s/v Always & All Ways

23 June 2016 | Macho de la Fuera
22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
21 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
19 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
18 June 2016 | Cayos Machos de Fuera
17 June 2016 | Cayos Machos de Fuera
16 June 2016 | Havana
13 June 2016 | Havana
13 June 2016 | Havana
13 June 2016 | Havana
13 June 2016 | Havana
13 June 2016 | Havana
11 June 2016 | Havana
11 June 2016 | Havana
09 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
09 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
08 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
08 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
06 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba

Sailing!

23 June 2016 | Macho de la Fuera
Mark
After studying the strong diurnal pattern of the winds - 15-18 kts from NE in AM, 0-5 kts SW in PM, we came up with a Plan B to get to Cienfuegos. Rather than try to do it in a 24 hr sail (that would end up being motoring for at least part of it as the wind dies), we would do two day sails using the strong morning winds to make most of our distance. And IT WORKED! At least for today. By 6:00 we had 17 kts from NE. We had anchor up and underway by 6:30. Apparent wind was 120* and we were making 7-8 kts in a very comfortable fashion After ~2 hrs of true down wind sailing, we came about 40 * to our final destination. This brought the apparent wind around to 90* and we really took off - . I saw the knot meter hit 9.9, but never 10.0. Mostly it was 8-9 kts and again very comfortable. About 7-8 nm out from our destination, the wind began to fade and our speed dropped, but we were still making 5 kts in 8 kts of wind! As we approached the reef at Macho de la Fuera, we rolled up gennie, spun into the wind and dropped the main (all under sail - no engine). We couldn't quite make it all the way around to where I could unroll gennie again, so I did have to fire up one engine briefly. (Yes, I could have unrolled gennie and backed her to get us around, but I'm a lazy sailor and it didn't really take much diesel.) With just gennie, we made 3.2 kts across the reef and up towards our anchorage. Finally we rolled up gennie and motored to the exact same spot of sand we had anchored in last time. We had come ~46 nm in just over 6 hrs. - not a bad day! Hopefully tomorrow will be as good.

Guarda Frontera

22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Mark
Today was dominated by interactions with the Guarda Frontera. We started out by deciding to go beach combing before the sun got too high and went over to the long beach on Cayo Cinco Balas. This was the first Cuban beach where we found significant plastic washed up on shore, but it is wide open to the ocean so that probably explains it. We were enjoying the beach when one of the flats boats that take fly fishermen out fishing in this area came running up to us. We were told that walking on the beach was not allowed. I know that the only places foreigners are allowed to go ashore is at a marina, but I had heard that the deserted islands were OK. Certainly we had no problem at Cayo Blanco or Machos de la Fuera and they were NOT deserted. Anyway, we said OK and headed back to dink and the boat. At least it was on our last day and we had already walked about as much beach as we wanted. After lunch another flats boat came zooming up to us, this time with uniformed officials. It was explained (in Spanish, no English) that one was the Port Captain for the Jardines de la Reina and the other was Dept of Interior (whatever that is). The Capt. examined our papers and then our passports, looking at every single page and commenting that we went to Panama a lot. They were also amused by the 'watermark' pictures on the pages - especially the steam engine and the long horn steers. After he finished, he said we needed to wait for the inspector. So we waited. And waited. To pass time, I showed them the chartplotter which impressed them greatly and then the engines - also approved. After about a 1/2 hr. wait, the inspector arrived - complete with dog & handler - in another flats boat. I think the dog still needs some training, but he dutifully sniffed the starboard berth, head and 'workshop'. He refused to go down into the port hull and finally the handler picked him up and carried him down. Then the fun began. In the aft cabin (Sandy's) the dog 'alerted' (barked) at some coconuts. He would bat one around and crouch and bark. The handler tried taking one at at time away and still the dog barked and batted the others. As soon as he heard the 'alert', the Capt. sent the other two men down to investigate. The Interior guy (with whom I had been chatting while we waited) apologized and indicated the Capt was being excessive, but they had to do what he said. They decided the coconuts were OK and after poking around Sandy's dirty clothes which were on the floor near them, they left. Then the Capt insisted that the other inspector (not the dog handler) also make a thorough visual inspection - it was really more of a 'pro forma', but we did it. And then the Capt insisted that he inspect the beer locker under the cockpit floor and the lazarette and the engine compartments. Finally it was decided that everything was OK. We all shook hands and they left. The whole process took ~2 hrs. Everyone was very polite and, other than the Capt., all were very friendly. With the afternoon mostly shot, Deb & I determined to do one last snorkel. We went to a section of reef we had spotted on our way back to the boat yesterday - just beyond where the reef ends, but well inside it. A large area of good sized coral heads and formations looked very promising. We anchored essentially in the middle. This allowed us a short snorkel with the current (I would guess it was 1-2 kts), a longish swim against the current and then a nice drift back to dink. The plan worked great. And the coral was great. But even better were the fish! Hundreds of them. First we saw three queen trigger fish at the same time .Then several large hog fish. Then a huge (3-4') snapper. A ray floated by. Tons of good sized parrot fish and snappers. And our large snapper followed us the whole time like a puppy dog! Lots of trunk fish. One more angel (or was it the same one relocated?) It was really a great time for our last snorkel in Cuba. We are doing lots of apps and drinks for dinner which sound delicious. Tomorrow we sail for Cienfuegos (over two days with a stop for the night.)

Hookah Paradise - without the hookah

22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Mark
Deb & I were determined that we were not going to let hookah's demise prevent us from enjoying the beautiful reef - so we snorkeled. Over the day, we did several different patches of reef. The best was right where the breaking reef ends. At that point there were a large number of big coral formations spread over a wide area of sand on the edge of the 'channel' coming in. Because it was deeper and nearer the open water, the fish were even better. We saw more and bigger hogfish than we have ever seen. A huge grouper that I thought qualified as jewfish, but Deb didn't. A medium sized sting ray. Several large barracudas. And finally one small angel fish. It was the first angel we had seen in Cuba. Usually they are abundant, but at least we saw one. It would have been better with the hookah, but it was great as it was. Today is supposed to be pretty calm, no wind to sail, so I think we will stay put another day and then make the trip to Cienfuegos in two long days rather than on overnight - it will be easier that way.

Hookah Rules; hookah sucks

21 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Mark
This morning we took Will & Sandy in to walk the beach on Alcatrito (one of the 'cinco cayos') and then Deb & I went in search of snorkeling. We headed straight out to the breaking reef. As is fairly common, there was a band of white sand just inside the breaking reef. It averaged 8-10' and was littered with nice coral heads. Close to where it was breaking, there was a wall ~6' to the surface where it was sheared off from the waves. We anchored dinghy and jumped in. We were not disappointed. The coral was as pretty as it had looked from above. And lots of fish. Clearly the best we have seen in Cuba. "This is definitely hookah territory," Deb said, and I agreed. After returning to the beach and walking that a bit ourselves, all 4 of us returned to the boat for lunch. After lunch, I assembled the hookah which involves digging it out from its storage location, firing it up and using the accessory hose to inflate the tube after wiggling the tube inside its canvas cover, and then mounting the pan in the tube. Then you attach the expansion tank, unroll the hoses and attach them, fill the gas tank, and you are good to go. It took ~1 hr. which is why we leave it set up after the first time. Then it is just grab and go. Will & Sandy wanted to just stay on the boat and rest while we hookahed and then take the dink exploring when we got back. We loaded everything in the dink and headed out to the reef. Since it wasn't very deep, the hookah is sort of a luxury, but it is a nice luxury as you can just go along the bottom chasing the fish and not having to keep surfacing. It is much more relaxed and enjoyable. We anchored amidst a large group of coral heads and swam in a circle visiting them all. We had just gotten back into dink and I was pulling in hookah when I realized that the breaking reef wasn't that far off and even though it was even shallower there, the hookah would be fun. Deb agreed so I fired up the hookah again and we went back in the water and swam to the reef. It really was great. Below the surface there was very little surge which made swimming fairly close easy. And then the hookah died. We both heard it at the same time and surfaced. We swam back to it and I tried starting it again (which is fairly difficult from the water, but I have done it before). It wouldn't start. I figured we were out of gas even though it had not seemed like that long. Oh well. We hooked our weight belts onto the float and swam it back to dink. While Will & Sandy went off in the dink, I tried to figure out the problem with hookah. It still had 1/2 tank of gas - not that. Maybe the carb is dirty (a common problem when it sits, though I had run all the gas out of the carb the last time we used it) I tried starting it and it fired up but would only run at an idle. As soon as the compressor built up some pressure putting a load on it, it died. Checking further, I found that the little spring that connects speed lever to the load compensator and then to the actual throttle had rusted and broke. When I tried to bend the end of it to create a new hook, it broke again. I finally stretched out the spring enough to sort of attach it, but I had little faith it would work. Nonetheless, I tried starting it again. This time the rope on the recoil starter broke. It is discouraging. I replaced a lot of the critical parts of the engine last year, but tiny little inconsequential things like this spring defeat me. Even the recoil starter was new - must have had crap for string. I'll see if Gilbert, the small engine mechanic in Bocas, has things like the springs and rods and replace all of them. If I can't I may just replace the engine with a new one. It is too great a toy to be without. But for the rest of this trip, it is dead. Sucks. We all agreed that this spot is good enough and large enough that it deserved another day. Even without the hookah, there is a lot of reef to snorkel. (I would guess the encircling reef here is over a mile.) and many miles of beach to walk. So we will stay another day.

Traveling Day

19 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Mark
Today was a traveling day. Yesterday had been a disappointing day. Cayos Machos de Fuera turned out to be a dud. From the boat, the beaches all looked great and the cruising guide said that snorkeling was nice and easy on the East side of the cay. So we took our snorkel gear and went exploring. First we tried the cut between the main island and the little island the fishermen used. It was shallow even for dink! We finally found that by hugging the edge of the mangroves we could get through. On the East side, however, there was no navigable space between the breaking reef and shore. We found a better way back out on the West side - obviously this is the one the fishermen use. At the North end of the cay is a beach bar / restaurant with a dock. Day boats from Trinidad come out with loads of tourists, but not today thankfully! We met the owner who said that the boats always bring all their own drinks so all he had was water, but he could make fish or lobster if we wanted. We asked where the best snorkeling was and he indicated right off the cay on the NE side. Before trying that, we decided to walk some of the beaches. The beaches them self were great. The water was disgusting. Lots of weeds and muck. We walked most of the W side of the island and each beach was the same - great sand, yucky water. Will decide to try walking the E side of the island while Deb & I tried snorkeling. We went to where the guy indicated and could see coral so anchored dink and jumped in. BORING! A few clumps of coral, mostly dead coral, a few fish. We swam out to where it dropped off thinking it might be better there. Nope. Just sand. Will had not better luck walking the E side - nothing but mangrove. We went back to the boat discouraged. After lunch, I decided to swim to the wrecked fish station that was not far from where we were anchored. I didn't expect much, but wanted to swim. The swim was a bit longer than I had judged, but it was into the current, so going back would be easy. The wreck was great! It had been a steel platform set on I beams with some type of big superstructure (maybe a light?). All of it was encrusted with coral and there was lots of soft coral as well. And tons of fish. I had a great time and then swam back to the boat, got Deb and my underwater camera and returned (this time in dink). I don't think Deb was as impressed as I had been, but we both enjoyed it. Unfortunately the camera didn't work (dead battery - it is OK now). I barbecued the grouper (only 1/2) for dinner and made a mango salsa to go with it. Both came out great. It was a coudy night without many stars, but Deb & I still enjoyed a rum and cigar in the net before bed. Today we got up early to leave. Actually I got up too early. I had forgotten about the daylight saving time and it was still very dark @ 5:30. By 6:00 it was pre-dawn and I made coffee. By 6:15 it was beginning to get light and the fishing boats were all headed out for the day. (There were half a dozen little fishing boats that anchor around the island. We did meet one and gave him some line, hooks, and a small knife, but he had no catch to trade at the time. No problem, Catch you later.) By 6:30 I had everyone up and we were off and sailing by 7:00. The NE wind was perfect and we were soon making 7 kts directly toward our way point as easy as could be. Flat seas, just enough wind from a good direction -this is what sailing is supposed to be - and the first time we have experienced it this trip! Of course, the wind shifted from NE to E and we had to fall off our course until we rounded the corner and had to go nearly into the wind. Roll up gennie and motor-sail with just the main and one engine. We made reasonable progress and by 4:00 dropped the miian and motored in over the reef (submerged at that point). We dodged a few BIG coral heads and finally anchored in 8' of water over turtle grass. At first the anchor plowed (Is that why they call them 'plow' type anchors?!) but when I let up and let it settle in first, it dog in great. Later when I swam the anchor, I could see the furrow ti made and the anchor nicely buried. So here we arer anchored in the first cay of the Jardines de La Reina. We have an island with beautiful sandy beaches in front of us and to the left and breaking reef the other 270*. Water is flat calm and there is a nice breeze. It doesn't get much better than this.
Vessel Name: Always & All Ways
Vessel Make/Model: Fountaine-Pajot Belize 43
Hailing Port: Hancock, NH, USA
Crew: Mark & Deb Parker
About: Mark, an ER doc, retired 10/08 to become a sea gypsy. Deb, an educator, has been retired since 5/07 and was equally anxious to leave the cold of New England far behind
Extra: We now have a hurricane season home in Bocas del Toro, Panama. We still plan on spending many months cruising every year.
Always & All Ways's Photos - Always & All Ways
Photos 1 to 15 of 29 | Main
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Sunset, Key West
Sunrise, Shark River
Our spinnaker
Cold start to the day
Warm a few hours later
Sunset, Jack Daniel
Sunset, Indian Key, 10,000 islands, Florida
Sailing to the Keys
Working on drogue as we sail
Entering Marco Island, port view
Entering Marco Island, starboard view
Coconuts Mark & Lucas
Lucas with flip flops
Mama & child
 
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