A Cross Ocean Experience

Seven thousand miles of outstanding cruising since November 2008 means it's time to do a little renovation and more planning for the future. Find out what ...

20 February 2013 | Fishtail, Montana, USA
15 March 2011 | Swallow Falls State Park, Garrett County, MD
07 January 2011 | Deep Creek, MD
01 January 2011 | Tacoma, WA
17 December 2010 | Sierra Madre, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, CA
12 December 2010 | Leucadia, Ca
12 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
06 December 2010 | Ramona, CA
20 November 2010 | New Orleans, LA
13 November 2010 | Lexington, KY
09 November 2010 | Louiville, KY
05 November 2010 | Lexington. KY
01 November 2010 | Deltaville, VA
29 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
22 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA
08 October 2010 | Deltaville, VA

The Windward Passage

02 February 2010 | Matthew Town, Great Inagua, Bahamas

Cuba nurtures unintended consequences as the thrush does the cuckoo chick: no development capital for fifty years yields hundreds of miles of what may be the most valuable undeveloped real estate left in the world. A dearth of packaged foodstuff obviates the vast trash problems of other developing nations. Just in passing, we in turn had our own Mandy-sized unintended consequence of being out of e-mail communication while we worked our way from cay to cay, to weather and holing up to shelter from passing cold fronts.
With that behind us we resolved ourselves to the last 200 miles to weather and through the Windward Passage, between Cuba and Haiti , on to the Bahamas. Perhaps there are sailors, some of those gritty Type-A personalities, who like this kind of thing, but we are not they. The NOAA radio offshore weather reports have this rather intimidating pre-amble: " Seas given as significant wave height ... which is the average height of the highest 1/3 of the waves. Individual waves may be more than twice the significant wave height." Sure! And they are and it's those that always seem to jump right on top of us.
Analogies can be clich├ęd but nevertheless imagine climbing aboard a mechanical bull (as in "Urban Cowboy"), place the evil machine on one of those fairground boat swings (as in certain chunder) and have water hurled at it, gallons at a time. Now ride that beast for fifteen hours. There is no part of this that is fun, it is the price we pay to get our little home from one place to another.
Motor-sailing into violent confused seas, short tacking to try to gain some lee from the land, we watched the Punta Caleta light inch past us at less than 1 knot for more than a whole night. This kind of thing requires resolution and dark thoughts come easily. "If we can't make it around here our only Plan B is back 150 miles or run off to Jamaica, 200 miles south." Don't even think it. It seems feeble when one reads of others taking thirty days to weather foreboding southern capes under sail alone and, in the early hours, the difference between them and I is captured in Auden's recently read words:

... At once from your calm eyes,
With their lucid proof of apprehension and disorder
All that we are not stares back at what we are ...

Once out of the grip of Punta Masai the fifty miles north to Great Inagua, the southernmost in the Bahamian Island chain, marked Mandy's first venture into her third ocean or sea, the Atlantic. Pulling into the roadstead anchorage off the west side of the island in fading daylight we dropped sails and prepared the anchor. In the perfect exclamation point for a difficult passage the engine immediately coughed and stopped. Out of fuel! Sails up again , anchor down and two very much not Type-A personalities dropped dead to sleep in their bunk.

Imposing fortifications

31 January 2010 | Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

The very imposing fortifications of the "Morro de Santiago" would keep anyone out

Last shelter

30 January 2010 | Chivirico, Cuba

Our last refuge before the Windward Passage


26 January 2010
We say goodbye to the land of 50's Chevy's and hard working horses

Great wheels

25 January 2010
Ural started selling new versions of these Russian made Second World War era BMW clones in the U.S. recently. Virginia and I even went to test drive one in San Diego! Here the originals are ubiquitous and the locals say they run great.

Queen of the Sea

15 January 2010 | Cayo Rabihorcado

The last two weeks we have been sailing through the Jardinas de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) a romantic name for forty miles of coral and mangrove cays along the southern coast of Cuba.

Cuba has never had a queen, but their equivalent of King Neptune is the goddess or queen of the sea Yemaya (sometimes Yemanja) who was firmly established in Cuban folklore by the slaves brought as plantation workers from Africa two hundred and fifty years ago.Yemaya's feast day is January 1st, the same day that Cuban people celebrate the success of Fidel Castro's revolution, and she is the patron spirit of fishermen.

We were assured by other cruisers and our cruising guide books that we would have some great fishing and there would be an abundance of lobster as we passed from one cay to the next of the queen's gardens. Not just procured from the local fishermen, but up for grabs as we snorkeled around the limitless coral reefs. One book suggested we carry surplus bar soap, dried milk and sweets to trade with the fishermen for lobsters, as these things are scarce in Cuba. What a deal we thought, so in the Caymans we stocked up.

Our reality comes up somewhat short of the promise. We have had a job finding any fishermen with or without lobster. The weather has been cool to downright cold with consecutive cold fronts reaching their chilly fingers across Cuba into the N.W. Caribbean from the east coast of the U.S. Brrrr! Too cold to swim. In Cayo Cuervo the coral heads and our lack of protein lured us to dig out the wetsuits and spear gun, but we swam about for two hours and couldn't find a fish big enough to shoot. (The Dorks go skin diving.)
Even on passages our usually bountiful efforts with fishing has been miserable - the barracuda have eaten their way through most of our lures without being caught. No fishy, fishy come!

We were ready to pick up a lonely looking lobster pot out of desperation to see what the absent fishermen had caught, possibly to leave some bars of soap in exchange for its contents. That evening at anchor Yemaya heard our stomach rumbles and sent us one of her fishing boats. The charming men stopped at our boat to say hello and offer advice, just as they were about to leave they asked us if we liked fish. It was hard not to sound too eager. Out of their hold they produced a pair of 8-10 pound red snapper and tossed them nonchalantly onto our deck. Our eyes must have been popping. Forget the dried milk, we gave them beer and soup and they went back to work for the night with a smile and a wave.

So, what to do with all the soap and milk powder? They say that in her day Queen Cleopatra took daily milk baths, perhaps that is what Yemaya wants before handing over the lobster.
Vessel Name: Mandy
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol Channel Cutter 28 - http://www.capegeorgecutters.com/BCC28/index.html
Hailing Port: San Diego, CA USA
Crew: Richard & Virginia Cross
Having spent 30 years in the racehorse business we felt it was time for a different kind of adventure. Both originally from England we have sailed for fun for over 30 years. We have owned MANDY for five of those and are planning to head south for Mexico etc. in November 2008 - ready or not. [...]

There Goes Mandy!

Who: Richard & Virginia Cross
Port: San Diego, CA USA