12/04/2012, 13 22.798'N:81 22.415'W, Isla Providencia
Last night round midnight we anchored of Isla Providencia, just behind the reef as we were not sure how to enter the bay in all darkness. This morning at 0600 after a very rolling night we raised anchor and headed inside the bay with first daylight to drop anchor in the middle, between several other cruising boats. We like it here! The island is Columbian territory only about 125 east out of the coast of Nicaragua. It was a slow journey from Jamaica to this Island, with low winds to no winds in where we had to use the iron sails (engine). The first day was good winds, but then quickly died down to no winds.
We left Jamaica in Nergil beach on the far West side of Jamaica. It was supposedly a great beach, but again it did not �"click�" with us. It is a long beach sheltered from the seas by a reef for the most part and beautiful at first sight, however the shore lines are covered with resorts. We anchored of a Sandals resort and watched the weddings pass by on the beach and the water scooters pass by on the water. We used the clear shallow water to clean to underwater part of Mundinho. The delrin shims that we had renewed in the centerboard well in Charleston in December were not painted with antifouling. Somehow I was thinking that time that biological growth does not like these plastics to grow on. Well I was wrong, the shims were so covered in marine growth that every time I raised and lowered the centerboard I needed hydraulic pressure to get it passed the marine growth on the delrin shim plates. With a scraper it came easily off. However till I get some antifouling on t hese shims, I guess this will be a regular cleaning job for me.
The next day already, Easter Sunday we raised anchor and set off for Isla Providencia. Auke was lucky in that the Easter bunny had found our boat as Auke had hoped for. He was awake early (nearly too early, as the Easter Bunny had over slept�...) to look for Easter eggs on deck, which there were plenty.
The interesting thing is we do not have much treats such as chocolates anymore on board. It is often expensive to buy in the countries we visit and chocolate is difficult to keep in the tropics. Very little compared to what you carry at home in your pantry often. So a few Easter eggs with chocolate, M&M�'s and the like made Auke a very happy kid and had a smile on his face the next two days till he had finished it all.
Mom and Dad had finished the remainder by then that had been left behind in a bag by the Easter Bunny.
In the previous blog that we posted via the Sat phone while requesting and downloading some weather files we mentioned we would try to anchor off a small island, Cayo Serranilla, provided we could find everything all right in darkness. Well we did and had a great day there, truly a little paradise.
As it is littered with reefs on one side and the charts mention that not all waters had been surveyed, we were cautious. I am always very cautious and do not want to rely on the chart plotter. It is always very tempting to simply believe the plotter is right. However on those desolate cays, it is quite normal to find them reefs on charts over 0.5 miles from the true position. GPS is correct, the charts are simply not all correct yet. So you always want to find a reference in reality which you can plot against your chart to confirm the position on the chart versus reality. This Cayo (Key, reef with a single rock) had a light on a concrete tower according the chart. Just before full darkness we located the light tower on the horizon, slightly over 8 miles away, so we knew it was there indeed. We were heading towards to lighthouse, however our radar (Simrad BR24, Broadband) performs poorly over large distances, anything over 6 Nm it struggles with. So the light tower and rock it was sitting on only showed up 4Nm away from us. That is still far enough to safely navigate in, however I desired to see that many miles earlier to rest my conscious. Only once you have identified the light tower and rock on the radar, you can compare it (or overlay it) on the chart and verify that the chart location matches with reality. Once verified I felt more comfortable and turned directly into an open spot in front of the Cayo. While preparing to drop anchor to our surprise the VHF radio crackled and someone demanded us to report in Spanish. We expected the Cayo uninhabited but had switched on the VHF just in case other boats would be anchored here, as I h ad seen some fishing boats in the area. It was obvious someone demanded us to report soonest. Heloisa told them our name and persons on board and asked them to wait a moment. After finishing the anchoring I called for them back on the VHF as they had requested and to my surprise there was a 10 man Colombian Marine detachment based on this rock. They asked us if we could come in the morning to the island and present our papers and bring a �"regalo�" (present) if possible. So in the morning we headed for the beach in our dinghy with our papers and two bottles of Cuban rum. The papers were briefly looked at, the two bottles got more attention and were well appriciated.
The 10 man Colombian navy detachment is based for 4 weeks at a time with only drinking water, no water for showers. The oldest was 23 and most were around 18 years old. We had a great morning with them and they loved the visit naturally, finally something happening. Apparently the Cays territory are disputed by Colombia, Nicaragua and Honduras, hence the Colombian full time presence on this little rock, not more than 0.3 miles in length and 0.1 miles in width and a much larger reef surrounding it.
Their days consisted of raking the beach so they could play football on it and trying to prepare the only computer available in order to play computer games. The reef is often used for fishing boats to anchor for the night, so they track that as well. I asked them they must be eating fresh fish every day here with all the fish around, however reportedly therse reefs contained many sharks according the army boys and as such no one dared to go in the sea to fish. The island and reefs are beautiful and if it was not for the rather rolling anchorage with little protection we could have stayed here weeks.
The next day we moved on, still with little winds. The nights typically filled with small rain cells and some squalls. I spend the nights zigzagging around the small bad rain cells which were always clearly visible on the radar. However one of those squalls was hiding a 183 meters long oil tanker bearing down on us, which I only noticed 5 miles away. The AIS viewer we carry on board (Vesper Marine) showed him and raised an alert as the CPA (Closets Point of Approach would be less than 1 Nm). So only when I turned up the rain clutter on the radar, the rain disappeared from the screen and the tanker was clearly visible on the radar. So going forward I am going to be less concerned with squalls and more concerned with 183 meters long oil tankers. The pictures below shows two squalls, the larger red smeared spots and the tanker that came out of the top squall on the far right after he had passed us.
Since 1Nm is too close for my comfort in squally weather, we diverted course with nearly 90 degrees to get some distance between the two of us. I never can be bothered asking other ships on the radio if they see us or not etc, especially if it is littered with squalls limiting visibility. I believe there is really only one safe way and that is to get out of their way. Mundinho is outfitted with solid commercial navigation lighting which talking to ships and other yachts reportedly can be seen clearly miles away. We have one tricolor outfitted with a led light in the top of the mast and use that when sailing and no shipping is present nearby. The commercial grade navigation lights on deck level and in the mast are outfitted with normal bulb lights. Once shipping is present we typically switch these lights one and the tricolor off. That is however not enough normally to satisfy my concern for big ships. 1 Nm appears enough to some however the way I see it is that the problem lies in the fact that if these large commercial ships are already nearby because you were happy with your 1Nm CPA, and they decide to alter their course for whatever reason, then that 1 Nm is used up in just a few minutes time before they are on top of you so I like to have at least a few Nm between me during darkness hours, depending the direction they are heading compared to us. It was quite busy that whole night with traffic, all traffic heading to and from the Panama Canal to Mexico, Veracruz or places like Houston in the Gulf of Mexico and all skirting the reefs and keys that we have to go around. The fourth evening I woke up to the smell of fresh baked bread. Our last loaf of supermarket bread had gone bad, so Heloisa had baked two loafs of wheat bread in the evening. I do not think there is anything better then waking up while sailing over a large body of water to the smell of fresh baked bread coming from the galley. The night shift I passed with studying the stars. I had downloaded this free program, �"astro viewer�" some weeks ago. The program show the night sky for your location and time of the day (night). I had books and a chart, however they are never really for your exact location, so I always was struggling to identify the big planets. Auke is always asking me when we are outside in the evening, and I typically can identify the Moon and the Polestar and that is about it. The rest of the stars I make up as we go when Auke is asking me "which one is that star?", I know not very educational responsible. Well I promised myself I would get it right so aft er a few more practice runs on this astro viewer on our laptop I will be ready for Auke�'s questions; �"which one is that planet�"
So finally we are here in Isla Providencia which we will explore today. We head to shore in the next 30 minutes to the clearing. In the next few days / weeks we head for San Andres and from there onwards to Panama. However now we will be looking for some more winds before we depart. All well with boat and crew.
09/04/2012, 15 57.392'N:79 54.755'W, Cayo Serranilla
We left Jamaica a day and a half ago, first with some winds, but during the night and today no winds. Absolutely nothing. So motoring the whole night and today. Fed up with that, we were looking at the charts what to do. There are several shallow spots to navigate around on your way from Jamaica (West side) to Isla de Providencia. Most of them steep mountains rising up from the sea bottom, from 2.000 meter water depth to perhaps just below the sea level, about 10 meters water depth. Here and there a rock protrudes above the sea level, something you really want to stay far away from normally. Well we just arrived on the banks (sea mountain top) of Cayo Serranilla. According the charts water depths range here in the 10 to 20 meters range. On the East side of this bank some reefs just below sea level and one lonely rock with a light on top sticking above the sea level. Studying the charts we noticed a tiny little �"anchor�", meaning suitable for anchoring, behind that ro ck. That is where we are heading for right now and should arrive in the next 2 hours. You can only do this when the weather and seas are settled, as today. We are going to try this and see if we can anchor here out for the night in 15 meters of water. A quite night without that engine running. The trick is to find the rock at night, as it is now 18:00 and we still have two hours (10Nm) to go, so it will be dark when we get there. I do not trust the chart so much, so it will be imperative to find the light and then locate it on the radar, so we know the true location. If we are unable to find the light, then we pass on it and move on. Great feeling to anchor out here in the middle of 2.000 meters water depths, on top of a sea mountain not larger then 20Nm around. Our fishing is still no success. We lost another two lures to whatever is out there. It is spam and omelets again. What a terrible fisherman I am. I really think there is little fish out there nowadays. We will let you know if we were able to anchor out here.
08/04/2012, 18 20.027'N:78 20.396'W, Negril Beach, Jamaica
I write and send this update while downloading some weather grib files via the sat phone. We are on the far West side of Jamaica, Negril beach, anchored in front of some resorts where one after the other wedding takes place on the beach. Mundinho will show up in many wedding portraits as the sun was right between us and the beach and each and every wedding couple wanted to have that �"sun goes down behind the horizon picture�". Naturally the night was filled with music, very loud music, but we are already used to that here in Jamaica. Today we hope to move on to the Colombian island Providencia, about a three days sail trip in the direction of Panama. We hope we will have some good downwind sailing or at least the winds in the aft quarter. If the weather is good we will leave today, but only after Easter egg hunt on deck. I have heard the Easter bunny has dropped Easter eggs scattered over the deck, so that will be Auke�'s first mission after he wakes up. For now we enjo y the silence, which in Jamaica you really will only find around 06:00 in the morning. All well with boat and crew.
03/04/2012, Montego Bay
Mo-Bay they call it here, for Montego Bay. Not much to see, it is one large tourist resort with loads of tourist from Europe and US flying in directly. We however are anchored of the Montego Bay yachtclub and enjoy our first hot shower after 4 months, which even in the tropics is feeling great, so much so that Heloisa is spending most of her day inside the shower. The yachtclub has a pool and playground, so Auke is happy. I enjoy the easy fauteuils and sit back and read my book or do some catching up on the www. According the grib files it is tad breezy out there this week, so we hold of for the 3 day trip to Providencia Island till this weekend, when the winds come down according the forecast. We don,t 20 knots winds, but I know from experience it is better to start in calm winds the first day, this allows everyone to get "into the swing" before the winds pick up.
The picture above is Mundinho sailing from Cuba to Jamaica in 25 knots close hauled. The picture was taken by Peter and Kaye on Dancing Brave, Australians on their way to Hobart in Tasmania. Hobart is pretty much where the world stops, if it has not stopped before that already. The picture below shows more cruisers during a lunch prepared by Matane, a Kiwi boat in Port Antonio. There are two great things about the cruising lifestyle. One is meeting and learning all the different places and cultures. Two is meeting all types of cruisers, all like-minded and still different in how we do our things. Pretty much all great people with great stories to tell, especially after some beers. On this one table with around 10 cruisers, we had; Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese, Slovania, Polish, USA, Brazilian and two Dutchman (me and Auke), This is what I personally find so interesting about cruising.
01/04/2012, 18 31.926'N:77 33.628'W, offshore en-route
We got 15 knots of wind several hours ago, so under full main and boomed out jib we are now averaging 6.6 to 6.8 knots. Good sailing, everyone happy. There is one major problem however that is haunting us already for some weeks now. We are NOT catching fish anymore. If we would have relied on my fish catching techniques, we would have been in serious trouble by now. We had one line over the stern, with our lucky lure. Well that lure is not lucky anymore to us, so a second line was thrown out with a different lure. Still after 4 hours no luck. We even have placed Auke into the game with his fishing rod. We are �"racing�" over the different depth levels, close to the coast, further away from the coast, so far nothing. Normally we were always lucky on the 20 to 200 meter depth contours. Well these Jamaican fishes have smoked too much ganga I am afraid, as they don�'t find our lure. We have another three hours to go prior arrival. If we don�'t catch anything, I need to fix some new lures or make them myself. Some sailors do that and swear by it. Perhaps the effort you put into it then that will be rewarded. Anyway, three hours to go and we know if we will eat fish tonight or omelet again.
01/04/2012, 18 32.260'N:77 13.110'W, offshore en-route
Sailing again. We left Port Antonio yesterday the 29th. We were done with Port Antonio. Honestly we are both done with Jamaica, that is what we concluded yesterday. We always say; it clicks or does not. In Jamaica we do not have �"the click�". The country is beautiful to see, but the never ending hustling from Jamaicans starts to get even us on our nerves. You cannot sit anywhere, like on a beach for reading a book, as at any moment someone will start a discussion with you with as end goal to gain something, either monetary or in goods etc. Now I have travelled intensively a lot in poor countries, visited in detail all countries of Central America and South America, and know how it works and know very well we are typically seen as the well-off foreigner, which is totally true. However I have not seen this level of hustling we found in Jamaica. Maybe it is the ganga, not sure. It works for some travelers, who enjoy the interaction. It does not work for us. So here we are on our way to Montego Bay. That is the good thing of cruising. When you like it you stay. When it does not work for you, you move on with your house, it is that simple. We know already there is not much to see in Montego Bay. It is a resort and cruise ship haven. However we have heard there is a good yacht club where in front you can anchor for 10 USD and use their facilities. We are in dire need of laundry facilities, so we make a stop in Montego Bay to do the laundry. I also want to get some fuel. We have plenty of fuel left, for another 6 days nonstop motoring if we have to. But to keep the boat on level keel it is best to keep the fuel tank as full as possible. We carry 550 liters water on Starboard and 550 Liters fuel on Portside, so with full water and half full fuel, we list a few degrees to Starboard. Heloisa does not notice it and wonders what I possible am whining about. Me, I am an engineer and like to have the boat at even keel. Another advan tage as other cruisers know is when you keep your fuel tanks full, there is less water accumulation inside the tank from condensation on the fuel tank walls. We have a good water filter (Racor) before the engine, however the problem with water in your fuel tank is the fact that the fuel-water interface is a perfect breeding ground for a certain microbe (bugs). If you during loading pick up this microbe and have water in your tanks, they under certain conditions will quickly multiply to the extend they will glob up all filters and render your engine near useless.
Anyway so here we are, we had 25 knots winds from behind the whole day yesterday. Great for the speed, but a bit wobbly, so we decided to pull in at 18:00 for the night at Rio Ochos for a quite night behind anchor. We left early this morning again before customs would wake up, as officially you need to clear in and clear out at every port. We declared Montego Bay as our first stop while in Port Antonio on our clearance papers, so officially you are not allowed to stop in port in between. A cruiser who left Port Antonio for 48 hours to spend the night in a desolate bay, only 10Nm away from Port Antonio got fined upon his return to Port Antonio, as he had not cleared out and subsequently cleared in again. Long live the bureaucracy. Today there is no wind so far. We running on the engine with the main up to stop the rolling somewhat as the swell never ceases. We are getting away from the coast and hope to get some winds further offshore. Anyway by tonight we should be in Montego bay. A few days there and then on our way to Isla de Providencia, Columbia.
All well with boat and crew.