vO On the Rocks again. December 14, Havana.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 14th, 2022

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I managed to reach my handheld VHF and sent out a Mayday and I set off the alarm on the Garmin “In Reach”, the surf was slamming the boat and I was hitting the reef hard. I tried to back off on the engine but I could not get off, against the strong wind, but then, suddenly I am floating free. It must have been a big wave in the outgoing tide that set me free.

After clearing in and getting moored at the Hemmingway Marina, I checked for any leaks. Nothing.

This morning, I took a closer look. There is some damage but that can be fixed again. There has to be some scratches and nicks on the bottom of the cast iron keel. But I had already planned my annual spring haul out in Northern Florida. It will be a bit earlier this year.

How did it happen? I left Puerto de Vita on Saturday the 8th, had some of my best sailing that day, just using the 90% Jib reaching in a 15 knot North-Easterly. The mainsail cover did not come off until the next afternoon. Monday nigh was nasty, the wind went further north and strengthened, thunder storm on early Tuesday morning. By the time I got to the narrow entrance to the canal into the Darsena Marina at Valedero, it turned out that I was no longer in a storm squall, but in the predicted cold front from the North. The 75 ft entrance did not look good with huge surf battering the beaches on both sides of the entry. It was still early in the morning and I decided to skip the Varedero and keep going to Havana. I got there by late Wednesday morning. But when I came close, I realized that I may have to make an other plan. I could not raise the marina on the radio. There appears to be a problem with my reception. They can hear me but I cannot hear them.

The only safe/deep enough anchorage is Bahia de Hunda, 38 miles further west. That turned out to a very nice sail. I arrived in the dark, but the moon as had good instruction in the Cuba Waterway Guide.

I had a good rest after the three nights constantly waking up to check the track and traffic.

Since it was also a reach back in the North wind, I tried Havana anew. The wind was less than on Wednesday and also more from the N.W. than the North. But it turned still out to be a rough entry, with the strong wind on the stern, I had a heck of a time steering a straight line. And suddenly, my worst nightmare, had me on that reef. The instructions in the guide are very specific but the channel markers are very misleading and I must have a strong set to the starboard side of the channel. Now that is history and another lease on my vagabondery.

I sent Lisa an e-mail on the Garmin In-Reach satellite tracker. Most likely she would have been the first to be contacted by the emergency services.

 

After the hundred signatures in the Customs/Health/Border Security and the Marina office I went searching for a bottle of rum, with Rubin am employee at the Marina, at the Yacht Club and ended up at the “El Viejo de Mar (Old Man and the Sea) Hotel”. There I ran into Rigo and Gino from my next-door neighbors, “Shalom”, a 30 ft Catalina, the pair had sailed from Tampa loaded to 1 foot below the waterline with gifts for the locals here. Rigo is an American-Cuban from here. Apparently, this was his third attempt. This time he managed to pay off the right people. He does this for a church group, but there appears to be more to the enterprise. His younger brother and sister-in-law joined us later, they still live here, as is the rest of is family. A handsome dude with a fabulous attitude and does not take no for answers. He treated the entire table of seven, it was their farewell dinner. They left this morning for Key West at 4 a.m.

Gino, in his forties, also a real fine dude, is living a very full and busy life. I tried to determine his origins, he speaks flawless Spanish, he lived in Bogota and Medellin and his next destination is Bali. He told me that he is a Hebrew, we tried real hard to convert each other. He did his home- work.

There was a second couple at the table who live nearby and are good friends of Rigo. He is a wood worker artist. I saw fabulous pictures of his art and plan to visit their home and work shop. His stepfather, a Colombian-American, is the largest diesel engine dealer in Ft. Lauderdale. I suspect that he is also his beneficiary to be able to practice his art, since there is a very limited access to customers at this time. We were the only dinner guests at the hotel. There are only a couple visiting boats here and a couple more regulars in this 600m plus berths marina. I learned much from my new friends about the street savvy and how to exchange your Euros and Dollars. Apparently, the 24.50 pesos the bank pays for my Dollar gets as much as 65 on the street and Euros a much as 90 instead of the bank 27.50

So, I wished I had brought more cash. I figured that with my Dutch ATM card I was all set. That was the way in 2017.

 

I am going to try get an inspection of the underwater damage. There is a very slight weeping through the port forward keel bolt and some flexing of the back bone and an old crack opened slightly. Nothing in the main repair of the hull I did for the 2017 for the hull opening. The starboard rod of the two steel pressure rods I added between the mast step and bulkhead cabin roof top has flexed. I will consult with the previous owner/builder and George Whisstock the creator of the NAJA kit.

 

I just had to get this picture of the 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline. My 1951 two door Fleetline was the first car I ever owned. I was not 21 yet in 1957 and I needed to be an emancipated minor because I had no parents or family in California to co-sign the registration and insurance. So, I got a jump on growing up over my little twin brothers…

1949 Chevy at emmingway Marina

1957 in Yoshemite

1949 Chevy was the current owner’s grandpa’s vehicle.

 

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