March 20. Cuba

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 20th, 2017
Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos

Trinidad monastery converted into museum. Cross removed also from functioning church.

Trinidad monastery converted into museum. Cross removed also from functioning church.

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Trio Los Suenos

Trio Los Ensuenos

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 16 Cuba, Retro Land
We have all seen the photos of the pre-revolution American automobiles. But riding through Cienfuegos, my first stop, it is so obvious that this country froze in a time warp in the late fifties. The economic growth of the rest of the world and in particular of their close neighbors, the USA, passed them by. It is in particular evident in residential and commercial construction, and in the transportation system.  Unpaved streets, grey water running out into the streets, bicycle taxis and horse drawn carts remind me of southern Spain in the mid-fifties. Just like what I observed in the former Soviet Union countries along the Danube the residential and commercial structures are in a sad shape, through a lack of maintenance and incentive when the state were the owners.
But as far as fashion, music and smart phones, most of the Cubans behave just like their neighbors, where income permits. Beggars are rare but poverty is obvious, very few Cubans can afford an automobile. The lack of newer cars has little to do with the US embargo. The Russians sold a few vehicles. No traffic jams here. Whereas in my previous stop, in the Grand Caymans, I could walk faster than the automobiles working their way home at day’s end. I had a Cuba Libre an hour ago before dinner at a beach side restaurant. But the Cubans are not Libre. I commented on this and asked the server if the fish came from Mexico, because I have not seen a single fishing boat yet. We, cruising boats, are not allowed to go ashore to places where there is no official marina, only on uninhabited islands, for fear that we are going to pick up a few Cuban stowaways. The majority of cruisers and tourists I ran into in town are German, followed by the French and other Europeans and Canadians, a sprinkling of Americans. Technically the US Government does not permit their citizens to visit Cuba but for a few specified reasons. It is not too hard to circumvent this by flying here and returning to the USA from another country, like Mexico or Canada. The Cubans will oblige by not stamping your American passport. I am here legally (as of today) because I qualified for one of the few qualifications, but had to obtain a Coast Guard permit that is only good for 12 days. I will come back and then probably do it the easier way.
Cuba has always drawn me but in familiarizing with the lay of the land I have come to the conclusion that Cuba has so much more to offer than the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, popular for their close vicinity to the USA vacation for short time cruisers. In particular, the well protected Cuban south coast, with so many bays and anchorages, sounds and uninhabited cays and the proximity of typical Cuban towns like Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago, etc. It is still very inexpensive. The clearing in into Cienfuegos was painless and costless, health, harbor master, immigration and customs all came to the boat within the first two hours. Today I filled my water tank and topped off my diesel, all of 27,3 liters, since Montego Bay 350/400 miles back. When I mentioned that I tanked 18 liters (4 1/2 gallons) in Montego Bay for the transit of the Panama Canal and the 650 miles of ocean, the attendant said: “Only Cristopher Columbus used less diesel to get here…” Most of the 27,3 liters were due to the very strong northerly I ran into 20 miles before the entrance to Cienfuegos. It had been a fairly close hauled North Easterly from Grand Cayman, but, for once, the weather forecast turned out to be right. In the early afternoon near Cuba the wind started easing from the NE and ended up in the NW, I had to jibe in the end. Then it just stopped all together. I cranked the engine up, set the auto pilot and took a nap. When I woke up and looked at the digital chart I was being pushed sideways towards Puerto Rico. I had set the engine at a low speed to try and delay my entry at Cienfuegos for daylight.  I revved the engine up but still was only making a knot over the ground. What to do? Raise the sails and tack up wind, these last twenty odd miles? I decided to delay the decision. At time waves knocked me back to less than a knot but slowly I was making some headway, the closer I got to the upwind shore the speed crept up. I still ended up doing the long winding entry from the Caribbean Sea to the marina in the dark. It was a beautiful sunrise over the Sierra Madre Mountains, from where the Castro brothers fought the war to convert Cuba into a Communist state.
Internet connections are almost non-existent. First you have to buy a scratch card for 1 CUC (about $1.15) which is good for an hour on the internet, but I spend about half of that re-connecting when the signal goes south. Most of the major towns have minicipal free wi-fi in the main squares. But there is hardly a spot dark enough to see my screen, and then you still need that prepaid card. Water pressure goes down to zero in the afternoon, if you wish to flush the toilet and take a shower you need to be an early riser. And don`t forget to bring your own TP.
Meanwhile it is March 18 and I have not been able to post this. I managed to download my e-mails and send a few but unable to post any pictures to FB. Thursday the one place where I can buy a wi-fi card ran out and still had none yesterday.
BusTrip to TRINIDAD. This was a delightful visit on Thursday. Trinidad is about 45 miles south east of Cienfuegos. My video camera was not cooperating but I think these still pictures tell the story. A delightful coastal town with all coble stone streets and red clay tiled roofs. Something straight from a movie set. Just like Dubrovnik you need to get your pictures before the tourist buses unload a steady stream. One of the old monestaries is now a museum exhibiting the glorious victory of Castro`s communism. The accomplishments of the 1959 revolution are everywhere. It is much more in your face than it is in Vietnam. I had my five minutes of glory just before leaving Trinidad. Three guitar playing singers, “Trio Ensueno”, were singing a harmony very similar to the well known Putumayo Social Club. They sang my favorite “La Malaguena”. Originated in the sixties from the “Los Paraguayos” and the Kingston trio made it a hit in the United States. I joined in and they were pleasantly surprised to hear a Gringo sing it. It is a very difficult song to sing with high notes that go on forever.
I am writing this on the way from Cienfuegos to Cayo Largo, an overnight sail. I shall arrive early Sunday morning. I had wanted to leave yesterday but was convinced that my anchor chain was crossed over my neighbor`s boat. They were supposed to leave Friday as well and I waited for them to pull their anchor first. But they still had not returned this morning. The wind had calmed and when I tried it once more this morning, it turned out that I was close but not across their chain, after all. There is a strong, about 20/25 knot following wind and I am sailing just undr the 90% jib, doing close to 5 knots. A welcome change from all the upwind sailing since the Costa Rica. March 16 Cuba, Retro Land
We have all seen the photos of the pre-revolution American automobiles. But riding through Cienfuegos, my first stop, it is so obvious that this country froze in a time warp in the late fifties. The economic growth of the rest of the world and in particular of their close neighbors, the USA, passed them by. It is in particular evident in residential and commercial construction, and in the transportation system.  Unpaved streets, grey water running out into the streets, bicycle taxis and horse drawn carts remind me of southern Spain in the mid-fifties. Just like what I observed in the former Soviet Union countries along the Danube the residential and commercial structures are in a sad shape, through a lack of maintenance and incentive when the state were the owners.
But as far as fashion, music and smart phones, most of the Cubans behave just like their neighbors, where income permits. Beggars are rare but poverty is obvious, very few Cubans can afford an automobile. The lack of newer cars has little to do with the US embargo. The Russians sold a few vehicles. No traffic jams here. Whereas in my previous stop, in the Grand Caymans, I could walk faster than the automobiles working their way home at day’s end. I had a Cuba Libre an hour ago before dinner at a beach side restaurant. But the Cubans are not Libre. I commented on this and asked the server if the fish came from Mexico, because I have not seen a single fishing boat yet. We, cruising boats, are not allowed to go ashore to places where there is no official marina, only on uninhabited islands, for fear that we are going to pick up a few Cuban stowaways. The majority of cruisers and tourists I ran into in town are German, followed by the French and other Europeans and Canadians, a sprinkling of Americans. Technically the US Government does not permit their citizens to visit Cuba but for a few specified reasons. It is not too hard to circumvent this by flying here and returning to the USA from another country, like Mexico or Canada. The Cubans will oblige by not stamping your American passport. I am here legally (as of today) because I qualified for one of the few qualifications, but had to obtain a Coast Guard permit that is only good for 12 days. I will come back and then probably do it the easier way.
Cuba has always drawn me but in familiarizing with the lay of the land I have come to the conclusion that Cuba has so much more to offer than the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, popular for their close vicinity to the USA vacation for short time cruisers. In particular, the well protected Cuban south coast, with so many bays and anchorages, sounds and uninhabited cays and the proximity of typical Cuban towns like Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago, etc. It is still very inexpensive. The clearing in into Cienfuegos was painless and costless, health, harbor master, immigration and customs all came to the boat within the first two hours. Today I filled my water tank and topped off my diesel, all of 27,3 liters, since Montego Bay 350/400 miles back. When I mentioned that I tanked 18 liters (4 1/2 gallons) in Montego Bay for the transit of the Panama Canal and the 650 miles of ocean, the attendant said: “Only Cristopher Columbus used less diesel to get here…” Most of the 27,3 liters were due to the very strong northerly I ran into 20 miles before the entrance to Cienfuegos. It had been a fairly close hauled North Easterly from Grand Cayman, but, for once, the weather forecast turned out to be right. In the early afternoon near Cuba the wind started easing from the NE and ended up in the NW, I had to jibe in the end. Then it just stopped all together. I cranked the engine up, set the auto pilot and took a nap. When I woke up and looked at the digital chart I was being pushed sideways towards Puerto Rico. I had set the engine at a low speed to try and delay my entry at Cienfuegos for daylight.  I revved the engine up but still was only making a knot over the ground. What to do? Raise the sails and tack up wind, these last twenty odd miles? I decided to delay the decision. At time waves knocked me back to less than a knot but slowly I was making some headway, the closer I got to the upwind shore the speed crept up. I still ended up doing the long winding entry from the Caribbean Sea to the marina in the dark. It was a beautiful sunrise over the Sierra Madre Mountains, from where the Castro brothers fought the war to convert Cuba into a Communist state.
Internet connections are almost non-existent. First you have to buy a scratch card for 1 CUC (about $1.15) which is good for an hour on the internet, but I spend about half of that re-connecting when the signal goes south. Most of the major towns have minicipal free wi-fi in the main squares. But there is hardly a spot dark enough to see my screen, and then you still need that prepaid card. Water pressure goes down to zero in the afternoon, if you wish to flush the toilet and take a shower you need to be an early riser. And don`t forget to bring your own TP.
Meanwhile it is March 18 and I have not been able to post this. I managed to download my e-mails and send a few but unable to post any pictures to FB. Thursday the one place where I can buy a wi-fi card ran out and still had none yesterday.
BusTrip to TRINIDAD. This was a delightful visit on Thursday. Trinidad is about 45 miles south east of Cienfuegos. My video camera was not cooperating but I think these still pictures tell the story. A delightful coastal town with all coble stone streets and red clay tiled roofs. Something straight from a movie set. Just like Dubrovnik you need to get your pictures before the tourist buses unload a steady stream. One of the old monestaries is now a museum exhibiting the glorious victory of Castro`s communism. The accomplishments of the 1959 revolution are everywhere. It is much more in your face than it is in Vietnam. I had my five minutes of glory just before leaving Trinidad. Three guitar playing singers, “Trio Ensueno”, were singing a harmony very similar to the well known Putumayo Social Club. They sang my favorite “La Malaguena”. Originated in the sixties from the “Los Paraguayos” and the Kingston trio made it a hit in the United States. I joined in and they were pleasantly surprised to hear a Gringo sing it. It is a very difficult song to sing with high notes that go on forever.
I am writing this on the way from Cienfuegos to Cayo Largo, an overnight sail. I shall arrive early Sunday morning. I had wanted to leave yesterday but was convinced that my anchor chain was crossed over my neighbor`s boat. They were supposed to leave Friday as well and I waited for them to pull their anchor first. But they still had not returned this morning. The wind had calmed and when I tried it once more this morning, it turned out that I was close but not across their chain, after all. There is a strong, about 20/25 knot following wind and I am sailing just undr the 90% jib, doing close to 5 knots. A welcome change from all the upwind sailing since the Costa Rica. March 16 Cuba, Retro Land
We have all seen the photos of the pre-revolution American automobiles. But riding through Cienfuegos, my first stop, it is so obvious that this country froze in a time warp in the late fifties. The economic growth of the rest of the world and in particular of their close neighbors, the USA, passed them by. It is in particular evident in residential and commercial construction, and in the transportation system. Unpaved streets, grey water running out into the streets, bicycle taxis and horse drawn carts remind me of southern Spain in the mid-fifties. Just like what I observed in the former Soviet Union countries along the Danube the residential and commercial structures are in a sad shape, through a lack of maintenance and incentive when the state were the owners.
But as far as fashion, music and smart phones, most of the Cubans behave just like their neighbors, where income permits. Beggars are rare but poverty is obvious, very few Cubans can afford an automobile. The lack of newer cars has little to do with the US embargo. The Russians sold a few vehicles. No traffic jams here. Whereas in my previous stop, in the Grand Caymans, I could walk faster than the automobiles working their way home at day’s end. I had a Cuba Libre an hour ago before dinner at a beach side restaurant. But the Cubans are not Libre. I commented on this and asked the server if the fish came from Mexico, because I have not seen a single fishing boat yet. We, cruising boats, are not allowed to go ashore to places where there is no official marina, only on uninhabited islands, for fear that we are going to pick up a few Cuban stowaways. The majority of cruisers and tourists I ran into in town are German, followed by the French and other Europeans and Canadians, a sprinkling of Americans. Technically the US Government does not permit their citizens to visit Cuba but for a few specified reasons. It is not too hard to circumvent this by flying here and returning to the USA from another country, like Mexico or Canada. The Cubans will oblige by not stamping your American passport. I am here legally (as of today) because I qualified for one of the few qualifications, but had to obtain a Coast Guard permit that is only good for 12 days. I will come back and then probably do it the easier way.
Cuba has always drawn me but in familiarizing with the lay of the land I have come to the conclusion that Cuba has so much more to offer than the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, popular for their close vicinity to the USA vacation for short time cruisers. In particular, the well protected Cuban south coast, with so many bays and anchorages, sounds and uninhabited cays and the proximity of typical Cuban towns like Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago, etc. It is still very inexpensive. The clearing in into Cienfuegos was painless and costless, health, harbor master, immigration and customs all came to the boat within the first two hours. Today I filled my water tank and topped off my diesel, all of 27,3 liters, since Montego Bay 350/400 miles back. When I mentioned that I tanked 18 liters (4 1/2 gallons) in Montego Bay for the transit of the Panama Canal and the 650 miles of ocean, the attendant said: “Only Cristopher Columbus used less diesel to get here…” Most of the 27,3 liters were due to the very strong northerly I ran into 20 miles before the entrance to Cienfuegos. It had been a fairly close hauled North Easterly from Grand Cayman, but, for once, the weather forecast turned out to be right. In the early afternoon near Cuba the wind started easing from the NE and ended up in the NW, I had to jibe in the end. Then it just stopped all together. I cranked the engine up, set the auto pilot and took a nap. When I woke up and looked at the digital chart I was being pushed sideways towards Puerto Rico. I had set the engine at a low speed to try and delay my entry at Cienfuegos for daylight. I revved the engine up but still was only making a knot over the ground. What to do? Raise the sails and tack up wind, these last twenty odd miles? I decided to delay the decision. At time waves knocked me back to less than a knot but slowly I was making some headway, the closer I got to the upwind shore the speed crept up. I still ended up doing the long winding entry from the Caribbean Sea to the marina in the dark. It was a beautiful sunrise over the Sierra Madre Mountains, from where the Castro brothers fought the war to convert Cuba into a Communist state.
Internet connections are almost non-existent. First you have to buy a scratch card for 1 CUC (about $1.15) which is good for an hour on the internet, but I spend about half of that re-connecting when the signal goes south. Most of the major towns have minicipal free wi-fi in the main squares. But there is hardly a spot dark enough to see my screen, and then you still need that prepaid card. Water pressure goes down to zero in the afternoon, if you wish to flush the toilet and take a shower you need to be an early riser. And don`t forget to bring your own TP.
Meanwhile it is March 18 and I have not been able to post this. I managed to download my e-mails and send a few but unable to post any pictures to FB. Thursday the one place where I can buy a wi-fi card ran out and still had none yesterday.
BusTrip to TRINIDAD. This was a delightful visit on Thursday. Trinidad is about 45 miles south east of Cienfuegos. My video camera was not cooperating but I think these still pictures tell the story. A delightful coastal town with all coble stone streets and red clay tiled roofs. Something straight from a movie set. Just like Dubrovnik you need to get your pictures before the tourist buses unload a steady stream. One of the old monestaries is now a museum exhibiting the glorious victory of Castro`s communism. The accomplishments of the 1959 revolution are everywhere. It is much more in your face than it is in Vietnam. I had my five minutes of glory just before leaving Trinidad. Three guitar playing singers, “Trio Ensueno”, were singing a harmony very similar to the well known Putumayo Social Club. They sang my favorite “La Malaguena”. Originated in the sixties from the “Los Paraguayos” and the Kingston trio made it a hit in the United States. I joined in and they were pleasantly surprised to hear a Gringo sing it. It is a very difficult song to sing with high notes that go on forever.
I am writing this on the way from Cienfuegos to Cayo Largo, an overnight sail. I shall arrive early Sunday morning. I had wanted to leave yesterday but was convinced that my anchor chain was crossed over my neighbor`s boat. They were supposed to leave Friday as well and I waited for them to pull their anchor first. But they still had not returned this morning. The wind had calmed and when I tried it once more this morning, it turned out that I was close but not across their chain, after all. There is a strong, about 20/25 knot following wind and I am sailing just under the 90% jib, doing close to 5 knots. A welcome change from all the upwind sailing since the Costa Rica.

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 8th., Cayman Islands

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 8th, 2017

DCIM100GOPRO

It is women`s day and here are a few good men getting ready to walk in her shoes. I would do it but it is in the evening and I have no way to get back from shore in the dark. For the same reason I missed a presentation last Monday evening by Eva Schloss. Her mother married Otto Frank in 1953. Six years after the diary of Anne Frank was published. Eva and Anne were both born in 1929 and knew each other. Eva and her mother survived Auschwitz, the only survivors of her family. It is remotely possible that Eva would have run errands for her stepfather`s business to the bank where my father worked and how Otto knew my father. My dad received one of the first diaries from Otto Frank with his dedication. I learned of Schloss`s presentation from two med students I met here on the beach. Turns out that Liron Lashevsky is Israeli and his friend Jamil is Palestinian. I wanted so much a picture between the two, a picture of Shalom/Peace/Salem. You just have to take my word for it. This picture looks more like David and Goliath, no I have not shrunk. Liron has relatives in Amsterdam.image1

 

 

 

 

 

My new laptop is in George Town. I need to claim it at Customs when I clear out. My German friends are planning to check out on either Friday or Saturday morning and I plan sail with them to Cienfuegos, Cuba. It has been blowing like stink, 20/25 knots due to a cold front on the US Atlantic Coast. But it is starting to calm down. This has been a welcome respite from paying marina moorage fees and the public mooring buoys provided a lot securer ground tackle than my anchors would have provided in this week`s blow. But prices for food etc. are very steep. It must be one of the few places where the local dollar is higher than the US $. About 22%.

I was unable to get to shore on Sunday morning. I depend on the kind towing service of my two German neighbors. They tow my dinghy against the strong wind and I row back from shore. But I had ample inspiration from services broadcasted here on the FM stations. Sorry, no pictures this time.

busy day in George Town Bay.

busy day in George Town Bay.

Today has got to be the busiest cruise ship day in town. L.R. (as well as I could determine) : “Monarch”, Carnival “Fantasia”, “Liberty of the Seas”, Disney “Fantasy”, Holland America Line “New Amsterdam”.

 

Friday March 3rd. Georgetown, Cayman Islands

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 3rd, 2017
It is 3.46 am, sleepless from Seattle. Probably a left over from the night schedule on the sail here and the six day sail from the Panama Canal. I can see far enough on the AIS screen to set the alarm for one hour naps. And I catch up on my sleep during the day. My previous blog was just before departing Montego Bay. The custom and immigration officers came to the YC at 9 am on Monday. “Rebell” was anchored out and the other German boat, with Walter and Elke, “Sunrise” was med moored next to me on the dock. A squall was coming in on to my port side. We should have waited this out. Brendt and Birgit helped to take the long line off the mooring in their outboard powered inflatable dinghy. It became a very scary drill. “Sunrise” managed to get off their mooring buoy but I had to cut my engine when the long line my friends in the dinghy were taking up was going to get into my prop. This drove me onto the mooring line of “Just Dreamin” whose crew had flown to B.C. just before I arrived. I had met Justin and Loree in Balboa, Panama. The rain came down in buckets, I was totally soaked. In the end I managed to get off without a scratch to either boat. In the action we learned that we should have availed ourselves of the assistance from the dockmaster with their launch. Once away from land I had to put two reefs in the main with a North Easterly in a broad reach. Here I was giving away again all those hard upwind miles fought to get to Montego Bay. But with the new plan to come north to Florida I`ll still have a good approach from here in the Cayman Islands to Cienfuegos in Cuba. I had great speed, hitting an average close to six knots, with the occasional hits on the downhill side of the, now growing, waves of eight plus knots. In the evening I had to lower the main all together and still maintaining 5 1/2 average with just the #3 jib.
Part of this is the constant trade wind surface current, now I was getting the benefit after fighting this on the way from Panama. I covered the about 220 miles in 45 hours.
My route was set to the north end of Grand Cayman to go into the North Bay and moor in the marina at the barcadere. The North Bay was considered too shallow for the bigger German boats. I heard them a few times on the VHF radio and both called their birthday greetings in on the 28th. But I lost them from sight soon after leaving Montego Bay. But after I studied my electronic charts and the Google Earth pictures on my charts I decided that going into North Bay just was too risky. Elke came up with good way points for the North Bay from a local here and we are all planning to go in behind George Town at the barcadero, probably on Monday. We will stay on the free moorage buoys here on the leeward north side of George Town because there are some gale force winds predicted for Sunday. After a few days in North Bay we will all three head for Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Was it coincidence? I passed  the 80th west longitude at noon on the 28th. I celebrated it appropriately in my uppy, as SoloMan. With Birgit`s cake. I thank God for those 80 good years, that I can still enjoy life at its fullest and continue accumulating all these treasures in my family, friends and new experiences. God is good.
red boat is Fleetwood, the red broken vertical line is the 80th west Longitude. Lower left shows coordinates and SOG speed over ground. The upper blue line is my abandonded track

red boat is Fleetwood, the red broken vertical line is the 80th west Longitude. Lower left shows coordinates and SOG speed over ground. The upper blue line is my abandonded track

The wind dropped when I came into shore of Grand Cayman and had to start up the iron horse. In order to announce my arrival to the port captain in George Town I shut the engine to better hear him. When I restarted the engine it would not switch to start. Frozen. I raised the #3 jib again and managed to sail onto one of the free orange buoys.
An hour later the Germans buoy moored on each side of me. It turned out to be a Holiday and there was a $90 overtime charge. We all decided that we`d rather sit it out until Thursday, when it is free. I spent most of Wednesday, I had arrived at 8 am, to fix the starter problem, which wire goes to which pole? Crawled into the low and narrow space of the quarter berth. My injured back was killing me. Yesterday we were all led to the customs/immigration dock to clear in. When I started the engine to drive back the starter kept skipping gears. I killed the engine. Quickly, raised the #3 jib which was stowed away on the bow, still hanked on. I attached the sheets and sailed back to the mooring buoy. “Sunrise” and the harbor patrol boat stood by to assist but I managed it once again to pick up the heavy rope and thread my bow line through it.
I will not be surprised that there will have been a Gig Harbor cruise boat tourist watching this from the five cruise ships. In 2010 Pete Lancaster of my St. Nicholas Gig Harbor parish took a picture from a Viking cruise ship of “Fleetwood” in the Main-Rhine Canal. On a good day 15,000 cruise boat passengers disembark on George Town. The entire population of the Cayman Islands is about 60,000.
Quite a spectacle, yesterday at the customs/immigration dock. An army of reps from all the different tourist services with their placards, the passengers with their guides holding the number of his/her pack. Many of my best friends are golfers and cruise ship fans, when I grow up I might try it.
Thursday eeninng

Thursday evening

playing dominos with view on Fleetwood

playing dominos with view on Fleetwood

 

Sunday February 26. Do`nt worry be happy……

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 26th, 2017

This is how the pastor Msgr. Eromodo Muaves, in the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral sang the first part of his sermon just like the late Bob Marley Montego Bay`s favorite son. And that is today`s gospel message: Matthew 6: 24-34. Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

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It  was the first English mass I attended since departing from San Diego November 1st. Lots of  singing, some of my favorite. Here I am not the one eye in the land of the blind, but I managed to get  some compliments nevertheless in the high notes of “And I will raise you up in the last days”, which I  hope I`ll be able to maintain for a few more years. I used to worry a lot in my former working life: “Did  I answer the customer`s inquiry, have I paid this supplier, etc”. People, ask me what I am going to do  when I get too old to sail. That is way too far away for me. Tomorrow will bring its own challenges and  blessings. The announcer asked at the end of the mass for first tome visitors to stand. One parishioner celebrates her 95th birthday this week. We all sang her happy birthday, then anyone celebrating a birthday in the upcoming week was asked to stand up. The man right behind me was born on February 29 1940, just like Arthur Wijnans my continuous friend since 1972. He will need to wait until 2020 to birthday.   Yesterday evening I met Stephen Riviere, the oldest son of my longest continuous friendship with Norm Riviere. Norm arrived in Brussels in 1967 with his family. We were colleagues, working in the European sales office of the Weyerhauser Company. His only daughter, Jessica, is the same age as our Lisa. Stephen was born in 1959. I met two of his three sons in Wilmington, N.C. where Norm and his wife Betsy live for the last 25 years. Stephen lives in Jamaica for over 35 years. He has a tourist guide business an.d specializes to guide groups of German, French and Spanish speaking tourist, since he speaks these languages fluently. I enjoyed my visit with him very much. He is married to his (second) Jamaican wife and is totally assimilated in the island culture and particular dialect.

I am leaving on Monday morning for Grand Brac in the Cayman Islands with the two German boats here. This afternoon Birgit came to bring me a birthday cake. She was not certain that I would be with them on Tuesday, I think we will. But what a sweetheart….

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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.

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. 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.