Monday, May 16 ’20 Back in the Hood

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 16th, 2022

I laid my eyes on “Fleetwood III” on Wednesday the 11th. We have been getting acquainted and she’s a keeper. She’ll be a piece of work for a while. Cleaning the interior, sanding, revarnishing, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The carved tree butt mooring post is the remains of the magnificent Horse Chestnut in my four seasons series of 2009/2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She and my two ex-es, have lots in common, dimensions, model, material, her plusses are the Yamaha 2GM which runs great, smoother and quieter and more power than the previous four diesels that propelled her two predecessors. A lot more storage and sleeping berths, a nice 3 burner gas galley stove, a Webasto heater, swim ladder and it even has a TV and masttop tv antenna. The first TV for me since I dumped my last one in 1998 when Jesus reminded me that dumping a TV is less painful than tearing an eye out when the flesh tempts. But so far it is part of a puzzle of wiring waiting to be tackled after the FM-AM radio, SSB receiver, VHF, GPS, AIS, etc.

On Friday, I got some help from the yard to figure out the switches for the nav lights. It was a great ride on Saturday to Amsterdam. I just barely made through the two fixed highway bridges. I had gone through these bridges in 2012 with a taller mast, so I felt no fear. But the next day I realized that the mast then down since I left the Mediterranean by way of the inland rivers and canals. The flexible VHF antenna went pinging at every joist. The architect for these bridges had miscalculated the height and the Dutch government had to compensate all the Botter fishermen to put a hinge on the mast heads, to lower and raise the tops from their now landlocked villages along the Old Zuider Zee shore to reach their fishing grounds. Last year, you may remember, I was not as lucky on the New York East River.

My highest priority was to show registration numbers to get underway to Amsterdam from Zeewolde, an eight-hour trip. I requested quotes ahead of time from my previous Gig Harbor source and two Dutch sign makers for the vinyl stick on boat name, home port and registration numbers. The Dutch quote was way over my budget and I had no reply yet from Gig Harbor. But a local sign maker in Zeewolde had me walk out the store in less than 15 minutes from my arrival on a borrowed bicycle, after I had e-mailed the details an hour prior. The whole detail cost less than $90 and much less than my previous expenses.

Moonrise at Schinkelbrug

In the meantime, I have arrived at my old spot in the yacht club “De Schinkel” where learned to sail when I was 12 and where I spent memorable visits from 2009 until 2013.

Feels like home.

We have one of the first rainy days since I arrived nearly a month ago.

The one good thing is, that against predictions, the US dollar has done well and is at a record high. We can’t put that blame on our illustrious leader. Europe has probably been hurt more by the Covid than the US.

I needed to replenish my euro account here with dollars from my US account. And I nearly had a heart attack when a very inexperienced young lady at my local bank told me that the rate was 79 euro cents for the dollar, but that I needed to purchase it on the bank’s app. That did not work and I must have spent another hour in many phone calls before I was able to make the transfer and rate turned out to be closer to 98 cents. When I was here in 2009 the Euro was much more like between $ 1.30 and $ 1.40.

A couple from the Gig Harbor YC is due to visit here this week, together with another friends of theirs’ couple.

My previous blog was sent on May 4th, just before the Memorial Day concert done by the choir, I joined back in 2012 and sang with in the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in 2013. It was a fabulous program, just wished I had been able to sing with them if I had been able to attend the rehearsals. There will probably be opportunities coming up soon.

 

Yesterday, Sunday, was a gorgeous day, in the seventies and half of Amsterdam was on the water. I was moored next to a lock waiting to cross the lake to where I am because they were having the 75 anniversary of the “Vrijheid” open class day sailers. My long-time friend Evert Slijper and his brother participated. Evert lives in Eugene, Oregon. I expect to see him in the next days. He is a very active contestant in the Eugene YC in Eugene in the “Thistle” class and knows a lot of my Puget Sound Thistle families. He met his first wife at the University of the Puget Sound.

 

Wednesday May 4th.  It is official, meet “Fleetwood III”

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 4th, 2022

This is going to be a longer than usual blog. Much has happened since my previous blog on March 24. I arrived in the Netherlands on April 19th. My nephew, Dirk Jan de Ruiter, drove me to Zeewolde and it was love at nearly first sight.

Port View

taken before winter storage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is very similar in size and performance to the 1st and 2nd NAJA. This is a Waarschip 9 mtr (30 ft) It was also sold as a kit, just like the Najas. But the hull construction is clinker built, like shiplap siding. This one was professionaly assembled by the Waarschip yard, in 1980, same year as my first Fleetwood. It has a 1990 2 cylinder 2 GM Yamaha diesel engine. The beam is 6″ wider. Because the hull is stiffer there are fewer chines/stringers and bulkheads and has more space. This will be my first experience with roller furling. Also means fewer head sails in the storage area. It has a new two part L.P. paint job, new pulpits, stanchions. It is not set up yet for single handed sailing, it has a decent 12 volt auto tiller pilot. It needs a good windvane, solar panel(s).

But there were a few items that needed attention. The keel was dropped and resealed. I expect that I will move in next week, once the boat is launched and the mast has been set again.

I am very pleased that the “De Schinkel YC” in Amsterdam has found a spot for me again. During my 2009-2014 Europe visit, I spent a good part of it with this active boating community. This is where I had my first sailing lessons from my uncle Fred van Ommen in the fifties. I am looking forward to renew the many good friendships I made there.

Shortly after my planned arrival there will be a sailing regatta, on the adjoining lake, of the “Vrijheid” (Freedom) class 18-foot two crewed wooden day sailor.

This class was introduced in 1945, the end of the 2nd WW. I attended the competition in 2010 for their 65th anniversary. (see my blog, to get a look at these floating Stradivarii) This year it will be the Covid postponed 75th anniversary regatta.

Today is the 77th National Memorial Day for the victims of the 2nd WW. I will attend the evening choral-concert at the Saint Augustinuskerk. I was a member of it from 2012 until 2014, one of the highlights was performing in the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome on Ascension Day 2013. And singing during a visit in 2015 when the theme was based on the hymn “Abide with me” and a dialogue was read from my book “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” where our mother describes singing this hymn in the 8 cattle cars stuffed with 650 women political prisoners to the hell hole of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. (see blog https://cometosea.us/?p=5282)

“Abide with me” is part of this evening’s concert. I hope to be able to rejoin this impressive 50 plus members choir again while I am back here.

But I am still working on a way to extend my time through the summer, beyond the 90 day Schengen limit.

My first sea trials are planned as a trip to Glasgow, across the North Sea and through the Caledonia Canal, for the first birthday on July 9th of Spencer Wheatly, my fourth Great Grand Child.

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You can reach me by voice/video/text also through WhatsApp at this number. I am 9 hours ahead to the Pacific Coast and 6 to the US East Coast.

I finally managed to catch up with an old friend, Ed van Kan, I last saw in 1961 in Saigon. We grew up in the same neighborhood, near where I will be moored again. Our elementary schools were right across the street. His with the Catholic brothers and I with the Protestant preachers. When I left for the U.S., Ed was starting his reporter career in the Belgian Congo. We totally lost contact.

When I arrived on the USNS “Core” from Oakland, Ca. to Saigon in the first days of December 1961, I immediately picked Ed from the crowd of reporters down on the quay from high up on the flight deck. He was filming this first escalation of the military assistance by sending two full company strength units with our helicopters to Vietnam. By yelling his name and then a back and forth in an un-understandable language, I caused some consternation among the 450 odd spectators. Our mission was “An overseas exercise in excess of 90 days” to an undisclosed destination. So, I became a marked man, I obviously had something to do with the organization of this exercise. Our orders were to take no civilian clothes with us. But then it turned out that our Vietnamese hosts did not wish to release a stampede of these olive drab dressed barbarians loose on their town and their gorgeous sensuous “oa dai” dressed maidens. Guess what, private van Ommen and just one helicopter pilot, happened to have stowed civies away in their duffel bags. It took weeks for the visits to the tailor shops to dress the rest. No ready- made, certainly not for these occidental proportions.

Ed stood at the gangplank and introduced me to this fairy tale Paris of the Orient and his press buddies. He had much to do with what became one of the most memorable parts of mine and my American wife’s lives. More details of my unusual 1 ½ year Vietnam period in a chapter in my book “SoloMan”, as a backdrop to the 2006 Vietnam visit with “Fleetwood”

We had much to catch up on and more to follow since Ed now lives very close to “de Schinkel” YC.

In Amstelveen, near Amsterdam.

USNS “Core” Dec 11 1961 AP (Associated Press)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Sunday, on May Day, I participated in the annual, May Month of the Virgin Mary, festive service at the Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch. The mass is accompanied by the traditional Guilds in their colorful regalia, drummers and flag-wavers. The cathedral celebrates its 8th centennial this year. I made a short video/slide show at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD6MS9gKLA4

The annual royal birthday was on April 27th. The crowds and street scenes are colored orange. :https://studio.youtube.com/video/EWB0_DajQyU/edit

After inspecting my future shelter and long distance environmentally friendly vehicle, on April 22nd, I saw the exhibit in the Haarlem municipal archive of photographs of 137 women in the WW II resistance, from the province of North Holland. Our mother is one of them.

Many of you will be familiar with Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch evangelist, known best by her book and movie “The Hiding Place”. Her family clock shop and the hiding place are not far from this exhibit. Our mother, with the only complete bible available, which was smuggled to our dad in his cell by mother and then later by father to mother, participated in the secret religious encounters led by Corrie and her sister Nellie. Corrie’s picture is in the lower left.

Top center Rennie-de Vries-van Ommen, center left Tiny Boosman, Bottom center Kiky Heinsius, Lower left Corrie ten Boom

Tiny Boosman and Kiky Heinsius memoires, by permission, were incorporated in “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Memorial Day is very different from the previous 76 years. A repeat is taking place less than a thousand miles from where I write this. May God help us to wake up and learn to love one another.

 

Thursday, March 24 “Fleetwood III” ?

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 24th, 2022

This morning my Dutch sailing friends, Janneke and Wietze on S/Y “Anna Caroline”, took a look at the prospective “Fleetwood III”. I put earnest money on it today and intend to negotiate a purchase on or around April 22nd with the seller in The Netherlands. You just cannot put that venerable “Fleetwood” title on a fiberglass or metal sailboat and as the progeny of Mastmakers and my lifelong career partners in the wood business they would puke at the thought. A few years ago there were a number of NAJAs, like Fleetwood I and II, for sale in Europe. Not anymore. The closest is this 30 foot/9 meter “Waarschip”, also produced as a kit like the NAJA. The main difference is the hull construction. The Naja 1/2″ thick plywood panels were edge, jointed on the chines and reinforced with stringers. The Waarschip hull is a lapstreak plywood panel construction, to give it longitudinal stiffness. This particular boat was built in 1980, just like my first “Fleetwood”. In my prejudiced opinion, wood has a longer lifespan than fibreglass, when kept in epoxy and two part primer and paint.

So say a prayer, or, for the few unbelievers, keep your fingers crossed that I’ll soon have my own roof over my head again for the next 15 years. I promise, no more shipwrecks. I learn the hardway. The Dutch saying is: “Een ezel stoot zich in’t gemeen geen twee keer aan de zelfde steen” (A donkey usually does not stumble twice on the same rock). Mine go in threes, X’s and Wrex’s. But my good news is tempered with the reality that these next 15 years may turn out to become a repeat of the first 15 years of my life, from 1937 to 1952, with another tyrant and destruction and a passive, clueless following enabling another genocide.

I have enjoyed my stay with my oldest daughter, Lisa, since my flight from Cuba, here in the Pacific North West. Yesterday, my granddaughter Corrine joined us here, with my #4 great-grandchild Spencer. They flew in for a short visit from Scotland. I look forward to spending the summer in Europe, probably cross the North Sea to Scotland, through the Caledonian Canal, to meet up with Corrine and family. Some of you may have met Corrine in Amsterdam in 2012/2013 when I was there moored at the Watersport Vereniging “De Schinkel”. She finished her Pacific Lutheran University studies at the UVA and then moved to Belgium where her Scottish fiancee finished his masters degree at the University of Louvain in 2014.

I also plan to make a train trip to Paris, in the first week of May to find a home for the 26 foot “Cormorant” sailboat as advertised in my blog: https://cometosea.us/?p=7325 If anyone is interested in this boat let me know and we can try put this together.

Time flies, the masks here went off on the 11th. So, it is now easier to get together with my old friends here. I hope to make some more appointments. Before the 20th of April. I am looking forward to the culmination of this pre-Easter season with my family and friends in the N.W.

It has been cold and rainy this month in the Nortwest but Spring is in the air. This picture is of the backyards of the street Lisa lives on in Federal Way, Wa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish everyone a meaningful and happy feast of the Resurrection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday February 12th Confessions of a Geriatric Shipwrecker

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 13th, 2022

I did it again. My third and last shipwreck. On my way to Rio Dulce, Belize from Marina Hemmingway in Havana, Cuba on February 3rd,

It was a fine sailing day, reaching in a North Easterly. Just after a beautiful sunset I had dinner, I put the dishes away, did not lay down and apparently fell into a deep sleep. I awoke three hours later hitting a reef off the coast of Cuba, just west of Bahia de Honda, where I had anchored the night when the entrance to Hemmingway was too rough to enter on January 12th.

Last photo of “Fleetwood”

 

 

 

 

 

 

My laptop screen shattered in the impact, so, I could not retrace my inbound track. It was pitch black. The only orientation I had was the lighthouse on Punta Gobernadora. I managed to break free with the engine for a short distance but then probably ended up closer to shore and got washed further up the shallower coast. I set off the alarm on my Garmin “In Reach” and called in a May-Day on Chanel 16 bon the VHF Radio and set off the alarm on the radio. Next, I texted my oldest daughter Lisa on the Garmin In Reach, that I was in trouble. The boat started to list sharply and bounced hard on the reef. But I was on the shore side of the main reef, somehow, I had passed over it. I expected some rescue action but it was not unto daylight that a fishing boat appeared. She anchored nearby in deeper water and came to my rescue in a rowboat. The son of the fishing boat captain and another young crewmember and a uniformed man from the Guarda Fronteras. An unsuccessful attempt was made by a second fishing boat to tow “Fleetwood” to deeper water. The threesome went back to the boat and spent over two hours checking it out. I saw no other way than to abandon the boat and I told my rescuers that they could have at it. The border patrol man apparently phoned in the details for a release I signed to the Cuban government that I signed when I came ashore later in the day.  I brought up the question of liability for the environmental protection. The fishing boat captain nodded to the Guarda Fronteras man and told me not to worry about it. I signed the papers for a Customs officer. An Immigration employee came for me and brought me to their office in Bahia de Honda. A maniac driver, in an ancient Russian Land Rover kind of vehicle, who knew to skirt nearly all the 1,000 pot holes in the road. These Immigration men turned out to be of incredible help. They fed me in their cafeteria, arranged for a place to stay in a “Casa Particulares”, a B&B, in Baracoa, near the Marina Hemmingway. Whose owners, Osmany and Miralys Perez treated me like a king and helped me in trying to recover some of my personal items from the wreck.

If you ever need a place for visitors while you are in Marina Hemmingway, I highly recommend their hospitality. I have their details. $20 a day Room/Board.

My hyosts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I rested up and came to my senses, I realized that I left a bunch of my valued personal items in the only home I have occupied since 2005. On Monday the 7th, we spent the day visiting the authorities in Marina Hemmingway where I had checked out on Tuesday and with the Commodore of the Club Nautico de Cuba adjacent to the marina. The Commodore is also the Port Officer for the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) of which I am a member. He got in touch with the head of the Cuban Capitanerias, who suggested we hire a seagoing boat to go to the wreck.

I figure that the Guarda Fronteras man and his fishermen buddies have another plan. And I had hoped to be able to pick through the items they will bring to shore.

Anyway, I did not bring much ashore in my first wreck in November 2013, off Ibiza and I survived that.

The Coast Guard requested permission to rescue me, they are less than a hundred mile away, but the Cubans refused to enter their territorial waters. They obviously had no way to assist other than sending the Border Patrol man with the fishing boat, 9 hours after the grounding.

The US Embassy was informed. This gave me some concern because I was on an unauthorized visit in Cuba. I had some e-mail exchanges wit the embassy and nothing was mentioned about my visiting status. I tried to find a flight from Havana to Seattle via Canada or Mexico. That did not happen. I flew from Havana on American Airlines, to Seattle with stops at Miami and Charlotte, N.C. I feared being greeted in Miami with a set of handcuffs. No mention at all. The Cubans did not stamp my passport. The previous time when I was in Cuba in 2017, I had a 14-day permit from the US Coast Guard, but when I cleared in, back in Florida, no one seemed to care how long I was in Cuba.

landing in Miami

 

 

 

 

 

 

My savings are in much better shape than after my 1st wreck in 2013 and after the repair of the June 2017 accident.

I am looking at a few options. Most likely I will end up with another boat, affordable housing and you can’t beat the waterfront view. I have started to search for an off-course alarm, so far little luck. The equivalent to my Garmin “In Reach” tracker, the “Path-Away” has an alarm. But I fear that it would be difficult to hear it when I lay down in the cabin. It needs to have the Satellite antenna outside of the cabiin.

I can’t recommend Cuba for a cruising destination. Life for the Cubans is tough and getting worse by the day. Food is scarce and limited and expensive. Long lines for bread, as an example. The bureaucracy is hard to swallow. The infrastructure is falling apart.

I can highly recommend it for a dental or other medical repair. I have seldom had such quick, pleasant and less than a quarter States side costs dental work done. Within three days, a molar filled a root canal and crown done for $395, if I had had more cash dollars on me it would have cost me even less, but I paid the bank rate with my European credit card. The bank rate is 24.50 Pesos for the Dollar and 27.50 for the Euro. On the black market the dollar is now at/near 100 Pesos….Which makes everything very cheap in Pesos. Internet is very spotty and state controlled. Moorage at Hemmingway is half the states side cost. I had to get medical insurance after I extended my visa beyond the first thirty days. I lost my receipt in the wreck but it was pricy.

The people are wonderful and resourceful. I liked their classical radio programs. But their propaganda and constant lessons on the media are nauseating. The country side is beautiful.

Their tourist business is hurting badly. Very few other cruising boats in the marinas. The situation in 2017 was much better and no black currency market.

I have posted a short You Tube video of this last week prior and after the wreck. There are a couple more since my last “where is Jack e-mail” to all on January 1st and you can find all four at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLCQ2Vs114grM1WdnlNo8WQ

 

Wednesday February 2nd. The Water Tiger came Back, yesterday.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 2nd, 2022

So, to all my Asian friends my very best wishes for a Happy, Prosperous Lunar New Year.

The 2022 Water Tiger

To my Vietnamese Friends:

Le Loi Blvd. “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” = Happy New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you were born after February 1963, you will most likely have another Water Tiger year coming in 2082. Sixty years ago, we were in that entire year of the Water Tiger in S.E. Asia. And it remains one of the most memorable years of mine and my wife’s lives. So, I’m counting on a repeat, I allow myself that superstition. I arrived on December 11, 1961 on the USS “Core”, a WW II aircraft carrier, in Saigon at the end of the main street, Rue Catinat, in Saigon. It was love on first sight and smell. I was the first one of the carrier, because, against the rules, I had civilian clothes in my duffel bag. The rest of the 500 solders in the two Helicopter companies had to be fitted in the tailor shops over the next 10 days. No such thing as ready-made clothing for the western oversized invaders.

I talked my wife, Joan, to join me. The reason I was drafted was that we had not managed to plant a seed, even after my boss managed to get me a six months deferment at the Los Angeles draft board. So, she was foot loose. She taught English at the Hoi Viet My, in Saigon. I met her in Hong Kong on her flight from Los Angeles, the festivities of the New Year had just started. I still remember the noise of the long strings of fire crackers that were strung from the Hong Kong skyscrapers. I had business there with suppliers of my civilian boss and again at the next stop in Manila. When we arrived in Saigon the Vietnamese “Tet” new year was still in full swing. The first person I recognized on December 11, from on high on the flight deck, was a friend from my old Amsterdam neighborhood. He was filming our arrival, a big deal because we were the first full company strengths units to become involved in the MAAG (Military Advisory Assistance Group) in Vietnam. My friend introduced me to a number of the press contingent. English was still foreign in Vietnam, I spoke decent French and my wife had learned it in High School and Pasadena City College. We had a small apartment for $38/mth and a “domestique” for $16/mth. We socialized with the American and Dutch ex-pats, were members of the French Cercle Sportif, etc. In my leave time, we travelled at my boss’ expense to hardwood lumber suppliers in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and up country by train in Malaya. How many 24-year-olds got that opportunity? I extended my 1-year tour and discharged in Saigon in January 2063 and then visited more suppliers in Borneo, Malaya and Singapore. And left after the 1963 Lunar New Year, hitching a ride on an Air Force Lockheed Constellation back to California. This entire story is described in detail in www.SoloMan.us and www.SoloMan.nl to fit in with my 2006 visit to Vietnam, in 2006, on “FleetWood”.

CHANGE IN DIRECTIONS:

Until you read this, I had you thinking that I am on my way to Northern Florida to haul out.

Fickle SoloMan changed his mind. He is heading South instead of North to do his repairs and it might turn into another drastic lifestyle adjustment.

I shall go south instead. As much as I have rooted in the Chesapeake since my 2017 shipwreck, home in the North West is calling. That is where I have lived the longest, from 1970 until 2005 when I started my sailing adventure. My oldest daughter Lisa, the children of my second oldest daughter Rose Marie (deceased June 2nd 2019) live there. My oldest son and his wife and step daughters live in Las Vegas, my youngest son Seth and his fiancée live in Oregon and a ton of great friends.

My youngest daughter, Jeannine, moved last year from Virginia to New York state. I still have my second oldest grandson in Portsmouth, Va. And his two daughters.

I am heading to Rio Dulce in Belize, on the border of Guatemala. It is about 600 miles. There are decent haul out facilities for the repair. It is a “Hurricane Hole” for the boats staying beyond the winter season and it has a community of semi-permanent cruising sailors, like myself. So, I might check it out for a semi-permanent winter home and leave the boat there and find a place, possibly another boat, to spend the summers on in the N.W.

I plan to maintain the friendships in the Netherlands and Cape Charles. I am a fabulous house-dog-cat-chicken sitter. And it is an easy sail from Rio Dulce to spend a summer on the Chesapeake. But the whole plan started with trying to find a way to truck the boat from the Caribbean to the Pacific Coast and sail it to the N.W. Mexico turned out to be impossible but there seems to be a possibility from Rio Dulce. I’ll find out.

Yesterday, I had visitors. Huub a young Dutchman and Olf a Swede. They have their boats in Cienfuegos, where I was in 2017. Huub bought an Alberg 30 in Rio Dulce and Olf came to collect his daughter who flew in to Havana from Sverige.

Really enjoyed their visit. One of the very helpful things I learned from Huub is that I am now able to get into my American bank account and pay my overdue bills and I hope to be able to upload the missing Navionics charts later today. It is called a VPN through Proton. It is an internet browser, free, that bypasses the blockade from US sites. It also eliminates my need to go every other day to sit in line and get my maximum 3 hours of internet, at $6 a shot. I can just use the nearby hotel’s free internet, all day long.

But with all those improvements, I am out of here. Pray for the Cubans. It just is not fair of what they have to suffer from that s.o.b. Karl Marx’s screwed up dis-lightened gospel.

Que Dios vengues al ayuda de nuestros hermanos y hermanas Cubanos!

 

Thursday, January 27th, 2022 Time to say Adios Cuba.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 27th, 2022

My second visit, yesterday, with the dentist, turned out to be also the last. All done, within 3 days. In my previous blog, I thought that I still owed for the permanent crown but, no, that was all included in the filling and the temporary $ 375.

So, with that done, I want to say good bye to Cuba. I am pleased to have finally visited Havana, which eluded me in the 2017 Cuba visit. I enjoyed the calm and pastoral setting of the N.E. corner of Cuba at Puerto de Vita. But I am tired of the depressing mess this country is in, the long bread lines, the limited internet, the constant political propaganda in roadside signs on the walls on and in every public building and on the radio.

But the people are all very hospitable and friendly.

On my way to the dentist, yesterday, I cycled through some very nice old residential districts on the higher elevations of Havana and an area with some very attractive school and university campuses.

My visa needs to be extended from this Saturday. It requires $25 worth of postal stamps. After much asking for directions to a post office, they did not have this much in stamps to sell, next post office, I was 2nd in line but still takes 20 minutes of waiting. Everything goes in slow motion. Just to get my maximum three hours of internet in scratch cards, it takes an hour of waiting in line. So, when I got back to the immigration office and waiting 20 minutes, I was told to purchase medical insurance for the extra days of my visa extension. This is downtown Havana, that is my chore for today.

My sister has sent me 500 euros by courier. But it turns out that it is not going to be here until February 10 or later. Part of it was supposed to pay the sailmaker for repairs to two of my head sails. I have asked my sister to try and have the envelope returned to her. It is hanging in Madrid right now.

And I came to a barter deal with the sailmaker to pay him with my folding bike and one of my two $20 bills I have left. I part from it with much reluctance of all the bikes I have gone through, starting with my 1966 5 speed derailleur custom made in Brussels road bike, which lays on the bottom of an Bora Bora anchorage since August 2005, a Vietnamese road bike stolen on Borneo in 2006, a Balinese road bike stolen in Durban, my first folding bike gifted by Bob Ellsworth in 2008 stolen in Puerto Rico in 2009, a 2009 birthday gift West Marine folding bike from Greg and Marlys Clark that went down with the good ship FleetWood I in the Med in 2013. Roger Rue’s folding bike he gifted me just after his 80th birthday in 2014 and shortly before his death, stolen in full daylight locked at the Arabella’s Marina in Gig Harbor The successor purchased in 2009 and exchanged in Pt. Townsend, was my next to favorite bike, it was destroyed in the 2017 stranding in Virginia. So, this 8 speed folding bike was number 9 since 2005.

We have an other cold front slam the coast here this weekend. With a little luck I’ll be on my way by Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Thursday afternoon: I took the #7 bus into downtown Havana for my 15 Pesos (60 cents)

In the #7 mini bus

 

 

 

 

 

I purchased the medical insurance good until February 15th, cost was $80. This cleaned me out of my pesos and I had no Dollars or Euros to buy pesos with, so, instead of getting 7,500 pesos for cash $100, I got 2,500 pesos for a little over $100.

So, I arrive at the Immigration office before 3 pm and it is closed. The sign gives the official closing time as 5 pm on Thursday. Tomorrow and Saturday from 8 until noon. It was a long hot walk from the bus stop to the office and back. I was p…..ed. To get back from the Immigration office I waited for over an hour for the #7 bus and ended up getting in the most inexpensive big bus, packed like sardines, but worth the 2 pesos or eight (legal) dollar cents. So, guess what I get do tomorrow? Yes, right, delight in my favorite activity here. Go back for another run at the Immigration office, search for internet prepaid cards, and enjoy the last days of owning # 9 bike.

 

Monday, January 24, 2022 Dental Tourism in Havana

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 25th, 2022

Back in the seventies, I participated in a monthly feeding of the less-fortunate on the Key Peninsula, through our St. Nicholas Parish, in Gig Harbor, Wa. There would be the occasional Mercedes among the parked cars. For their owners it was just another social event. But the truly poor were recognizable by their missing teeth.

When I came on financial times in the beginning of this centennial, I chose to do without a couple of teeth instead of crowns. When I spent the winter of 2009-2010 in Indochina, I had a crown done in Saigon. A month later, I had to have the abscess drained in a Nhatrang hospital and when I got back to Amsterdam in May 2010, I had a new root canal done with a temporary crown. A Turkish dentist put the permanent crown on it, a year and a half later. When I got the bill, I thought that it was for the consultation. No, it was the whole thing. It was less than $300….

Today, I had a consultation, root canal and temporary crown done on a short stump left from a broken molder in 2019, a filling of another broken off molder and a cleaning of all teeth for $375. If I would have had cash on me in Dollars or Euro, that could have been brought down to nearly half.

I have an appointment for the permanent crown on this Wednesday and I hope that my Euro cash comes in on time and passes the postal scrutiny. The clinic was in a beautiful old villa, totally renovated, first class equipment and great service. I was in that chair from 11.30 until 14.30. Processing the payment at the cashier took a half hour and the usual Cuban paper work and signatures.

 

I will need to extend my visa which expires on March 1st. Tomorrow, I shall be the only visiting boat in the Hemmingway Marina. The French family left this morning for Varadero and two sailors on a boat that came in 10 days ago will return to Cocoa Beach, tomorrow. These two spent the weekend on a bus tour to Varedero and they report that there were no visiting boats in either the large marina at Gaviota or the smaller one on the mainland side.

The tourist industry is hurting here, badly.

 

There is beautiful large R.C. Church halfway from here to Havana. I could not find a mass schedule, so, I rode out there yesterday. Closed. I spotted another tall tower nearby, closed. So, no picture on F.B. or this blog, folks, so sorry.

I read where the S.E. got a dump of snow and freezing temps into North Florida.

Wished it could have stopped there but that Cold Front came right down here with temps in the sixties and lots of north wind, thunder and rain.

Since I left Beaufort on December 13, this area below the 30th latitude has had its share of nasty weather, I feel sorry for the cruisers on limited winter vacation time, sitting out these storms on anchor off a beach in the Bahamas or Florida Keys.

Tuesday: A couple of nice young men stopped in at the Hemmingway Marina. Kiril is trying to find a ride on a boat heading for Mexico, from here. Highly recommended!

Kiril a Muscovite and Mirco Circovic a Bosnian

 

 

 

Cuba, Thursday January 20th., 2022

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 20th, 2022

I finished the last of my Beaufort, N.C. Butternut squash on Tuesday. This morning I finally found a greengrocer and found the local squash version and the other items in the photo. The large hollow fruit is a huge Papaya. My first fresh fruit since the bananas in Puerto de Vita.

How do you like the Hog’s Head?  No extra, for the teeth, snout and the left eye. The meat and slices of ham and the Fruit/Vegetables were both 200 Pesos, each. That is a total of about $9.00 at the official bank rate and $2.50 on the black-market rate. But a small fortune for the locals. They may have charged me more than the locals.

When we lived in Saigon, in the early sixties, we had a Chinese-Vietnamese “domestique”. She cleaned and made lunch and left in the early afternoon; our apartment was small and we really did not need a maid but she would shop daily on the market and paid a lot less than we would have.

My shopping spree

Full Moon

Full Moon at Hemmingway Marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have my first appointment on Monday morning at the dental clinic. But I will need to stay, for more visits, beyond the January 28th expiration of my one-month visa and will extend it for another month. Everything seems to be under control with the reef damage. The one keel bolt stopped leaking as well, probably a barnacle made its home in it.

 

In a neighborhood near the Marina is an unusual display of a “Homenaje a Gaudi” (Homage to Gaudi).

Gaudi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD  is best known for a much-photographed controversial art form in a Barcelona cathedral. Most of the homes in this 4-block quarter are decorated with primitive ceramic tiles. Watch this you tube:  https://youtu.be/mHanuKcd0IQ

 

 

Sunday January 16, 2022 in Havana

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 16th, 2022

Maybe that $ 20 bargain I could not refuse, in yesterday’s blog, might not have been after all. Though I enjoyed riding in a long-ago memory of my first, very similar, Chevy. The sound of the original engine, the 3-shift, no turn signals, no seatbelts.

But I had a pretty decent ride back, after a lot of asking and getting contradictory directions, for the grand sum of 15 pesos= sixty dollar cents. Now I know my directions for the next visit to Havana. But it is not door to door, from the highway to the boat is a 10 minute walk. I am part way, but I sure hope, the storm will calm down. A huge downpour started while I was having coffee and a long chat with Bernard Nielsen an ex-pat Dane. He pointed me in the right directions to the “wawa” bus.

Havana once had to be a magnificent city. And much of it is left. A beautiful setting on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. It has a lot in common with San Juan P.R. and Santo Domingo, but is much larger. It does not have the elevations and vistas that San Juan has.

I have made a You Tube of the visit, most of it is the mass at the Cathedral. https://youtu.be/HfObem4EsJQ

I am sure I’ll be visiting the city again before I depart, the vists to Hemmingway’s Finca Vigía.

 

Havana, Jan 15, 2022 Damage update and rubbing elbows with the spirits of Ernie and El Comandante

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 15th, 2022

Buenas Tardes. I had a diver check the damage to Thursday’s Reef Rocking. He took a video. I was afraid that there might be some damage to the hull. None, just the keel. There is a slight crack between the keel and the deadwood. This has happened before. The port forward keel bolt is weeping some water. I managed to crank it a ¾ turn tighter. I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

The internet access is a whole lot easier than the 16 km round trip to Santa Lucia from Pto. de Vita. It is an a.c. lobby of the nearby hotel with my name on it, “El Viejo del Mar”. I can use my Etecsa prepaid cards there. Since I prewrote this on the boat, to save on the Internet time, I ended up, this evening, at the Club Nautico Internacional Hemmingway de Cuba. These pictures on the facade of the club say it all. Fidel is encouraging the youth to appreciate the connection with my favorite hangout, the salt water. Ernie must have had some influence on the young rebel.  The other pictures show Ernie and Fidel and Che Guevera on a Marlin fishing trip, the rod they used is displayed here above the pictures. So, what is the lesson? This ass hole, who dumped Cuba into a 3/4 century of misery can’t be all bad.

Castro preaching the sea to the Cuban youth

 

 

 

 

The fishing trip. Che in the lower row 2nd from left. The rod on top of tableau.    

blow up from tableau. Ernie with Fidel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to visit Ernie’s digs in Havana tomorrow; the legend of the tumultuous times from the year I was born and when I started my life in the New World. My old friend, Howard Richardson, claims to have rubbed elbows with Ernie in Havana.

The driver of the 1949 Chevy Fleetline made me a deal, I could not refuse, for a ride into Havana, tomorrow morning. I am very much looking forward to spend the day in Havana and go to mass at the cathedral of San Cristobal.

Check this real Traditional Salty yacht out, the “Monara” from Antwerp, Belgium. She caught my eyes on sailing into Beaufort, N.C. on December 9, I wanted to know more about this gorgeous lady. Belgium, where Rose Marie was born in 1968 and Jeannine in 1969. But they were gone a couple days before I left Beaufort on December 13. Now I got my chance. She was right here a few boats ahead in the Hemmingway marina. She was built in Delft, Holland. http://monara.be/about.html Based on a traditional Dutch fishing trawler. Jan, the owner, sailed it with his wife and daughter, in July from Antwerp by way of the New Hebrides, Iceland, Newfoundland, down the Atlantic Coast to Beaufort and Havana. They left this morning at 7 am, for Varedero. I am sure that many of the sea-going condo yacht owners look with envy at this “real” salty version.

Monara

Monara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture is dinner on January 10. I bought this Butternut Squash before I left Beaufort, N.C. on December 13. Today it is still good for three dinners.

Ode to Squasha choice between tasteless canned vegetables.

 

Last night, I had my first tasty meal on Cuba. I had spent too much time taking care of entertaining you in publishing yesterday’s blog and the government store was closed. I was told I could buy my adult beverage at the Chinese restaurant, a stone throw from “Fleetwood”. No menu, no prices. I was aghast when I got the bill $60. The bottle of Santiago de Cuba rum was half of it. In the government store it is about $5 for a lesser quality.  But my meal could have fed 3 people and was as good as you can get in a decent US Chinese restaurant. I took part to the boat and donated part to the man who watched my bicycle.

Hasta manana de Habana, with more news about this historic city. Wishing all a good Sunday.