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.

 

 

vO On the Rocks again. December 14, Havana.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 14th, 2022

Well, I did it again. But what appeared to be my third shipwreck, to be, was not to happen. Thank God, for the intervention of my prayer circle.

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.

 

Tuesday January 4th. Frustrations with the backward communist sysyem.

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 5th, 2022

 

I have been here in Puerto de Vito for a week. And it will be a few more days until I can use my Euro credit card. Today the bank and the prepaid internet facilities re-opened since the 29th of December. There were long lines for both. I needed to buy 5 more one-hour cards for the internet. Yesterday I had a little over a half hour left but the Dutch Bank left me on hold until the card ran out. Back at it today. I barely made it because with all the waiting for the cards I ran almost into their siesta from 11 am until 1.30 pm. And by that time the Dutch bank service would have closed with the 6-hour time difference. Thank God, that I have become such a patient person in this totally relaxed world.

What I found out is that my Dutch debit card seldom is accepted but that they will take the credit cards. I remember that in 2017, when I was on the south side of Cuba, I had no problem with the debit card for paying and taking money out of the walls. I offered the marina to pay them by telegraphic transfer from my Dutch account. But they do not have that possibility.

So, the new plan is that the Credit Card company will mail a new code for my (never yet used card) to my sister and she will then e-mail me the instructions so that I can pay my marina bills and get some cash and be on my way further west.

The people here are very nice but it is difficult to spent nearly two hours per day on the rough roads here to get on the internet. There are no mosquitos but, boy, the no-seeums have no mercy. They have little respect for bug spray and I have to wrap myself from neck to toe. And even though this is supposed to be the cooler season, it gets blistering hot in the boat. Once I get to a more permanent spot, in or near Havana, I’ll put the cover over the boat and might invest in a 220-volt fan. I have a small 12 volt going now.

 

The other problem I have is with my Avionics Caribbean charts. I have another good set but it does not cover Cuba. It turns out that I cannot access the Charts I paid for on line. Garmin web site (owner of Avionics) has no connection to Cuba. I swear that it was all working before I left Beaufort. But then discovered, that it was not. This port of entry is very easy to enter from where my American charts stop and I have a very good Cruising guide. That gives the harbor chart for the Marina here. Now, I discovered that I do have a good Navionics chart for this part of Cuba. But Not for where I am going. So, what to do.

Here is a short you tube video of the potholed roads in Pto de Vita and Santa Lucia and the colorful traffic: https://youtu.be/WPvH36cyrW0

 

New Year’s Eve Traditions on Cuba. Friday December 31, 2021

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 1st, 2022

New Year’s Day 2022 in Puerto de Vita, Cuba

I slept right through it. But woke up to the sound of the roosting Egrets getting ready for the first day of the New Year.

Roosting Egrets

Yesterday I explored the opposite direction of Santa Lucia. I was told that I should find an internet connection in Mellia. None there. I went further down to the beach where the resort hotels are at Pesquero, no luck there. Next to the closer resort at Faro, same story. I got plenty of exercise. Uphill was mostly on foot because I only have one of the eight speeds of my derailleur working. The cables are all rusted again. Only front brake works. I hope to find a repair shop here. And with my luck I had the strong trade wind in the face on the way there and on the way back the wind had slowed into a whisper.

But I enjoyed the landscape of rolling hills and wide vistas.

But the human aspect is what keeps me on this unending discovery. I heard some music from below and saw smoke rising from a small farm house.

It happened to be a family gathering for the traditional New Year’s Eve pig roast. This was Tito’s place. I asked if I might take a few pictures. The immediately presented me with roasted potato and tomato chips and a taste of their home Rum.

It reminded me of the hospitality and generosity I encountered in the South Pacific. These people know how to be grateful with next to nothing. Look at the video.

A 5-year-old offered me a beautiful seashell and his little sister also presented me with her smaller version.

Sea shells

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check the You tube video with the colorful spectacle of this happy gathering: https://youtu.be/TuKmEUEk2Jw

I am sending this from Sta. Lucia. I still have to try and reach my Amsterdam bank and deblock my Euro account. This will now have to wait until Monday.

After I sent my previous blog from Sta. Lucia, I managed to find some vegetables and bread. The vegetable man spoke fluent German. And the baker had also worked in East Germany and lived in Genk, Belgium, he knew some Dutch. I remember on my first visit to Berlin after the wall had come down to meet Vietnamese who spoke perfect German. These were guest workers who were farmed out to the Russians in exchange for military assistance. And later in Vietnam I ran into more of these German speaking Vietnamese. It became dark on the way back. I was deadly afraid that my rechargeable headlamp might run out, which it seems to do at the most inappropriate occasions. There are no street lights and the potholes are deathtraps. The opposing traffic on the main highway blind me. Then I discovered that I had missed my turn off and had to go back two kms. But my praying guardian angels kept the light burning. I was totally exhausted, many of the hills have to be walked because of the high gear limit and then on the way down I must slow down with the one working brake, in the dark.

One difference I noticed in this part of Cuba, there are fewer African Latinos than I saw in 017 on the South Coast.

I just found this real restaurant here in Sta. Lucia, with cold beer and air conditioning. These Christmas decorations here in the restaurant are not meant for other than Chinese markets. So, very Lunar New Year like.

Christmas Chinese Style


                    
 

63rd anniversary of the Cuban revolution

Written by Jack van Ommen on 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