04 March 2010
The following are our Satphone emails sent during our passage to Cuba.
The order is inverted.
READ FROM LAST TO FIRST!!!!
This morning (Feb. 21, 2010), we arrived in Santiago de Cuba, (south eastern end of Cuba) after 6 days on the ocean. This has been our longest offshore leg since we started cruising.
779 nautical miles
30 hrs engine time, the rest sailing!!
We spent last night rolling about in the Carribean Sea waiting for sunrise. Had we gone direct we may have made into the harbour during Saturday's sunset twilight however, we chose instead to go out from shore and then sail back in toward the harbour inlet ( we had 6 hours to kill). Our wind died around 3 am so we had to motor in. We are going to rethink that tactic for next time we have to kill time waiting for daylight. Around midnight we were moving at speeds of up to 6.5 knots with only a triple reefed mainsail and our trips average speed was only 5.6 knots. That was a total surprise to us that you could move so fast with so little sail when the wind strength didn't seem that high. Cornelia and I are quite tired however we did get into a fairly good watch schedule routine. It can get tiring running the boat round the clock, and then you get the "when are we going to be there dad?".
The entrance to the harbour was very stunning. Rocky hills on either side of the entrance with an old castle on one of the peaks and Cuba's mountains in the background. We are in the one and only marina which is the only option while here (no anchoring allowed). We just got off the beaten cruising path. At this marina we have 2 Dutch boats, 1 German, 1 French and one US boat, very different then the East Coast USA.
We had a parade of officials go through our boat today:
-first a doctor (1 hr of paperwork)
-agriculture inspector for produce, rice and noodles (more paper)
-sniffer dog for drugs with Maia whispering to mom "do we have any of that?"
-4 inspectors plus a manager who went through the boat for an hour wearing plastic gloves and the manager wearing a surgeon's face mask and wanting to know how many GPS's we have, this is because the people want them for navigating off the island
-agriculture inspector for meat with assistant (more paper)
- 1 hr in the marina office and more paper
Everyone was very friendly and we had no issues.
Tomorrow we are going into Santiago which is about 10 miles away. We need to find internet for stuff we can't do on the Satphone. Our current boat insurance only covers us to north of 23 degrees N. We are in negotiations with a Dutch company that will cover us to New Zealand. Our plan had been to finalize that in Georgetown, Bahamas which was our initial planned stop. But since the weather was good we traded off no coverage for getting further south.
There is no open internet service in Cuba. The government does not want the people to have access to the outside world. To do the insurance stuff, we had to go to a special building, show our passport to prove that we were foreigners and then, after paying about $6 for an hour, were allowed to use a Cuban computer to access the internet. There is also no cell phone system. In fact, most of the homes don't even have land lines. Talk about keeping the people in the dark.
While underway we had problems with our SSB radio where we could not hear our weather in the mornings from our weather router. A Dutch boat that was 50 miles ahead of us relayed the forecasts for us. This boat is here at the marina, too. I've suspected the problem to be my antenna set-up (and haven't had time to fix it) and Paul from the Dutch boat has antenna performance diagnostic equipment and has offered to help me diagnose the issue. This is good since once we enter the Pacific our Satphone will be useless and that's how we are able to sent out these emails. Also the sat phone is fast, sometimes as fast as 33kbytes/sec, whereas once we are on the SSB we can be as low as 500 bytes/sec (and that's the state of the art modem that sells for $1250 US!!!). That is why, once we are using the SSB you do not include the original message in any repies.
Our near term plans are to spend a week here, Sail to Jamaica, (1 day) and pick up friends for our passage to Panama. There we plan on meeting another Canadian boat with kids.
Day 6 of passage from Fort Pierce to Cuba. (day 6 for no showers)
Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:30 am
Currently clipping along at 7-8 knots with a triple reefed main, our smallest foresail and the mizzen reefed. It is very bouncy. We are just completing the Windward Passage (the channel between Haiti and Eastern Cuba) and have now entered the Caribbean Sea. We have about another 120 miles to go before we reach the port of Santiago de Cuba and another 50 before we pass Guantanamo Bay. We have to slow down or do extra miles since we cannot arrive before sunset today, so we have to kill time for a landfall on Sunday morning. The seas are currently very choppy, the boat bounces around quite a bit but we are all use to it now.
The night before we motored for about 6 hrs and the 2nd alternator was not charging to its full capacity, I think it may have just been a loose belt. Will see next time we use the engine. The first alternator is still out until I replace the voltage regulator which I have (this is all brand new equipment). We have some significant electrical demands such as the electro hydraulic autopilot, fridge, chart plotter, computer as well as a bunch of smaller stuff. There are 8 new golf cart batteries which store the energy as long as we produce it. The 250 watts of solar panels and 200W (peak) wind generator do not sustain us while underway around the clock in sailing mode only. We ran the Honda generator on deck for the first time while sailing, worked ok until we kept tripping the carbon monoxide detectors below, even though the exhaust was down wind of any boat ventilation inlets.
I've just changed course and started heading more west, what a difference in comfort since we are not going into the wind as much.
It's been relatively cold, I only stopped wearing socks 2 days ago and I've been wearing a fleece and windbreaker through the night while I'm on watch. Need to wake Cornelia, she's coming on for the morning shift. It's twilight up above. I need to scan the horizon every 10 minute looking for ships that need to be avoided.
Liam and I just popped our heads out of the companionway to see for the first time Cuba's mountains on the horizon. This will sure be a change from east coast USA. Everyone is excited about making landfall. For me, the trip just started last Monday.
Thursday, February 18, 2010 5:30 pm
Here's an update of where we are, where we are going and how we are doing.
23degrees 18.28 minutes N 74degrees 59.39minutes W
As Michael mentioned in yesterday's email, we were planning to sail to Georgetown in the Exuma chain of island. He also mentioned that we might sail to Cuba and not stop in the Bahamas.
Well, it is plan B that we chose: off to Cuba.
The winds look to be favourable and in the right direction. At present, we are traveling at a gentle 5 knots. There is a 3-5 foot ocean swell from the north and only small waves on top of that, due to the minimal 10 knot wind we are currently experiencing. We are sailing with only the main sail up and partially reefed (not fully let out).
I feel we are all adjusting well. The first days are usually difficult as we try to adjust to the motion and change in routine.
Michael and I need to adjust to less sleep as a result of the constant need to have someone keeping watch. To catch up, we try to nap as much as we can throughout the day. I'd heard that after a few days, one gets used to the changes. I think we are getting to that point.
We will try to update again tomorrow.
February 17, 2010
Today is day 3 at sea. All is well. We left Ft. Pierce around noon on Monday. We have been traveling with a British boat called Shiver. Weather has been good, the first day was rolly and rough with a front coming through. We had a wet bow and dry berths!! The toe rail repair worked. No seasickness. Our original destination was Georgetown Bahamas which would give us an arrival tomorrow afternoon however we are contemplating continuing to Santiago de Cuba which would get us there on Saturday or so. Will try to send daily updates.
N25 deg 21 '
W076 deg 13.4'