Sunday, March 28, 2010

Places We have Visited

    Grand Cayman Island N19.21 W081.22 March 1 – March 30 2010

    There are some days when it is definitely better to be a landlubber!

    Our passage from Cuba to Grand Cayman was one of those days.

    The trip started out easy enough, with not near as much wind as forecast and so pretty much a motor sail...and all was well till 3:30 am

    It was a beautiful full moon and just about the hour when your physical resources are at their low after pretty much being awake since 6am the Sunday doing your normal routine, but also preparing for a long passage.

    Kaija was off watch and Doc was asleep at my feet, the motor was purring along with sails up and we were doing 6.5 kts in light winds and reasonably calm seas...then I heard the motor revs decline slightly then it became normal...a couple of minutes later the same thing...I thought I would slow the revs a little and when I did, the motor died.

    OK..not the end of the world...just gonna take a whole lot longer than planned to arrive in Cayman as our speed dropped below 3 kts with 35 miles to go...meaning we would be another 10 - 11 hrs but should still make it in daylight.

    I checked to make sure we had fuel in the raycor and the bowl looked clean...the engine had been running for some time and way too hot to work on, so I was forced to wait for it to cool.

    About 4:30 (after beseeching the great Master of the Wind and Waves) the wind started to blow, and blow and blow...(sailing can be a whole lot of nothing or a whole lot of too much oh, and if you are gonna pray…be specific…what we needed was 15 kts from the NNE, what we got was 25kts from ENE) and now we had wind...with a double reef in the main and a full head sail we started picking up speed nicely up to about 7kts...but with wind comes waves and the seas started to pick problem...I figured to wait until we were in the lee (west side) of Cayman in the last 4 mile leg  to Georgetown (where the water would be calmer and by then the engine cooler) to sort out the engine.

    As we approached Cayman I radioed to the Port Captain and explained that we were coming in under sail and had no auxiliary power (and we needed a mechanic ASAP) and would be dropping anchor (there is a strict law prohibiting anchoring and we were supposed to grab a mooring ball to protect the sea bed).  Another cruiser (SV Jupiter's Smile), heard the call and suggested that we alter course to more protected waters from the coming weather front as Georgetown in an open weather stead and can dangerous in a heavy blow.  The Port Captain instructed me to alter course to the more protected waters of North Sound as there was a heavy NW Weather Front arriving.

     The only problem is that the North sound was now on a heading that took us ‘head to wind’ or beating (they call it that for a reason)...but we altered course, tacking back away from the island to make the cut.  Unfortunately, in all the confusion, the waypoint numbers written down did not correspond with the North sound entrance, putting us directly on the reef.  By this time it was blowing 25 – gusting 35 kts and the seas were we approached the waypoints we realized we were heading on the reef and I started praying big time...(I don't suggest leaving praying as a last resort, it's always good to have a little practice under your belt) but pray we did as we were now dangerously close to the breaking reef on a lee shore being pushed by wind and waves to an almost certain bitter end.   Kaija finally spotted what looked like the cut and I headed for this point, I'm on the radio asking for assistance from anyone for guidance into the Sound and received a call back from the DOE (Dept of Environment) telling us that there was not enough depth in the cut we were heading for and that we needed to head farther east to the next cut...and so with only seconds to spare and barely enough headway we tacked away from the island again to set up the next approach. 

    Then, the lower shroud/stay stud (that piece that holds the stay inside the turnbuckle) on the port side snapped......(it is these stays that are holding up the mast)...needless to say...praying went to begging

    While trying to keep as much pressure off the rig and still make headway...and with the DOE boat and the Harbour Security boat close by we made it thru the cut and into the quiet shallow waters of the North sound...and now with the headsail furled we made our way across the sound (with the shallow water alarm going constantly) and into Governors Creek to the Cayman Island Yacht Club Basin.

    Oh and as if we hadn’t had quite enough for one day… I forgot to mention that during the radio communications by Harbour security, I was asked for the vessel particulars and number of souls on board.  I responded with the correct info and said was had a pet dog on board.  At this point Harbour Security said "we were under strict quarantine and if the dog stepped ashore they would "put him to sleep" and Welcome to the Cayman Islands". …all in one breath… Needless to say, at that point, I was a little less than happy to be here. (Reed’s almanac states that ‘ALL PETS WELCOME IN THE CAYMAN…what’s with that…????)

    But alas, we were met in the basin by Jay and Barb SV Jupiter's smile, the Harbour Patrol came aboard with guns and attitude and we're quickly taken under Doc's spell and quicker than we could blink...they made the calls and arranged for customs and Immigration and Dept of Agriculture (for Doc) arrived and with a lot of fun banter checked us in to Cayman and said Doc could come ashore (altho they have a strict prohibition against Rottweiler’s and could not give us the official document, the DoA guy gave us his card and his blessing and said if we had any problems to contact him.

    Also, Hosea, a Philippine mechanic was standing by. He's a mini Mc Giver and soon discovered that the PID pump (primer fuel pump) had failed and blocked the fuel to the engine.  I had a new spare on board, but as usual the hose fittings were in different places, so he left with parts in hand and returned with it re- fabricated to fit

    So...the Maker of the Wind and the Waves looked after us...we landed safe...altho do have to admit that after 5 years of doing this...season six has seen more than it's share of excitement and equipment failures...all the more reason to get back to Trini for some major work and overhaul of the ships systems.

    KaijaSong with Doc and Kaija aboard spent a couple of relaxing, albeit busy weeks in the Cayman Island Yacht Club while Gary returned to Vancouver and then to Tampa to visit with family and friends.

    Kaija enjoyed making new friends who supplied her with a bicycle to use and Dexter with his assistant Simon of Fantasy Tours who took her out to Stingray City known to the locals as ‘the sandbar’ where she got to swim with and feed the large stingrays resident in these waters.  Needless to say she was thrilled.

    We have met many wonderful people here in Grand Cayman who have been very helpful to us.  But this is not a place to come for boat repairs as everything must be imported to the island and as a result…the prices are almost beyond belief.  So, with repairs to KaijaSong complete we depart here with new friends and empty wallets en-route to Jamaica to meet up again with our friends Luis and Sofia S/v Fruko.  Needless to say, we are looking forward to a very uneventful trip and will update the blog upon our arrival.

    Till then, keep reading and following along, we sure enjoy hearing from y’all.

    Gary, Kaija & Doc
    Sv KaijaSong

    Cuba – Cayo Campos ‘LOBSTER HEAVEN’ N21.33 W082.20 Jan 23 – Feb 26

    After departing Cayo Siju we made a short stop in Ensenada Los Barcos. This is a large bay open to the southwest but offers good protection and a safe anchorage.

    We spent one nite anchored at Cayo El Navio amongst numerous dead heads and debris in the water and no place for Doc to find dry land.

    We motored thru the Quitasol Pass, with excellent navigation markers en-route to Cayo Campos. Our friends Byron and Denise S/v South of Reality had visited here a year ago and we found it difficult to believe our eyes when viewing their pictures showing the size of the lobsters found in these beautiful waters. As they say in Cuba, it is better to see with your eyes than to hear with your ears, and it wasn’t long before the local fisherman were alongside offering us their daily catch…the lobster here are huge!

    We spent the next month enjoying the beautiful beaches, long paths to walk and quiet moments sitting on the beach while Doc played with the monkeys (Macaco Cangrero), the iguanas and the fish in shallow beach side waters. Well, it wasn’t exactly playing, more like chasing, but once again, the locals had the advantage of ‘home court’ and he would come back panting hard after many a chase with nothing more than a smile on his face.

    It wasn’t till later in our stay that we met Frank and Melo, two of the local park wardens who resided at the fish camp on the north side of the island. They were taken with Doc and it wasn’t long before they were offering to show me how to catch Langosta like they did. Melo was quite a handy guy, and besides spending almost one entire day helping me tear down my outboard and re-building the carburetor, he fashioned a beautiful stainless Langosta gaff out of stainless wire we cut out of one of the monkey cages. Then he showed me how to use it.

    One beautiful morning Melo and I and our friend Luis S/v Fruko gaffed 32 lobsters during two shallow water wreck dives. I wanna tell ya…It just doesn’t get much better than that and is about as much fun as you can while dodging the rather large Moray eels that weren’t too happy about our being there.

    After eating lobster almost every day, in every kind of recipe including my favourite, Pizza, we once again prepared for departure to Grand Cayman with our freezers full to bursting with lobster, many of the tails are the size of my forearm…Again I say…it just doesn’t get any better!!!! WHAT A WONDERFUL LIFE!!!!

    All in all, the people we met during our two months on the south coast of Cuba were some of the friendliest and nicest and most generous of spirit we have ever encountered. We left Cuba with wonderful memories, new friends and about as much lobster as you can carry.

    Cuba - Cayo Siju Anchorage – N21.56 W083.31 Jan 5 – Jan 18

    This anchorage is a wee bit tricky to get into from the north as you need to negotiate a few sticks in the very shallow water to pass into the anchorage.  Altho the sticks are easy enough to spot, following them directly is not the way to go…it requires a bit of dog-legging to work your way thru into the south side of Cayo Siju.  There you will find wonderful long white sandy beaches and a small cabin inhabited by the ‘park rangers’.  There are three rangers at a time, exchanging weekly with a second set of fellows.  The ones we met first, Daniel, Gerry, and Yariel.  The second shift was Daniel, Louis and Ramon.  We were there during the period of cold fronts coming down from the Gulf of Mexico and it was clear that these guys were not prepared for the in-climate weather.  We had collected spare blankets and pillows and were happy to see them put to good use.  Talk about making friends for life.  They could not have been more generous with their time and again more Longosta…these ones were getting big.  Kaija made a birthday cake for my birthday and we shared it with the guys and enjoyed long daily walks on the beach and collecting shells.  It wasn’t long before they were collecting shells for Kaija and came by daily for their visit with Doc who did his best not to chase their pet Iguanas…not always successfully, but in the end it was all fun as those big long lizards can really move on their short wee legs when they need to.  Doc had fun, lots of exercise and we all shared a lot of laughs.

    After spending a couple of weeks in this picturesque place we left with our freezers full and 6 new amigos.  This is a great life!

    Mexico to Cuba - San Filipe Islands - Cayo La Vigia N21.59 W083.35 Dec 24-25 2009

    We departed El Cid Marina the morning of Dec 24th on track to fulfill our goal of arriving in Cuba on Christmas day. The winds were stronger than forecast and the seas were lumpy. We had a strong current pushing us north and in order to keep on track we were forced to motorsail which is not all bad as it keeps the boat on a direct course and a steady speed and therefore the ride is much more comfortable. The first part of the passage was quite uneventful and it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that the alternator warning light came on. This was a new alternator installed in Mexico. The engine was hot and seas were large and so we did not attempt any repairs under way. It was only after we landed at Cayo La Vigia and the motor cooled that we found our new alternator still in place, but barely as the only thing holding it there was the belt. Talk about dodging a bullet. We were able to re-install without much trouble.

    We found this anchorage very comfortable in all sorts of weather, albeit the water was just barely deep enough for us. It was here that we had our first encounter with the local fisherman who hailed us one morning from less than 50 ft asking for assistance. We were able to get their problem sorted out with the aid of our engine start battery and their gratitude was evident as they left us smiling and a gift of a dozen lobster tails.

    After enjoying a wonderful Christmas with decorations, Turkey and all the trimmings we spent another few days here and discovered the Cuban method of Lobster fishing which entails placing long netting in shallow water with traps set every 100 ft. which has the affect of corralling the Lobster, from there it is an easy pick-up.

    We met a number of other fishing boats who were equally willing to share their bounty for trade with small items such as hats, soap, candy, cosmetics for the wives and girlfriends, items that are scarce and hard to come by for the locals in Cuba.

    We departed this quiet anchorage and sailed a few miles east arriving at a wonderful anchorage between Cayo Real and Cayo Siju.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Updating Blog shortly

    Hey Y'all,

    We have been out of touch for the past couple of months enjoying the south side of Cuba and the Mucho Magnificente El Grande Langosta (verrrrry large tasty Lobster)

    KaijaSong is in Grand Cayman with Kaija & Doc aboard. Gary is in Tampa visiting his dad.

    We will be setting sail within the next few days for Jamaica but not before updating the blog with our latest adventures and pictures so please stand by and re-visit us soon.

    Thank you,

    Capt. Gary for Kaija & Doc