull. This gave me a late start on Sunday morning, which turned out to be a terrific sail to Puntarenas. This used to be the main sea port for Costa Rica. I remember working as a clerk at the agency for the joint service of Holland America Line, Royal Mail Lines and Furness Lines on 6th and Spring Street in Los Angeles in the late fifties. These ships loaded bananas, coffee etc. in Puntarenas on their way from Europe to Vancouver, B.C. But the port has become too shallow for the newer ships and a new container port is now at Caldera, just to the south. I moored off on a float just off the shore in the Yacht Club de Costa Rica. To get there, on the back side of the very narrow long peninsula of Puntarenas, is a challenge. It has to be done at high tide to avoid the shallows. But it was worth it. I really like this spot. I am the only foreign visitor. A panga will pick me up 24 hours with a call on Channel 06 on the VHF. There is water and electricity (electricity I do not need) to the float. The ebb runs ferociously fast. I had to sleep on a slant for the worst of it. The club is a very laid back community, part of a hotel/motel with a nice restaurant/bar, swimming pool and showers and bath rooms. Everyone of the personnel is very kind and courteous. The moorage is very reasonable, about 75 cents/ft per day.

"Fleetwood" far right

“Fleetwood” far right

 

Now here is another good reason for being a Roman Catholic as a travelling Christian. The cathedral still had a 6 p.m. service. The O.L. of Mount Carmel. This is one of the most attractive, spiritual churches I have worshipped in. A change from the gaudy and the primitive churches in the last months. The cantor had a great voice. You will hear him on the video when I get my Mac..or someone among you can tell me how I fix this MS usb rejection problem. The recessional was my very favorite Spanish/English hymn, because it is so very appropriate in my life style. http://”Pescador de Hombres” or “Lord you have come to the sea shore”

I get goose bumps at:

Señor, me has mirado a las ojos
sonriendo, has dicho mi nombre
en la rena, he dejado mi barca
junto a ti, buscaré otro mar

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying;  All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas.

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Idali, the secretary here at the YC, took me to church. She told me her worries for her 14 year old son Fabrizio who has a drug addiction. I am so familiar with this affliction and my heart goes out to her and her son. I offered to meet him and just show an interest. I love young people and remember well my struggles at age 14. We went together on the bus to immigration to make my entry clearance. It turned out that immigration, port captain, customs and health all wish to come to the boat here. It is evening by now and none have showed up yet. Quien sabe, mañana? We had lunch together. He spoke very little English and I had a difficult time understanding his Spanish. But we did bond. Wonderful, kind, polite, handsome young man. He runs around with the wrong friends but has a real hard time finding healthier relationships. Costa Rican kids have a tough environment. A group of about eight southerners were eating at the table across from us. I noticed that they joined in a blessing for the food. My curiosity took over again. I cornered pastor Robert Walker of the The Prayer Room church in Conroe, Tx. His very attractive wife Jennifer prayed a beautiful blessing over my friend and all of us laid hands on Fabrizio. One of the Costa Rican members of their group translated for Fabrizio. I was next and Jennifer knew exactly what to pray for, as if she has known me for years. Robert’s parents are working as missionaries near the capital of San Jose. Fabrizio is a believer and he might have been a little startled but I am sure this was the help he and his mother need. Keep him and his friends in your prayers. I plan to stay here a couple of days and possibly take a day trip excursion. I was in C.R. the last 10 days of 1993 on my last honey moon. In San Jose and at a beach resort on the N.W. coast.

This week it is exactly 60 years ago that I started a new life in the United States of America. I do not have the exact date here when I arrived at New York, I believe it was the 12th. Then I got on the train at Penn Central Station and on the Sante Fe in Chicago to Los Angeles. The train stopped in Santa Fe, N.M., I was so excited to see real Indians on the Santa Fe platform. I had fifty minutes to take a quick look around, when I came back the train was gone. I had misunderstood, it were 15 minutes. My bags aboard. The next train a day later. I have slept on a few more waiting room benches in airports and rail road stations since.

Fabrizio

Fabrizio

 

Monday January 9. Frustrated with my banker and the access here.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 9th, 2017

The 6.15 am bus for Chinandega showed up a half hour late. But in all stillness of this place there was plenty to keep me entertained. The baker making his rounds on a motor cycle. The song birds, roosters crowing, children pulling hand carts with oil drum size water barrels up the hill.  There is no running water here. The resort has its own generator and wells, propane is used for fuel. The people of the two fishing villages here live very primitively. I am being eaten alive by mosquitoes this evening. The strong wind has let up for the night and that brings the mosquitoes out. They bite right through my shirt. I managed to find a mosquito net for my bunk in Crucecita.

The countryside from the bus is fairly flat, mostly in sugar cane production and dairy pasture. One small Teak plantation. The first town was El Viego, I got off by accident, thinking I was already in Chinandega, but was able to catch another bus right away. There are no buses back from there to the Marina. Chinandega is not a very attractive town, squalor, trash. The 19th century church of Santa Ana is, as you will see from the pictures another quite over decorated/gaudy edifice. The priest had a long sermon and afterward his commentary was the length of a regular sermon. But it was a privilege to be there with my brothers and sisters. Marvin, the Houston-Nicaraguan, hunting guide and translator in the folkloric dance video, has a home here and he attended the same 10.30 mass.  A video can be seen of the Sunday trip at: Chinandega  the bus ride and a short part of the Sunday mass. The pictures below show the contradiction on this bus ride. These loud and annoying videos are a common way to entertain the riders in Central America. They show a lot of female flesh dancing to dumb songs. Macho men, gun violence scenes, etc.

I had spent most of my leftover American cash for the $215 clearing fees in Guatemala and Chinandego has the only ATM machines 40 KM away. The Marina advanced me the $72 for the entry here. And I was to repay this out of the ATM machine on Sunday. But somehow I got confused by the system here, because I wanted both US dollars and Cordobas. and then BofA automatically blocked my account. There was immediately an e-mail from the BofA and they were to un-block it when I answered that it was me doing the transactions. But two hours later there was no way yet for me to use my debit card. I did manage to get $20 worth of Cordobas for the bus ride before it was blocked. I needed to grocery shop because there is nothing nearer than Chinandego. So, when I asked the owner here for help, like me transferring dollars to his account he told me that I could catch a ride to Chinandega today with one of the men working here. But that never came about. And I was told that it may not happen for days. So, no I have to catch that same 6.15 bus tomorrow and spend most of the day riding in that piece of junk and listening to the porno videos. Then, when I get lucky and get some money I have to wait for the four clearing services to show up out of Corinto to clear out. So, instead of two days I’ll have been here for about a week. It looks like my slogan will have to change from Before 80 Years to “in 80 Years”.

Today I heard this strange, like a hacksaw, sound up in a coconut tree. Turned out to be a sloth.

 

The (soft) Porno Queen

The (soft) Porno Queen on the bus

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Santa Ana, Chinandega

Santa Ana, Chinandega

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You can just see the tail of the Sloth

 

 

Saturday, January 7th. Marina Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua. A hidden secret piece/peace of Paradise.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 7th, 2017

Nicaragua, the 55th country visited with “Fleetwood”. I did not set foot on El Salvador but sailed its territorial waters, nbr 54.

I left Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, at 12.45 after the agent, Miguel, had brought my passport back and my “Zarpe”. Instead of the $ 160 I mentioned in my previous blog, I ended up paying $180 on Monday and then another $35 on Tuesday. A good racket. The little I spent on my very interesting side trip to Antigua was eaten up by the clearance expenses and the marina restaurant was extremely expensive. More than state side and twice and more than Mexico. The wind forecast was for very light air, between two and six knots. I decided to bring out the old worn 150% Mylar Genoa sail. Because it is about 20% larger than the second hand dacron genoa I have used so far. But I got some stronger winds and did also a fair amount of motor sailing. A mylar sail is much more delicate than Dacron, it tears easily. But it turned out that it is not as difficult to refold as I had anticipated. I shall be using it until it is totally used up. I still have a much newer Mylar replacement aboard. Late on Tuesday afternoon the wind strengthened and was about 20 degrees from hard to the wind. When I checked my speed over the ground I could not believe my eyes I was doing 7 plus and hitting close to 8 ½ knots at times, fairly consistent for a couple of hours until dark when the wind usually diminishes. I had to record this. It is the fastest I can remember ever going on “Fleetwood” without a spinnaker or a strong favorable current. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTh3NOBoxUg&t=174s

The Puesta del Sol Marina is about 12 ½ miles north-west of the Nicaragua port of Corinto. It is the first and so far only marina in this country. It was developed by Robert Membreno who came at 7 years old to California from Nicaragua with his parents. He is from 1932 but you would not guess it. He has sailed in many parts of the world and discovered these vast mangrove sloughs in 2002 while sailing this coast. The marina and resort he built are exceptional, first class. He owns vast stretches of the estuary and is not planning to develop it. The small fishing settlement next to the resort goes on just like before Robert showed up but benefits by the employment opportunities and better access. He also built a school for the local youths.

When I turned the corner at the unexpected opening in the shore line, after going through mild tidal rapids, I felt like entering into a new world. The water was flat and there was no sign of any human interference with the original environment. Still and peaceful, a little further down the marina and resort showed up in a bend of the slough. It is the end of a very little traveled road. There are no street noises and at night the sky is as bright with stars as on the ocean or in the desert. The nearest habitation is 20 miles away. There is a swimming pool, excellent restaurant and bar and the personnel is very professional and helpful. The showers and bathrooms are so much better than to what I have become used to since leaving the Saint Francis Yacht Club. Only the one at Grand Harbour Marina in Valetta, Malta beats this one.

Thursday afternoon I met the people at the table next to me in the open air bar. I just had my first cold beer since Guatemala. I was curious and wondered for whom they spoke English since most of them were apparently Spanish speakers. It turned out that the one non Spanish speaker was a Hungarian, Victor Pentek ww.elanhunting.hu/, visiting his friends whom he has taken on hunting expeditions in Hungary and Slovakia. His local host, Alfredo, is here with his son and daughter, who are both studying in Boston, and his longtime friends Rafael and a Houston-Nicaraguan, Marvin, who is guiding the men on a water fowl hunt here in the mangrove banks. The kitchen had broiled some of their fowl catch of the day, wrapped in bacon. They invited me to share their food. They were all very curious and interested in my travels and came to see “Fleetwood”. Alfredo had arranged a “Fiesta” that evening for his guests at the resort and invited a folkloric dance group “Los Maribios” to perform. (Los Maribios are the string of volcanoes that run the length of Nicaragua, one of the main volcanoes, San Cristobal, can be seen right across from here, a lower one, Casita, can be seen to the S.W., both are active.)

The dancers and their costumes were very impressive. I made a short video of it. snapshot-5-1-6-2017-5-47-pm

I included the introductions from the director in Spanish which were translated by Marvin. I did this with the expectation that these may be appreciated by the Spanish class of my friend Adam Von Zimmerman at the Gig Harbor High School for whom I am trying to give some visuals of the Central American countries I visit. I have discovered that there are some distinct differences in language and customs between the different countries and also a strong national pride. Just to give an example: the Nicaraguans tend to swallow the “s”. Lune instead of Lunes, etc.

Now I have to, delicately, tell you a little more about this encounter of these new friends. It had not escaped me that they are people of means. But I was almost a little disappointed when I indirectly learned that the host belongs to the wealthiest family in this country. I would have never guessed. But it raised my respect for who they are. Rafael heads their philanthropic organization ANF which is the most important private source of assistance for the underprivileged in this country. They are committed Christians. Alfredo said the blessing over the dinner. “Noblesse oblige”, they take their privilege and their Christian obligation seriously.

And I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity with a seemingly very different social crowd.

On Monday I was the only “white” man on the cheap bus ride to Esquintla. Luis, also a Nicaraguan, with his 2 year old son Marco, in front of me. But he and Alfredo junior have that same interest and curiosity and happiness in their broad smile and spark in their eyes. They are the kind of people I am drawn to, who are happy with themselves.

There is a very strong wind forecast along my next stretch. I may try to sit this out here. I plan to take the 6.15 am bus from here to Chinodega to go to mass and return here in the early afternoon. I have plenty of chores. One other good thing here is that I have excellent wi-fi on the boat. A luxury I have not had for a long time. It saves on coffee and beer in the nearby bar and no need to drag all my gear along.

This morning was picture time. I can go crazy here….

San Cristobal, active volcano, 5,725 ft.

San Cristobal, active volcano, 5,725 ft.

dug outs, marina in background

Dug outs, marina in background

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 2nd. A day-trip to Antigua

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 3rd, 2017

The three different authorities came to “Fleetwood” at 8 am, as promised by the agent Miguel de Jesus Ovalle Escobar. I caught a mini bus to Esquintla and connected to a regular bus climbing up to Antigua. I had not been able to see the volcanoes from the ocean, like the clear view I had of the Mexican active volcano on my way from Barra de Navidad. I could see large smoke clouds near the coast. Most likely burning of the sugar cane stalks. In the slide show you can see some decent pictures of the steam plume on Pacaya, taken in the morning, later in the day it was too hazy. I was the only tourist on the four different bus rides. My Spanish is improving and I had some decent conversations with the curious local passengers. I changed a $20 bill at the restaurant here into Quetzals and I came home with $5 worth left, the rest spent for the bus fares, a ceviche lunch and a cold beer in the afternoon, plus admission to the “La Merced” convent. No, it was nothing like Volendam or Universal Studios. Every turn of the corner had something spectacular to show and learn. A photographer’s paradise. The slide show will tell all: www.ComeToSea.us/albums/albums/Antigua-Guatemala.mp4 I took a video, mostly in and from the bus rides, that I shall work on while under sail.

I plan take off by mid day for Nicaragua/El Salvador.

this morning at my dock, a brown pelican

this morning at my dock, a brown pelican 

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at the Antigua bus terminal, active volcano on horizon

at the Antigua bus terminal, active volcano on horizon