February, 2022

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Saturday February 12th Confessions of a Geriatric Shipwrecker

Sunday, February 13th, 2022

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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.

Wednesday, 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!