December, 2021 browsing by month


63rd anniversary of the Cuban revolution

Thursday, December 30th, 2021

It is Friday the 18th of December. I left Beaufort N.C. on Monday the 13th. Today is one of the finest passage sailing days I have ever enjoyed as much. Ideal conditions; a pleasant W.S.Westerly of about 10 knots. Full main and my largest genoa head sail. “Fleetwood” likes it as well, close hauled and moving right along on a gentle rolling sea, doing between four and a half to five knots. Until today I thought that I was dragging someone’s discarded mattress under the keel. I could not get much above three knots. The only threat I saw in the 7-day weather forecast on “Predict Wind” was a red area of 20 plus knots of wind above 30 degrees North for tomorrow. “Piece of Cake”, I thought, to make it below it by then. But I am now expected to pass the 30th Latitude in the early evening.

You can compare my route from Beaufort, that left on February 3rd last year, to this one, on my Garmin “In Reach” tracker. This time I had a prediction of the Gulf Stream that has a hole in it much further north than I crossed, in blessed ignorance, last year. I never got a particular sense of the Gulf Stream other than that the going was slow, if it was not the mattrass then it had to be fighting a current, far beyond its given location. There was little wind the first day and I motored until the wind came up at midnight.

Gannet near Cape Flattery

North American Gannet












Since this gorgeous day, I must have made 25 sail changes. At times I had the smaller jib hanked on when the wind dropped and I had to go back to the larger genoa. I reefed and un-reefed countless times. No, you still can’t talk me into furlers.

Having nothing better to do, today, I started wondering about the number of times “Fleetwood” has crossed that latitude. Turns out seventeen times. And Latitude 30 South twice, rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 2007. Seventeen times sounds like an impressive number, for an occasional ocean sailor. Eight of the seventeen are for having four of my Spring maintenance done in Green Cove Springs, Florida, which happens to be just a few degrees below the 30th North on the Saint John River. Anecdotally, this river is one of the few in Nort America that flows North.

Four of the crossing are part of the circumnavigation route. Today it will be the 5th time for a winter cruise to the Caribbean.

Wind picked up and passing the 5 knots of speed, regularly, but still a very comfortable ride.


Monday December 20th:

Well, the wind kept picking up and ended up in a huge rain squall. That full sail compliment was steadily reduced by reefing and just sailing under the 90% jib. The wind ended up nearly dead on the nose from the ESE. Yesterday, I replaced the 90% jib with the tiny storm jib and a double reefed main. This combination cannot sail tight to the wind and to chew through the waves, I have to ease the sheets some, which brings me further off my rhumb line course. It is a bumpy ride and difficult to get the needed sleep. I have no way to access the internet for the weather forecasts. I left Beaufort with a week’s worth of predictions and I cannot figure out what this strong South wind means. It should be

Closer to the nearby SE trade winds. I have sent a message from my Garmin In Reach tracker to my daughter Lisa and posted on Face Book, Lisa has already responded, but I’m not sure if the FB post has stuck. So, for now I am carrying on towards the Dominican Republic. This is the time of year that the trade wind is strongest and is called the Christmas Trades. But I assumed that it should be coming more from the east than this one from the south.

Friday, Christmas Eve.:

Lisa was able to get in touch with Richard van Appelen, Canadian sailing friend. We met in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic, in 2009. He had some bad news for me. I was to be caught in a gale from the S.S.W., sure enough. I tried to escape towards the East but it caught up with me and in the end, I had to lay by. The boat continued to move slowly, sideways, further east. My main concerns were for the rudder. I tied the helm. The noise is usually the worst part and the tossing, but I managed to get some sleep. It lasted for 36 hours, the next evening the wind dropped and eventually the swells dropped as well. Then the wind turned North and I had a decent sail yesterday. But by late evening I had to drop the last bit of sails and have been sailing under bare poles. Fortunately, the wind is from behind and I still manage just under 5 knots to the right direction.

Yesterday morning I had a chance to read more of the Cuba cruising guide and I decided that my expectations for my first stop, Santiago de Cuba, on the S.E. corner, are not what I had expected. Sounds like an interesting historical site but not to spend any time on a boat. The marina is far from the city, poor facility, no internet, etc. So, I changed my course and plan to just visit the popular destinations on the North coast in and near Havana. There are only about three ports on the north coast where I can check through customs. And it will need a daylight arrival.

December 25th, a sleigh ride on Christmas day.

The strong winds came slowly down towards the evening and I raised the genoa in the night. I added the full main to it this morning but the wind came up more and now I am sailing dead downwind with just the full main, sailors call this a sleigh ride. Good speed, around 5 knots.

So, my second good sailing day since departure on the 13th. By the time I get to my destination, I’ll have my travel agency’s complicity, in this one of the worst passages ever, forgiven.

The radio signals on Short Wave and AM are getting stronger. The clearest one is Radio Marti which broadcasts US democracy to the enslaved on Cuba. But there are some really strange voices on these stations, the Covid deniers, hocus-pocus interpretations of numbers in the Bible, etc. The CCP Chinese are doing their propaganda in the early morning hours.

My bow lights are flickering, probably a loose connection. I turned them off but already lost my last spare heavy breaker switch. I have a battery powered LED emergency two color bow lite. It was still in the original sealed package, but I cannot get it to work. So, both back-ups to the lost tri-color failed. Now that I dare to be on the bow again, after the previous three days of terror, I should be able to find the loose connection. (I did the next day, fixed)

I hope to be able to pick up the station on Haiti this evening, the one where I was able to record their   Easter service while I filmed the Sunrise, last Spring, on my way back from the West Indies. I shall be close to the same location.(Never happened).

Monday December 27th.

It is near noon and I should be making my first landfall around this time tomorrow. I chose for Puerto de Vita, which is the most eastern one of the three ports of entry, on the North Coast, before Havana.

Ever since Christmas day it has been a wonderful sleigh ride, mostly down wind. So, nice to be rid of that old mattress, off the keel. I have been streaming a trap line the last there days, but I do not have the right kind of lure. I wished I had the lures that Roger Rue gave me in 2005, the colorful plastic squids. I have not been able to find these on the Atlantic Coast. They were always good for Tuna and Mahi-Mahi. I shall have the last of the salted smoked pork shaving, that are vacuum packed, for my last dinner on board. I still have some cabbage and squash left and garlic and onions.

I had never counted on this long a passage, 13 days for 850 nautical miles, as the crow flies. I did about 1300 miles in that amount of time on my first passage from California to the Marquesas in 2005. The last 3 days make up for the frustrating majority of this voyage.

I forgot to top of my 13-1/2-gallon (55 liter) water tank when I filled my diesel tank and spare jerry cans on my day of departure from Beaufort. I have a spare 4 gallon can and collected some rain water. I filled the water tank on my November 20 departure from Cape Charles, and with the exception of the three-day Thanksgiving visit to Cape Charles, have lived off those 13 1/2 gallons. On that 2005 28-day passage to the Marquesas I still had not used up the main tank. For hydration, I mix water with a Tang like powdered fruit flavor and squeeze limes into it. This keeps the scurvy at bay and maintains my gorgeous teenage smooth skin.

Tuesday, December 28th.:

I am at anchor in a restful inlet surrounded by mangrove forest in Puerto de Vita. At sundown, yesterday, I saw land for the first time since Cape Hatteras disappeared in the distance on December 13. This was one of the most southern Cays in the Bahamas, Cayo Verde.

The wind was still from the north but slowed turned into the usual Eastern trad wind, the closer I approached Cuba.  Again, a night with many sail changes. I did not want to end up missing a daylight arrival and as soon as my speed dropped, I added sail. Usually, I would wait until daylight. I had to cross a very busy shipping route, the Old Bahama Channel and had to talk to the bridge for two of them. They tend to be most courteous and accommodating.

Now I am at anchor, I feel totally sapped and will have a great night sleep. I took a cockpit bath. There is a lot of cleaning up to do and a few repairs to make, resort/restow my summer and winter fineries.

The Guarda Frontera stopped by and the doctor from the health authority. They are going to have me take a Covid test. I’ll move to the dock tomorrow. There are some resort hotels nearby but nothing more than that. I plan be here a few days and then head west towards Havana and plan a stop for possibly a more extended visit at the Marina Darsena in the Varadero resort area. This is close enough to Havana and I will probably start my dental work from there.

Thursday December 30th.:

I passed the covid test and am now finally able to step on terra firma. I finished all the reams of paperwork with the Guarda Frontera, Customs and the Health department. I cannot pay the marina in cash, it has to be on debit or credit card and US Dollars are verboten. So, I figured all good with my Euro cards, but it would not accept my pin. Then I realized that I had sued it the last time in the Netherlands and I have to contact the bank that I am no longer there. So, my first piece of business to get set up with the government-controlled internet and buy my chip cards. So, after negotiating the potholed 8 km to the nearby pueblito, Santa Lucia, I had a nasty surprise. The bank had just closed a minute ago, at noon, and will not be back to work until January 4th. Today is a holiday and therefore they only opened from 8 until noon. Tomorrow is the last working day of the month and that is a monthly banking holiday, then the weekend and, I guess, the Godforsaken Communists get religious on the occasion of the Tres Reyes.

But, I got lucky again…. One of the bank employees changed a $100 bill into pesos and that got me to be able to pay for the Internet prepaid cards. Get some food for the next few days until I get to the more civilized parts of Cuba.

The people in the marina have been very helpful. Jeannine (spelling may be off) is the very business-like young lady at the marina capitaneria. I am the only visitor.  The facilities are absolutely immaculate. They have only recently re-opened after the covid restrictions. There is no service yet at the restaurant and the fueldock has no diesel. But I should have enough to spare to get to Varadero. I managed to squeeze a few gallons out of the dock spicket and then it stopped.

It has been a blessing to be at anchor for the two nights. It is so tranquil. There is little city light and a beautiful starlit sky. The roosters start early, but other than an occasional bird noise you can hear a pin drop. It is nearly windless during the night. No mosquitoes, but a few pesky no-see-ems in the morning.

The bare top of “Fleetwood”‘s mast, where once the Tri-Color stood

Marina Gaviota at Puerto de Vita, Cuba