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.

 

 

 

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