BACK IN CANADA/WHAT HAPPENED WHEN WE LEFT CUBA AND WENT TO THE USA
Jim and I are looking out our window. The wind is blowing from the North and its quite chilly outside. There are some sailboats on the horizon and although we envy the fact that they are sailing, we are happy to be inside where it is warm and dry. Besides, we have just booked our flights back to Emerald Seas. She is waiting patiently for us at Snead Island Boatworks in Palmetto, Florida. We are looking forward to next season's cruising adventures - this time we are going to revisit the pristine waters and beautiful islands of the Bahamas.
But, in the meantime, I better get my ass in gear and finish off the blog for the last cruising season! Procrastination is easy once you have settled into the day to day existence of life ashore. When we first arrived back in Canada we spent a couple of weeks moping, missing our carefree life aboard Emerald Seas. Eventually we adjusted to the change and our time was taken up with moving back into our home, setting up phones and TV, getting our power boat ready for boating in the nearby islands, family gatherings and time with friends. Add some gardening, aerobics and fitness training and before you know it, the memories of our carefree cruising life start to fade...........Until some unsuspecting family member or friend stops by and we can entertain them with stories about cruising and pirates and show them thousands and thousands of photos on our extra big TV screen.
And so it goes. There are no more excuses left. Its miserable outside. A perfect day for catching up with our blog!
Time to travel back to the month of June, Cuba and our passage back to the USA. Waiting for weather can be frustrating, especially when there is a possibility of a tropical depression heading towards you. Our boat insurance did not cover us in Cuba and we were getting anxious to return to the USA before any hurricanes could develop. The day after our failed attempt due to waterspouts, we set off. This time, sea conditions were excellent. Flat calm. No wind either and that means slow going with Yanni our engine. Not to worry, says I to Jim, the Gulf Stream, which travels at speeds up to 5 knots, will just carry us along to the Florida Keys. Add some engine power to the mix and we will be doing at least 10 knots!!!! We were pretty excited at the idea of the Gulf Stream rushing us to the USA!
Jim and I motored patiently up the West Coast of Cuba. No Gulfstream yet. Night falls and we are pumped. Any second now, we will be entering the Gulfstream. Morning comes. The current is against us and we are losing about 1 knot of speed. Must be some sort of back eddy. No problem, the Gulfstream will speed us along soon.... We motor patiently away from the North Coast of Cuba and take a heading towards Key West, Florida. The Gulfstream flows between Florida and Cuba.... Night falls and the current against us is only .5 knots. The Gulfstream has to be close now...Morning finds us motoring slowly through the glassy calm Florida Straights. According to Wikepedia "The Gulf Stream is typically 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide and 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) deep. The current velocity is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 2.5 metres per second (5.6 mph).". [ How could Jim and I miss such a huge ocean current??? What is wrong with our navigational skills? Chris Parker, our weather guru, had even supplied us with the GPS co-ordinates of the Gulfstream and we still missed it!!
Florida is on the horizon now. Time to think of more important topics. Homeland Security and the fact that we were coming from Cuba. What are the jails like in the USA? When can we expect the Coast Guard to come along and escort us to their nearest coast guard facility? Or how about a helicopter? Or something? We had been warned by many other cruisers that the USA will not welcome us if we come directly from Cuba. Not even the fact that we were Canadians or a Canadian registered vessel could help us...It was time to find out. Jim called the Coast Guard to let them know who we were and where we were coming from. They welcomed us to the USA and told us to give them another call once we had anchored our vessel. We had seen enough movies to know that this was just a trick and that any second now, the gun boats, helicopters, swat teams etc would have us surrounded! Nothing. No excitement to keep us awake after such a long, uneventful trip from Cuba.
We anchored and called them again. After reminding them of who we were and where we had come from, they ordered us to pull up anchor and make our way over to a dock so that we could be BOARDED AND INSPECTED. Now this is more like what we were expecting- an exciting conclusion to our 2011 cruising season. Then they told us that we had 24 hours in which to comply and that anything we bought in Cuba would be confiscated. There is not much to buy in Cuba except rum. 24 hours gave us plenty of time to drink all the rum.....
24 hours later, we presented Emerald Seas and ourselves to Homeland Security. We received a very friendly welcome but they did recommend that next time we visited Cuba and wanted to return to the USA, that we consider doing it via another country such as Mexico or the Bahamas. That way we were showing consideration for their laws. At the same time, they understood fully that the sailing route, via the Gulfstream (which we never did find) was the normal route for sailors. They never searched our boat. Celebration that night at Margariteville- Cheeseburger in Paradise and lots of margaritas! It was great to back in the USA!
IF I DON'T SEE IT, ITS NOT THERE!
06/01/2011, Cayos de Lena, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba
Attempted to head towards Florida today! After checking out of customs we headed out to the Yucatan Channel and turned Northwards towards the USA. Ahead of us were dark and ominous clouds and I thought to myself, I don't remember hearing or reading about those on the weather forecast. I turned my attention to the bright and sunny skies to the South of us and made some "happy lists" in my head. The list includes buying more jelly beans at Costco,redecorating at our home in Nanoose Bay,iPad's, fresh vegetables to eat and on and on. I am really looking forward to being in BC.
I look out towards the North to check if things have improved. Nope. Now we have a line of waterspouts in front of us. There are at least 5 of them formed and more in the making. I look towards the South. Pretty nice in that direction. But I want to go home so I don't say a thing to Jim. Maybe they will disappear or something. I do my best to avoid all eye contact with Jim. However, the thunder has started, along with some more waterspouts. Jim finally says something -"Maybe we should head more to the West and we will avoid those 'son of a bitches'". I point out to Jim that the wind is heading in that direction and if we go that way we will end up in those squalls and waterspouts forever.
So we turned Emerald Seas around and scurried back to our safe haven at Cayo de la Lena.
Maybe tomorrow we try again......
05/28/2011, Cayos de Lena, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba
Still stuck in Cuba awaiting fair weather so we can cross the Gulfstream and get to Key West, Florida. The reason we are stuck is because of a "possible" hurricane or tropical system heading our way. Hopefully there will be a weather window this coming weekend allowing us to sail to Florida. This Facebook message is posted via our Single Side Band radio as there is no internet here. In the meantime, we are loving Cuba and its people!
BAD WEATHER GO AWAY!
05/28/2011, Bahia de Corrientes, 30 Miles East of Cabo San Antonio, Cuba
Looks like beautiful scuba diving here! Pristine waters, healthy coral and wall diving to about 6000 feet! Jim and I are going to dive today and tomorrow we have to round Cabo San Antonio, located on the extreme SW corner of Cuba. Looks like a low pressure system might be forming in the central Caribbean and if it develops we have a good chance of being seriously affected! Wind and sea conditions between Cuba and Florida are currently too rough for us to consider a mad dash for Florida so we will have to settle for a nice comfy nest in the mangroves and do our best to make friends with the noseums and mosquitoes. The other night we got eaten alive so we are not looking forward to another major encounter- maybe we can call a truth with the bugs because of adverse weather? Completely out of fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs so we are having to mine through our canned goods in search of Spam, canned peas, and other delicacies. Made bread the other day, but unfortunately the yeast did not do its job.......We have a great beer bread recipe which has not failed us yet.
Thats it for now! Still loving the adventures!
GRAND CAYMAN GOODBYES
Our time in Jamaica was short and sweet. In Kingston we caught a bus to the Bob Marley Museum. It was a very interesting visit. The city is home to over a million people and full of contrasts between those that have and those that have very little. It is known for its inner city violence. We were glad that we were staying at the Royal Jamaican Yacht Club as it was far removed from the big city of Kingston. Everyday at the Yacht Club tons of garbage would come floating in from the main harbour, surrounding all the boats. All day long, two hard working Jamaicans would clear up all the garbage along the shoreline and in the water. Next day they would return and begin the whole process over again.
We were able to enjoy the use of the showers and pool at the Yacht Club. When I turned the water on for my very first REAL shower since staying at the Yellow House in Grenada, I was almost knocked out of the shower stall and into the wall 5 feet away. Now that's water pressure to be proud of! After a couple days of showers and more showers, Jim and I set sail along the South coast of Jamaica. We stopped at Pigeon Island the first night and then at Alligator Reef the next. Both anchorages were beautiful and we had them to ourselves. The entire south coast of Jamaica is very mountainous. Leaving Alligator Reef we sailed and fished our way to Bluefields. Jim caught a 28 inch Atlantic Mackerel and we successfully got it into the boat! That night we enjoyed free wireless, cerviche for an appie and seared mackerel for dinner. Jamaica is an island worth exploring. It is very beautiful and the Jamaicans we met were all friendly and helpful.
Our trip to Grand Cayman was a little rougher than expected but still an enjoyable one. We anchored near the customs dock in Georgetown and waited to clear in. The small harbour is very exposed and we found it very rolly. Every morning new cruise ships would arrive and anchor just off the town and tour boats would go back and forth all day to the ships, carrying passengers back and forth. We decided to head to the North side of Grand Cayman and get away from the city side.
North Sound is the best place to be. Here we were able to anchor by mangroves at the east side. Close to us was a beautiful beach. The eastern side is protected so you must anchor behind the buoys which mark the "Environmental Zone". We recommend any cruiser visiting Grand Cayman to spend time in North Sound and anchor over on the eastern side where it is quiet, uninhabited and peaceful. We took our dinghy to the south side of North Sound and visited the Harbour House Marina. They had a lot of stuff in stock but not what we needed to fix our propane system. We inquired about grocery shopping and were directed to Hurley's Grocery Store. It was only a short dinghy ride to the shopping centre's convenience dock.
We marched over to the store and entered. Wow! This is just like that time in the Turks and Caicos when our friend, Kennedy MacLeod, took us grocery shopping after we arrived from the Bahamas. We were surrounded with stocked shelves filled with everything you could ever wish for. There was a bakery, beautiful fresh flowers, strawberries, thick cut steaks.... I resisted shopping for about 2 seconds and then I was off, racing up and down those aisles, tossing in luxury items like there was no tomorrow and doing my best to avoid Jim, with his scrooge like attitude. We left with our bags full, our credit card maxed out and two huge chocolate covered doughnuts to tide us over till dinner time.
Later in the week we enjoyed a great wall dive just off North Sound and we snorkeled with the sting rays at Sting Ray city. After that, sea conditions were too rough for any more diving. We toured the island in a rental a car, drove by lots of very fancy homes and visited Rum Point. The island is very flat and not as beautiful as some of the islands we have visited.
We are now ready to depart Grand Cayman and sail to Cuba. The forecast calls for light winds and that means we will need our engine's help to get us there. Depending on how the wind blows, we will motorsail to Cayo Largo, 140 miles away or Cienfuegas, 180 miles. We have heard wonderful things about cruising in Cuba. We are looking forward to meeting the people, experiencing their culture, tasting the rum and diving on their pristine reefs.
Life is good. Love is wonderful.
Renate & Jim
Bound for Grand Cayman
We plan to depart Jamaica on Sunday, April 23 and sail to Grand Cayman. Trip will take 24-30 hours depending on wind speed.