Wednesday April 12. Videos of the sail from Panama to Cuba.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 12th, 2017

I finally managed to upload to Youtube. It requires a telephone, which I did not have until back in the USA and I have a fast internet connection now, at my daughter’s home.

The Shelter Bay Marina at Cristobal, Panama

The Jungle near the Shelter Bay Marina.

A difficult six day upwind sail from Panama to Jamaica

A fast sail from Montego Bay, Jamaica to George Town, Grand Cayman.

A bicycle tour of Cienfuegos, Cuba

A party of us sailors and the staff at the outpost immigration/custom and marina people at Cabo San Antonio on the SW corner of Cuba.

 

Palm Sunday April 9, Back home in the NorthWest.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 9th, 2017

That Sunday Morning, a week ago in Fort Lauderdale, I attended mass at St. Sebastian Church. The last time I had been able to attend mass was in Montego Bay, Jamaica on February 26th. The weather had made it impossible to get to shore in George Town, Grand Cayman and I was underway on a couple of the Sundays, no churches in my last two Cuban Sunday stops. That is probably about the longest period in my life that I missed a Sunday service. The other period was the 28 day 3000 miles transit from Santa Barbara to the Marquesas in May 2005. But the service at St. Sebastian was worth the long dry spell. Father Jim reminded me of Father Gary Weisenberger, the priest who served for a long period at St. Nicholas my home parish in Gig Harbor. Godly men with humility and great wit. One of the first questions Father Jim asked: “Which visitor came from the farthest away?” The Northwest is about as far as you can go from Fort Lauderdale. My hand shot up. I got to tell the whole church that I had just finished my circumnavigation and that the subtitle of “SoloMan” was “Alone at Sea with God and Social Security”. A roar of laughter went up. I got to give a way a lot of my boat cards with the books info on it. And afterwards I made some new friends at the Kaffeeklatsch.

I paid my $145 one night moorage at the Bahia Mar YC, that is the most I ever paid for one night moorage, in 2012 I paid $90 at a very fancy yacht club in Valetta, Malta.  I left in the afternoon on the ICW headed for West Palm Beach. But after the second of 19 bridges, I noticed steam in the exhaust, overheating. I happened to near a bay off the ICW next to the Coral Reef YC, I dropped the anchor. I cleaned out the cooling water intake and then noticed that the fanbelt was damaged and ready to break. I had no spare aboard, a definite overlooked part of my preparations. I hailed a power boat anchored nearby for the Sunday afternoon family outing. Herly, a Brazilian-American took the details down of the belt and we measured and photographed the belt. The next morning he phoned to tell me that he had found the belt and that it would arrive between April 4 and 10. Then I called Greg Clark who managed to have two belts delivered to the nearby Sunrise Marina, where he knows the management. I rowed over and installed the belt. It was too short but I managed to make it work. That Tuesday evening I anchored out near the yard where Greg and Marlys were on the yacht they work on. I spend the evening with them, caught up on each others experiences and future plans. Marlys fed me a delicious dinner.

Wednesday morning I chose to sail outside on the Atlantic out of Palm Beach to Fort Pierce. The forecast was for 10-15 knot from the south. I started out with my full main sail. The wind strengthened and I had to put in the two reefs. Next the main came down and I set the 90% jib. I was still doing between 5 1/2 and 6 plus knots. By the time I approached Fort Pierce I had taken down the 90% jib and sailed just under the small storm jib. By then the wind had strengthened to around thirty knots. I was surfing on the wild waves. I was getting very nervous on entering the Fort Pierce inlet. Fortunately the fast sail had guaranteed me a day light arrival. My greatest fear was that I would be pushed beyond the entrance and then it would be another night at sea and the the wind would change to a strong Northerly which would be a dangerous and very uncomfortable situation. Thank God I managed to steer the boat between the breakwaters at 5.30 p.m. I was exhausted and dropped the anchor at the first opportunity. It was still blowing with 25 knot gusts but the water surface was relatively flat. But just before dark my anchor started dragging. I managed to re-anchor and get a better set in shallower water. But since I was still close to the ocean inlet there was a two plus knot current. In the morning my rope anchor rode was wrapped around the keel. This has caused me a great deal of trouble in the past where I had similar current issues. This time I learned a new trick. I managed to steer the boat out of the wrap. On Thursday I had just one opening bridge at Fort Pierce and a lomg stretch without any bridges and then in Vero Beach two fixed bridges with 65 foot clearance. I sailed most of the way since the wind was still from the south. A ferocious thunder storm dumped bucket loads and I was soaked through and through, the visibility went to about a 150 feet. The engine started overheating again. I anchored off the ICW in shallow water. I had hoped that it would just be a clogged cooling water intake filter to be cleaned. But I ended up having to remove the fan belt to get to the water pump. But after all that work there was nothing wrong with the pump impeller. I motor sailed the rest of the way at slow throttle. I hope that the longer belt Herly has by now and which I expect to pick up on my return to Fort Lauderdale the end of the month will solve the problem. But if it does not I may have a major engine problem.

“Fleetwood” is now on a mooring buoy in the Vero Beach Municipal Marina. This is quite affordable at about $15 per day. The marina moorage is about $56 per day. It is a very nice facility in a beautiful location. Brian, a new friend I met at the marina drove me to the airporter stop on the main north-south highway, with which I reached the Orlando airport and managed to get the very last seat on my stand by buddy pass to SeaTac on Friday. I am settled in with my #2 daughter Rose Marie and her husband Donovan in Federal Way. Quite a change from 70 to 80 plus Fahrenheit to socks and heated homes. I will look after their three cats while both are business travelling this week. This Easter weekend we will have a family reunion and celebrate my February 28th eightieth and three more April birthdays of the family. St. Theresa church is within walking distance, I attended Palm Sunday service and will do all the Holy Week services there. Then I plan to be in Gig Harbor at Saint Nicholas on Sunday the 23rd.

The famous Mug Race on the St. JohnDSC_5604s River is held the weekend of May 5th and I’d like to participate. The finish and party is at the Green Cove Springs Marina near Jacksonville, Florida, where I  plan to do a thorough haulout. This means I need to be back in Fort Lauderdale before April 30th.

I am back to my teen age weight. 132 Lbs/60 kilos, without the Nikon camera. Ocean Sailing is the best way to control your weight.

 

 

April 1 Around the World at Eighty years.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 1st, 2017

This is not an April fool`s joke. Though it all started as a joke when I headed up my E-mail mast head with “Around the World before Eighty Years”. That was in 2005, when I was 68 year young punk. Then in December I realized I was not going to make my deadline and changed into “At 80 years”.

I am happy to inform you that the quest is over. Yesterday, March 31st,  I crossed the very same point on the 80th Longitude West in the Florida Strait where I sailed on exactly the same day in March 2009 on my way back from a winter`s cruise in the Caribbean. In 2007 I had sailed further east of the 80th Longitude West on my way from the South Atlantic via Brazil and Trinidad to the Chesapeake Bay. That same summer of 2009, I crossed the North Atlantic and spent four years in Europe and on the way back to complete my circumnavigation through the Panama Canal, I lost my first Fleetwood near Ibiza on November 16, 2013. Most of you know the details but some are new to the story. At that moment I thought my story had come to an end and I started writing “SoloMan”. But back for a visit to the North West I found a copy of Fleetwood at a very affordable price and decided to complete the circumnavigation, backwards.

I celebrated my 80th birthday on February 28 while sailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica to George Town, Grand Caymans. The plans to celebrate my birthday in San Diego went awry. Now we have a new plan. I will celebrate it right after Easter in Tacoma/Federal Way with my two oldest daughters and Jeannine will fly from Virginia and my two sons will come up from Portland and San Diego. Lisa and Jeannine have their birthdays on April 18 and 11 respectively.

My new plans: I plan to sail up the US Atlantic Coast and like to try one of the “Great Loop” routes into the Great Lakes and then come down to the Caribbean again via the Mississippi this late Fall. I need to do some maintenance and cosmetic upgrades to the boat and plan to do this in the same place where I did this in 2008 and 2009 in Green Cove Springs on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville, Fl. then also hope to spend some time in the Portsmouth, Va. with Jeannine, David my grandson and my two great granddaughters. Time for some sailing lessons. I found a decent rate to leave Fleetwood on a mooring for a month in Vero Beach, a 100 miles north of here on the ICW. Where I hope to visit with dear friends I met in Green Cove Springs in 2008, Linda and Ron. And I expect to visit with Marlys and Greg Clark who are 35 miles up the ICW in West Palm Beach where their employer has his mega yacht in the yard for a short service. I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale also on April 1 in 2009 and spent several wonderful days with Marlys and Greg when Greg was in command of an other mega yacht. For my birthday they presentd me on April 1 with a brand new folding bike, since my previous bike was stolen on my birthday in Puerto Rico. The moorage rates here are outrages, $150 for a one night….. Then I plan fly to Seattle-Tacoma on/around the 10th. from Ft. Lauderdale, on a pass from Laura, my ex-wife.

I am available for presentations of my adventures and “SoloMan” and “The Mastmakers[ Daughters” book signing. My phone is back in business 253-441-7204.

Here is the continuation of my previous blog:March 30 Off Key West, Fl.
It has finally calmed down enough for me to keep the laptop on my knees, instead of bracing my self on a steep heel and constant pounding. I left Cayo Largo on Tuesday the 21st and arrived at Cabo San Antonio, the very most south west corner of Cuba on the 23rd. There was no internet there at all. I left there on Sunday afternoon, headed for Havana. Which ended up one of my worst sails ever. A strong wind on the nose. The biggest sail I could handle was the 90 percent and it is impossible to sail close enough to the wind, so, I was not going anywhere. More like going back and forth in the same place. The motor is of little use in these huge seas. While I was at Cabo San Antonio I could get the weather forecast from other sailors there. Anchoring out behind the reefs to sit out the worst of it was no option because I do trust the depth on the charts I have and I still would not have a forecast. It should have been a two night sail. Sunday was a decent sail and Tuesday during the day was o.k. but for the rest it was hobby horsing and constant sail changes. And a busy traffic lane. On Wednesday I abandoned the Havana destination. A big disappointment, but even if I could have eventually made it in, the time was running too short to get to SeaTac by the 10th of April for the family reunion and Easter.
Just like prediction in the last lines of my preceding blog, the Cubans fixed my breaking bolts problem. With a pair of scissors and a discarded beer can. They carefully measured and wrapped this around the shaft to take up the wear so that the flywheel did not whobble any longer. A two man team, Blanco and Victor. Victor is a white man and Blanco a black. Blanco was telling me that there is no such thing as a racial divide in Cuba. This is quite obvious in the work place and also in social interaction. For the most part I have observed the same in most of Latin America. On Sunday, while riding my bike to the ooutskirts of the settlement on Cayo Largo, I came upon a group of young people having a little party on the water’s edge. They had a wood fire and were barbecueing conch. I always had a couple of conch shells on board, since the South Pacific, they tried to find me another one. The next day they managed to find one under the sea grass. From the photo you can see the ethnic mix.

007

the Cayo Largo beach conch bbq

They are all working in the hotel and a couple restaurants. On Monday evening one of the young men brought me a meal from his restaurant he worked as a waiter.
My German friends returned already on early Monday morning from Havana by air. So, I had a chance to say farewell on Tuesday.

002

leaving Cayo Largo

Cabo San Antonio is the Lands End of Cuba. The nearest town is over a hundred miles away. There is a contingent of immigration, health and customs and it is one of the few ports to clear in and out of the country. A few boats were moored alongside the pier, most of were anchored out. I had to depend on lifts in the motorized dinghies of other sailors. One of the boats on the pier was a large ketch with Victor and Cathy. Victor was born in Colombia and grew up in the States. Next to them was a 30 foot S-2 with a huge Dutch ensign. Jeffrey had bought the boat on the Florida west coast last September for $11,000 and had never sailed before. He is buddy boating with Victor and Cathy. They are now on their way to the Yucatan Peninsula. Cathy had cooked up some great dishes and the Abel the port captain was barbecuing chicken. On Saturday afternoon we had a great party. A young Spanish couple, Israel and Carolina, from Andalusia on the Belgian flagged “Takun” entertained us with their bongo and song. They are travelling troubadours, with a program of acrobatics, fire eating, etc. The health officer turned out to be a great Cuban guitar player.
Last night I heard my first NPR station, since last October. The Cuban radio is now too far to hear. The Cuban radio stations all proclaim the glories of the revolution, ad nauseum. No, used car salesmen with the rolling “R”s, which gets awfully annoying on the Mexican stations. I am getting a good push from the Gulf Stream, doing close to six knots. It is actually starting to be normal sailing weather. I still cannot open the forward hatch yet. This would have been a hot and stuffy cabin in the lower latitudes. The prediction for tomorrow is for light winds from the south which should be ideal for making time in the Gulf Stream, I have enough diesel left to motor.

April 1, so much for that weather forecast. It was more of the same. But I slowly got lifted to a better angle and was starting to get the benefit of the Gulf Stream. But still had to make long tacks. But then later on Friday the wind kept clocking more and more from a reach to a run. Once close to Miami I saw the SOG (Speed Over the Ground) come up to as much as 12.65 knots… Surfing with just the 90% jib. I came into Ft. Lauderdale at 8.30 pm and put the anchor down north of town at 10 pm, finally I did not have to grab a hold for every move I made in the cabin.

Ft. Lauderdale skyline

Ft. Lauderdale skyline

 

 

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.

033

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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