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.

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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.

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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

 

 

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Carla van der Meer says:

    Jack, ik vindt je een held!
    Gefeliciteerd, you did it 🙂

    Grtzzz, Carla van der Meer (Amsterdam)

  2. Dank je wel, Carla. En het is ook goed voor de gezondheid. Kijk maar eens naar mijn blog die er vandaag op komt.

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