May 11, 2009. Key West.
Wereda has just completed her nine day Crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, from Kemah, Tx, with an overnight stop in Galveston. On board with me was my fellow countryman and a co-worker, Janusz Sz. It was Wereda's maiden long distance voyage. After Janusz Sz. left for Houston, Wereda sailed to a nearby Stock Island where docking was cheaper and mechanics' services were available.
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 0330HRS
NEXT DAY AFTER LEAVING KEY WEST
I started writing short log entries commenting on day's events or thoughts and via my satellite link, emailing these to family and friends. Following is the sanitized version of these emails:
Polska wersja kliknij tutaj
Out of the Keys.
Monday, May 18th 2009, I had a superb ride down the Gulf stream and made an excellent headway. But for having too much fun I was immediately punished by a bad storm, not long after changing course towards Santaren.
Weather service from Miami reported winds up to 60 mph ( I did not get these, luckily), waves, rain that hurt and lightning (hurt a bit, just small pang in hands). Abated after 4 hrs only to resume for most of Tuesday morning. The Tuesday night was calm.
Today, Wednesday, using this calm, I replaced water pump impeller and thermostat on the engine. I took a bath, washed clothes, ate a whole delicious, cold papaya sprinkled with lime juice. And it is still only 1030 EST.
So I am trying now this satellite email system. If you receive this please acknowledge it by replying directly (do not include my message - I pay for each bit) or email to my handset at 881.......@msg.iridium.com. This one is limited to 160 characters and no attachments.
Thursday, May 21st. Old Bahama Channel
Well, I guess no one received my previous mail so I am trying again. But before that, let me tell you that yesterday got very interesting. Afternoon started breezy and I set sails on full so to speak only to reduce them (reef) to mere handkechiefs few hours later. Speeds were steady 7.4kn and occasionally 8+. (on the 7.1 kn hull speed!) must have had a helpful current.
Sent 3 SPOTs so you on the list could appreciate the distance covered.
Well, just after dark we've got a real light show display in the
skies. It seemed that the skies never went quite dark for several hours. Finally, I hove to after a sacrificial (safety) link broke twice on the Windpilot and sailing in these conditions asked for more broken gear.
Now 0900, Friday and we are becalmed again.
Hope the pattern will not repeat itself. May have to get out of the area using Old Cranky since this narrow passage does not offer a lot of sea room for drifting while hove to.
Sunday, 5/24/2009 Bahama Banks
Finallly, I think, I broke away from the OBC (Old Bahama Channel) where it was quite interesting experience to sail through.
Heavy traffic, either calms or storms but winds always on the nose..
Traffic separation scheme is in place here and Cuban side traffic moves south and Wereda with it.
Not until driven to 'desperation' I crossed the whole darn thing in the middle of the night (keeping the chicken that crossed the road in mind) and made first contact with Great Bahama Banks. Amazingly, depth changes abruptly here, from 2000+ feet to 25 ft.
The other side has never seen me again. Now, Sailing in the Banks may prove to be tricky as well, and I am weary of the big note on the chart "numerous rocky heads".
Still, the pattern exists here: calms in the mornings and storms PM and evenings. Last night, even while deeply reefed, I rode Wereda like a wild Bronco. Did not know the old lady still had it in her.
The fun was gone when I got a message about my SPOT stopped reporting my positions.
Thanks to all of you that sent me notes to my handheld.
Till the next time.
Out of the Banks ( for now)
Sent Date: 5/25/2009 5:51:12p Monday.
But still many miles from Windward Passage. Actually some 170 at 1830 EST. Every day brings me closer. Spotted a sailboat 3 hrs ago and we talked on the VHF. They (the Riding Cloud) were coming from Puerto Rico and on the way to Florida. Lucky ones with the tailwinds.
Anyway - it looks like the best plan is to have you email me to my
handset811...@msg.iridium.com rather than to ........@gmn-usa.com. Two reasons: I do not pay for incoming text to my handset and I do not have to open my laptop and pay
for air time to download that mail. If your message is longer than 160 chars, send 2 or 3 if needed. I will primarily use gmn to answer your questions in general and for downloading weather reports. This will save me a lot of air time.
Thank you for your all your comments and replies. Please keep them coming - it is kind of lonely out here. I got an email from one very worried person and it warmed my heart up.
My hopes are that once in the Caribbean Sea the winds will be become more regular (the Trades) and my progress will improve. But for now I am using calms to motor the rhumbline to the Passage and ride all else best I can towards the same.
Hope the SPOT will come back on line soon for my daily positions.
Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:45 AM
Reef early, reef often....
As mentioned earlier, life between The Banks and NE shores of Cuba (I nicknamed it the Maw because it displayed a cruel kind of personality) quickly became a sort of pain in a rear end. The pattern that emerged was no wind in the mornings, nice NE breeze around noon, light or no wind at all in the afternoon and storms/squalls evenings or nights. So having no other options got into the routine where during calms I would clean up, catch on with my sleep etc. The noonish breeze would give me a bit of gain since I was pushing SE. The evening entertainment would start announced by a sudden calm. The sails will start flapping and slapping with frightening noise as the boat rolls in a swell.
Always the light show is spectacular. Actually sky never darkens. Then the dance begins when first blows fill up the sails.
Next hour and a half or even two the winds blow so high that I don't dare estimate. I kind of used these to push me towards my goal: The Windward Passage. Well, on an occasion or two, I would heave to by backing up the sails to wait out the rest of the blow so no damage is sustained. I would usually have my mainsail with 2nd reef put in it and jib would be reduced to 60% of its size. The trick always is to have these reefs ready before the storm so that is why the subject line. Now, this has become a bit old for me so I gave up and started motoring during the calms making much faster progress. Seeing me actually having a chance to escape, the Maw changed its tctics as well. So now the calms are not as calm - wind is low but chop was left for me to spice up my ride. The prop cavitates when wave hits the hull and forms a bubbly froth into which prop can't sink it's bite.
But the progress, albeit slower, is being made. I thought that I could actually get through a couple of nights ago but decided to rather relax and have some rest. I made me a rum drink, nice and cold with guava nectar and limes. I was trying hard not to start congratulating myself on my excellent tactics against the Maw. Well, the evening entertainment begun on time with me being thrown to the lions as the main event.
I soon realized that this was not the same caliber storm as previous
ones so I kept my ride very short and I hove to at first let go.
To my disappointment the boat would not stay put. It was doing wild pirouettes following circulating downdraft cold winds. Now that got my attention and I started praying for nothing to break otherwise both Wereda and I would be toast. The storm lost its strength and I was trying to catch my breadth when I noticed a second squall approaching fast from the shores of Cuba. Although tired and wet I moved immediately to put 3rd reef in main and reduced jib to 40%.
I was sure that the Maw will get me this time but as it approached and took a closer look, it decided not to waste time seeing me prepared. The storm dissipated and I got my rest.
So from now on the saying will go: Reef early, reef often and reef deep.
Out of the Maw and into the Caribbean.
Not wanting to stay around to see what the Maw will throw at me next, I started the Old Cranky and got us on the way before daylight. I figured out that I must have an air leak somewhere in the suction portion of fuel line so when engine started choking, instead of shutting it down and replacing fuel filter, I tried to bleed the injectors first and see. Voila! Cranky perked up and we were on our way. Now I do not wait for signs of choking. I added bleeding air out of injectors to daily routine. While at Stock Island -at the Volvo shop I purchased a special wrench for this purpose since standard ones are too long to operate in there. How about the foresight here? I put another sixty hours of engine time in and that took a big bite out of diesel supply. So while happily puttering out of the Maws' claws, I was increasingly concerned if I had enough fuel. My options were very limited. I did not wish te be
trapped here forever. No sir!
Careful calculations showed I had a chance if sailing was also employed. Also I was considering contacting Guarda Frontera Cubana but could not work-up the nerve yet.
Also there is a Matthew Town place on Great Inagua Island (Bahamas) to my port, same distance of 40 miles as to the Cuban coast but I could not find any confirmation of diesel availability there in the Pilots. Anyway, as Wereda entered The Windward Passage, the winds died. It was very dark. The lighthouse at the easternmost tip of Cuba was confirming our position. A nasty swell was rolling the boat and made it difficult to hold the course. We were not the only users of this passage but certainly the smallest. Then the beacon disappeared. No telling what happened. For about an hour there was no beacon. I checked the charts - no land formation to obstruct the light. Is it a big ship sailing alongside and no lights either?
Then the beacon came back up and I felt easier. Probably power outage. (I've looked up the Pilots later and they mention the light being obscured by land formation while transiting north, and since I was going south, I did not read the northbound info).
Early morning today found us on the south side of Cuba. Barren, rocky high shores. 60 miles west down the coast is Guantanamo Bay and I was mulling over going there to beg for fuel. By then I had only 14 gallons left. Trip there (no wind) would have taken 2/3 of that what's left and my plea could be rejected. To clear SW tip of Hispaniola takes 90 miles. Decided to motor south for 2 to 3 hrs or until winds came up. So now I have a nice reaching sail - almost forgot how to do this after over 2 weeks of beating close hauled into the wind. So with the Third at the helm I am catching up with my emails, hygiene and hopefully some sleep.
The Perfect Mr. Potato.
This body of water immediately past the Windward Passage technically is Caribbean but actually is a sea of its own temper and climate. It is surrounded by huge land masses of Cuba in the Northwest, a pincer claw of Hispaniola from Northeast, East and Southeast and by Jamaica fom the West. So no trades here and Wereda has been slowly moving south on a gentle easterly breeze.
The previous night, as we were approaching the Windward Passage we were treated to an awesome sight. Wereda for the first time saw the Southern Cross. It was huge and bright on the moonless sky - literally hanging over the horizon in its proper attitude with arms stretched welcomely.
Actually it was the first time for me as well. Strange, since I have
been to Southern Hemisphere multiple times.
So with this microclimate the sailing was very relaxing. Began thinking about taking out my fishing gear.
But for the immediate consumption I had something else on my mind. Potato. See, for our first leg from Houston, Janusz Sz. brought 2 five pound bags of potatoes. We made Garnek several times and I've made at least two after Key West. The one full bag still remained. To save them from rotting I cooked all of them and kept them in the fridge. I used them to supplement my meals. Today, though, I got creative and made me a gourmet meal. On the frying pan, copious amount of butter heated up and thickly sliced (3/4" or so) cooked potatoes were added. Salt , pepper.
When browned, turned over and before ready, chopped garlic and hard cheese added.
Boy, this thing hit the spot. To top it off, while digging in the
refrigerator, I fished out 3 bottles of super cold Beck's Beer.
That made my Mr. Potato the Most Perfect.
Fiday, 5-29. 2009
Where is the Caribbean?
Well, I seem to be becalmed here in this foyer to the Caribbean for a second day now. So nothing of note has happened so far.
Hey - I read back some of my emails and noticed a lot of misspelled words. More than my normal share. It seems, that rolling motion of the boat causes me to hit wrong, mostly neighboring keys. So where is the Caribbean with its brisk Trades? Only some short 40 miles south from here. Will not use the Old Cranky.
Into the Trades
Yesterday I hoped for some winds to come like they did the day before but by noon it was still calm and hot. Checked my latest weather reports and they told of more of the same for the next few days. Decided to fire up the Old Cranky and by 0230 Saturday made it (on vapors) to the south side of the Cap Dame Marie. Still no wind but could go no further. If the Spot is working now, or just use google to zoom/satellite onto the area. Read some of the names the Haitians give to these places. It is outright creepy!
I know, there is a lot of sacrifice and stuff in their history. But for
goodness gracious, one has to lighten up by now. Can't even trust the innocent sounding name like Ile a Vache. I am positive this was not the regular cow they named the island after. Any way. Gives me heebie-jeebies.
So, I took a nap and at 0600 a raucous upstairs told me that the Trades have arrived. Since then we are at their mercy, going south-east. First I shook the 3rd reef off before getting underway but after 4 hours and one broken Third (Windpilot) I put the 3rd reef back in mainsail. Makes it for more comfy ride but not pointing as good as before. The Third, for some reason decided to fall apart at the steering wheel assembly. All small screws and misc. parts fell to the cockpit floor. Made me dash for a couple of rugs to cover cockpit drains. You know, all things, specially those irreplaceable ones, immediately go for a cockpit drain to disappear into the drink. Two hours later the Third is like a new and we are under way again, minus 4 miles we've lost to our heave to fore-reaching to the north. I am happy that against all rules this did not happen in the middle of the night.
Checking my log it turns out Wereda has covered 1336 nmiles from the entrance to the Clear Lake Channel as the crow flies. There is some 400 nmiles to my nearest landfall. It may take 4 days or 10 days. I do not really care. Dolphins kept me a company yesterday but still no Mermaids.
Who knows who Dr J.V. is?
So much for today,
Most people, myself among them, like to include original message when replying to someones' email. Well, this is not a good practice here. Automatic admonishment at the end of my emails make people write me one or two short sentences only to be followed by the lengthy text that I already know and already paid once to push it out. So please keep the overall transmission short not your words for me. For these short ones please use 881..........@msg.iridium.com. These come free to me and I do
not even need to open my laptop (it uses battery power, you know).
Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.
Somewhere in the Caribbean.
Midway in the Caribbean
My main reason for leaving Seabrook as soon as I did was to get out of the paths of the Hurricanes before the season starts. So, you may remember me saying that I wanted to be below 15th parallel by June 1st. Well, if I can log on 11 more miles south before the end of today I will claim that I have succeeded.
And that is good - Les Gorski tells me, there is already a first named storm of the season brewing up, luckily far away though.
Technically, to be insurance compliant one has to be below 12th. That is where we are headed.
So June 1st finds Wereda half way through the Caribbean. The next landfall is planned for Aruba.
I have pretty good winds but an equatorial current is setting us west so a tack will be in order. Rhumb line distance to Aruba might be 250 miles or so from my position but actual miles will probably be at least another half of that. Combined swell and chop makes it for not as pleasant sail as one would wish.
Every now and then we are swamped by a bigger one so it is not a quite a dry run either.
So everyone is getting Spot positions back now, that is good. It appears the unit may have not liked the place it was in while reporting on my position. Testy little thing!
A little (short) comments from you to my handset on latest updates help me keep track what is getting through. The email client I must use is weird, quirky and demanding and gives me confusing feedback. Andrzej, your confirming receipt of the latest 2 saved me from sending these again, which costs minutes.Thanks. BTW - Andrzej, congrats on your catch of king, ling and mahi. Were your in-laws on that trip with you?
So please keep them messages coming. Gordon - you are very inventive in your abbreviations but why not send two or three or more messages 160 chars each.
Thanks for complements on my meals. Yesterday and today I had Indian cuisine. Those curry dishes, you now. Boiled a ton of rice in the process so will have rice for some days now like the potatoes before. This is it for today.
Farther into the Caribbean
The Log entry at 2052 EST (7:52PM Houston) on June 1st, 2009 says: 14.59.8N, 73.21.6W. So we've made it below 15th parallel although I had to heave to for a couple of hours to do some more fixes slowing us down. Leak has developed at the lower port shroud chainplate, and my Windpilot now fitted with a stronger sacrificial link (3/16 nylon) broke a stainless bracket to which one ot the turning blocks was mounted.
Rummaging through my bag of assorted hardware, I found suitable replacement and after few holes drilled and going back to tie-wrap link we were back in business.
The night was noisy, lumpy and wet. Noisy when waves would smack Wereda on the face to be followed by turning up into the wind with jib protesting at the top of its lungs. There was that huge 'cruise ship' that passed by, lit like a Christmas tree. I say huge because it made me freak out when I looked outside and saw it no further than 3 miles of my stbd beam. AIS reported it at 7.9 miles at that moment and a strange name for a cruise ship: "Clear Leader" Someone please look this up at Lloyds Ship Registry. (It turned out, it was a newest of the Supersized floating drilling rigs - I was told later by Wojtek who looked it up).
My plan was to wait for a south shift of the trades to tack and to do some easting to line me up better with Aruba, but my satellite forecast reports only increase of wind speed to 25 knots. I am thus running on minimum canvas and the ride seems a tad easier, but at one time we got hit by a nasty rouge that filled cockpit with the seawater. No messages to my handset so far so I cannot converse back. Those that may come via email, will be read after I upload this one and download new ones from you along with the weather service. They will have to wait till tomorrow.
Friday, June 5. 2009. Clawing my way up...
through the winds and waves. Since Wednesday's arrival at the shores of South America, exactly at the Peninsula Guajira Colombian coast (sent Spot from there) I have been tacking North and South tying to make progress east. About half a way from Haiti, winds shifted from NE to E to SE and together with some equatorial current set me west some 130 miles from my estination. So 2 full days later I am onlyabout 35 miles closer to the target. Will dip into Golfo de Venezuela but need to build some distance from the lee shores of Guajira..
The biggest issue is the actual state of the seas. Talked on a VHF with a Polish merchant ship Pomorze.They said that according to all their instruments it is a good 7 (on the Beaufort) and it is going to be like that for a while. Waves invade the cockpit, squirt through every little opening making the inside wet and clammy. All my books are soggy. Last night I had to retrieve my CQR anchor that broke the lashes and jumped of the rollers. Hiking out there in the middle of the night was a really special treat. So I am looking at 3 more days of this.
In The Golfo de Venezuela
Sunday, June 7.
Finally a slight wind shift allowed me to slip into the Golfo. Not
without the fight though. Friday night was really bad. On top of not
cooperating winds, I had to heave to several times for emergency
repairs. First, had to deal with the CQR again and twice my jib roller furling line broke unreeling my 60% reefed jib to full 100%. The boat was over canvassed immediately burying stbd rail in the water, while propelling Wereda to 6+ knots speeds. One cannot replace this line without dropping and removing the sail. So after scratching this and that I put an oversized block on the rail hoping that if I manage to splice the broken line, I'll be able to pull it through. All worked fine, I could still put some reef in my jib.
I still do not have the ability to fully furl the jib in so it will make it
interesting while docking. Had to repeat this again since the drum's top edge chewed through the line fast. Had to find the way to keep the line away from there. Used a snatch block and piece of line to guide furling line through. But my reefing ability has decreased so I hope all will survive till next port. Now all these issues are not to be blamed on Wereda. She is a fine vessel and keeps me safe. These are the failures of her master that did not do all possible to prevent such problems. I feel someone needs to convene a Congressional Hearing. With all these interruptions, we have lost some hard won ground on easting. Total distance loss was 5 miles.
Considering that my progress East was measured in like 1/2 to 1 mile per hour of sailing it was a frustrating setback. But as I said at the beginning, I got into the Golfo. Although choppy and windy the
ride improved considerably. So did my easting. still have some 20 miles to Aruba as the crow flies so it may be tomorrow if all goes well. 12.13.6N, 70.17.6W
Sunday, June 7
To my surprise we (Wereda and I) were able to make it to Aruba late tonight. I contacted Aruba Port Authority what to do and they agreed to my plan to anchor out off Manshebu Point for the night and come in tomorrow morning to clear in. Anchoring and anchoring. Finding the spot by GPS is one easy thing. Sure? What you can do with the feeling that yes, you are at the spot but can I trust this gadget... All you can see are millions of lights on the
shore but since there is no perception of depth it is just very
As mentioned previously, my roller jib is messed up, meaning I can't roll it in. So as soon as I dropped the anchor I had to take the jib down before it flogged itself to shreds.
Anyway, I am in, Washed my face out of all that salt, had a last Becks and opened up the laptop.
Tomorrow, first thing check the oil level in the Old Cranky, take a bath and shave and put out yellow Q flag and motorsail down to Oranjestad Harbour for clearance.
12.34 N, 70.03.8 W (Aruba)
Trapped at anchor
Monday, Tuesday June 8 and 9, 2009
Hey, who says life is easier when you retire? After reading my last
post one could assume that we have made it. Well, think again. In the morning (Monday) I did all the ablutions to make myself presentable and by 10AM or so contacted Aruba Port Authority for instructions. They came back with information that they will accomodate me later, after the big car carrier leaves at 1600Hrs, but not untill 1700. By then, as I was making preparations to raise the anchor I realized hat it will not be easy. The anchor line will not bite into the windlass drum and will slip without making any progress. Pulling by hand in 20-25mph almost impossible. One could hope that being in the lee of the island one would
be sheltered. Not here. So I started the engine to help me go up wind but the boat would be immediately swept sideways and before I would get to the bow, all slack will be gone. Keping in mind possibility of fouling the prop with slackened anchor line I had to be very careful. After an hour of this and no progress, engine stopped running. So I must have reached the bottom of the fuel tank. I reported that development to Port Authority asking if some fuel could be delivered. They said to stand by and right before dark the SARF (Search & Rescue) boat showed up along with a Police boat. They did not bring the fuel but started maneuvering to tow me to the Port. I played along until a near miss collision happened and I told them that so far no one is hurt, nobody needs to be rescued and all I need is some diesel and will be on my way.
They understood and left. Port Authority offered that if I could dinghy out to the beach, they will arrange for fuel. I did not like this idea since I have not had a chance to try my dinghy and the outboard yet. And in this wind, if outboard failed I'll be out 20 miles in the open in an hour. I spent the rest of the evening pulling on anchor line using almost regular slacking when boat was changing direction while swinging.
Once on the chain only I could use my windlass. But no engine
running, I had to wait till morning (Tuesday). At 0200 I had a visit from Coast Guard and talked over my situation with them. They were very nice and understanding. Next morning after trying to get the dinghy set up I realized that I will not be doing it, period. Picked up VHF and hailed Coast Guard asking if there is any plan at work to deliver the fuel. In half an hour the CG boat showed up and I was told that they will come back in an hour with the fuel. So they did. While I was pouring the diesel in, they asked if they could inspect the boat which I could not refuse. When I was done refueling I explained that I'll have to spend some time bleeding and venting the system. So they left as I was thanking them profusely. It took another 4 hours of work on the engine since cooling water was not coming out of the exhaust. Tracked down the blockage in the line. Bled the system and Old Cranky was back online.
Now getting off that anchor had to be dealt with. Overnight pounding and swinging, that chain sawed through the rubber bow roller, bent out 1/4" steel housing and made general mess. Finally got it all cleared and was on my way to the Harbor of which I had informed the Port Authority. Customs and Immigration were already waiting for me and actually helped with docking lines. All formalities went smoothly even though I had to go back to the boat to bring all firearms, spearguns, flares and shells to be kept at the Customs until my departure. By then it was 2000 and I was exhausted. Was getting ready to settle in for the night in the Harbor with permission from Port Authority. At about 2100 hrs a Port Security car comes up and the guard orders me to leave the Harbour immediately, that none is allowed to stay here overnight.
After pleading with him to no avail I asked if I can talk to his boss
which he said was impossible. So I flatly told him at this point that I am not moving, period. It is too dangerous out there and I do not want my life endangerment to be on his conscience. So he said to make sure to be out of here by 0600. So I thanked him. He checked at 0700 at the end of his shift and saw me making earnest preparations. 15 minutes later a new shift guard showed up and said good morning and how long am I planning to stay there. Go figure.
Cast off and headed for the Renaissance Resort Marina. Maybe finally some relaxed time is waiting.
June 17, 2009. Aruba
Life here in Oranjestad is for now centered around getting Wereda back in shape. Occasional trip to the Private Island owned by the Renaissance Resort that owns the Marina I am staying in, provides much needed R&R. I have rebuilt my anchor roller system but still need to find way to minimize chafe while on the hook. A snubber line with a chain hook will do. Today I attacked the RF Jib. Got the new furling line and new sheets in place and hoisted new jib carefully sliding it into the foil. It is no easy task for a singlehander. I had to run jib halyard all the way to the bow and slowly pulling on it brought jib up with last dozen feet using my anchor windlass. The biggest problem is a wind that blows here
constantly so I got up before dawn to catch a quieter period with winds around 10-15 instead of 15-20 or 25. My jerrycans with water were helping again to keep the sail from blowing overboard.
Now, after most of the boat had a chance to dry out, it will be time to fix all those pesky leaks. To fix the leaks at the chainplates, I will have to remove the shrouds, which again in this wind may prove interesting.
Tomorrow a couple of friends from Houston - Dorothy and Alex (Wojtek) are flying in for a week so I will have more R&R hopefully. And next Thursday I am flying to Venezuela to be at my Uncle's 89th Birthday and at the newest arrival's and the heir to the throne Bautizo.
August 6th, 2009. Aruba
It was a great two months here in Aruba. Also had a nice, 3 week long stay with my family in Venezuela. At one point Alejandrito and I drove to Puerto Cabello so I could see what kind of facilities are available at their shipyard and the marina. I was planning to spend some time in the area and in the Morrocoy park.
While at the Renaissance Marina in Oranjestad I was berthed right behind the catamaran "Lucid". Her owner, Barry and I became good friends and through him I met a lot of local people. I also enjoyed daily boat trips to the beach on the Renaissance private island, courtesy of the hotel that owned the marina.
It was time for me to finally move on so after spending some 3 days at the anchorage near the airport waiting for a favorable weather window I weighed the anchor and set a course for Curacao. By the following morning, on August 10, 2009 the Mount Christoffel - the tallest peak in Curacao, was clearly visible ahead of the Wereda's bow. Several hours later we were entering Sint Annabai channel and after hailing Willemstad's Port Authority, the swing bridge was opened just enough to let Wereda squeeze through.
Ten or so minutes later, after passing under a huge Queen Juliana bridge and rounding a Fort Nassau headland we found ourselves in Schottegat bay just a short distance from CuracaoMarine docks. Tying off at the T-dock went smoothly thanks to no wind. First people I have met after stepping ashore were Jan-Willem and his brother painting the bottom of their steel ketch Kaat. I was offered a can of a cold beer, took a sip and said to myself: "it is going to be a great place".
And it really was. It took me seven months to finally sail out of Curacao.
March 12, 2010. 16.29N, 067.31W N. Caribbean Sea..
Almost 72 hours have passed since Wereda left her berth at CuracaoMarine in Willemstad, Curacao, on the way to the Virgin Islands. Weather is clear but seas are rough.
I have spent about seven months there, and what a great time we’ve had! Curacao’s natural beauty, historical richness and cultural diversity is only enhanced by her people. This is nothing new to all of you that have followed my short photo-essays on www.wereda.com. Nor should be the fact that there is quite a significant Polish presence on this island. There are 4 Catholic churches run by four Polish priests here, and I’ve made friends with two of them, Father John and Father Marian.
An accomplished and talented young artist Jolanta Pawlak was a first Pole I’ve met here. She lived and worked here for almost a decade now. (www.jolantapawlak.com )
I have also made friends with her parents Gabrysia and Zdzislaw, and through them met a lot more Polish people that I could ever expect on such a small piece of land as Curacao. Grazyna Murgala,MD, always working crazy hours in Willemstad’s St. Elisabeth Hospital as an obstetrician. She is always very eager to help others. I’ve met Jan Toeter, a Dutch, that speaks perfect Polish and his Polish wife Olga. (http://jantoeter.exto.org ) Before becoming a full time artist Jan had a successful building restoration and construction contractor career here and was instrumental in creation of Kura Hulanda historical complex.
Another person, met quite recently is Ludmila van der Marel. She also speaks fluent Polish among several other languages. She is a Russian and runs a very successful business and calls on Curacao for 2 to 3weeks working vacation.
Also a recent ‘discovery’ was a presence of a couple of Polish sailors, Patrycja and Mikolaj on their around the world journey on a 28’ steel sloop “YouYou” ( www.aroundtheworld.pl). Turned out they have been here since July, but made their presence known only recently, by visiting MARAVIA, Jolanta’s Gallery in Punda.
I could not omit Merlyn and Richard, entrepreneurs from Chicago.
Although neither is or speaks Polish but their friendship with Jolanta and her family deserves a special mention.
Needless to say I was very moved when I learned that there is a ‘send-off’ party planned for the Saturday, on the occasion of my departure from Curacao. Gabrysia donated organization and Ludmila her sprawling apartment overlooking Seaquarium. Everyone brought snacks and drinks and it was well after midnight before the party was finally over!
Another touching moment was to see my friends again last Tuesday, waving their hands from the shores, while I was sailing by on my way out. It was only appropriate to fly my Polish banner to honor them and this wonderful Island, to which I will, no doubt, try to return.
OK. That was a bit lengthy for a log entry, but then, there were many other people I’ve met there, many of them sailors like Christian of Zeno, Bob of Pawke or Christine and JF of Muscade, Jost, Cecil of Duet, Jan-Willem of Kaat. Just to name a few.
Anyway, as the sun was setting on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, I was clearing the Ostpunt – eastern-most tip of Curacao and before me I could see at the distance the light from Klein Curacao light tower. I knew it would be completely dark before I get there so I’ll miss the view of this pretty island and its well known beach. So far I was motoring all the way from Willemstad since the winds were right on the nose. (Are there any other winds?, I keep wondering) There is a wide passage between the two islands but strong current and winds makes it very treacherous for small vessels. So I needed to round Klein Curacao before changing course to north-easterly. I raised the sails but it was not helping and as I was furling in the jib, my engine quit, so the jib went up again.
Motor would not start again. Up to this moment I was still weighing an option to anchor at Klein Curacao for the night. Well it was up to the sails now. Will tackle the motor situation during the daylight. At 2230 Hrs I tacked and changed the course to NNE towards Bonaire. As I saw lights of Kralendijk passing by, and I was thinking that not planning to make a stop here was a good choice since now without engine working , it would have been a bit tricky trying to dock in there. At 0400 on Wednesday morning, from a total darkness and without a sound a huge military vessel emerged right off my port bow no further than 500
yards. From it a small craft issued and approached Wereda shining a blinding spotlight. They identified themselves as the Coast Guard
and stated their intention to board Wereda. I hove to and let the three uniformed men on board. After routine checking and inspecting the interior they thanked me for my cooperation and left bidding me good sailing. The morning showed Bonaire mountains covered with clouds but soon all that was left behind the stern. The sun burned off the clouds and as soon the batteries were at their 100% I started working on the Old Cranky. Sure enough, there was water in the separator/filter. Drained it, bled the fuel lines and injectors from air and voila! Engine is back on line again.
Thursday started with the discovery that refrigerator is not cooling
although the fan was running fooling me to believe that all was OK.
Luckily quick inspection revealed a blown fuse on the compressor.
Replacement fuse was installed and we are in business again. But some of the produce in the fridge have shown ‘stress’ signs so I decided to make a lentil soup to make a good use of these veggies. Used sea water instead of salt. The soup was a success! The pot would not fit in the refrigerator, though! But this meant that I'll have a lentil soup for breakfast today as well. And for a dinner. And for a supper. Yum!
So this has brought us up to date on the latest events. Next report in
due course. But I've just found out that my masthead tricolor light is not working properly, Seems it could be a mounting failure, because anchor light looks weird. This may affect my destnation port and I may have to go straight to St. Thomas not to St. Croix, as planned.
Saturday, March 13, 2010 Ponce, Puerto Rico. 17.59N, 066.37W
Well, I decided to call on Ponce instead of slogging directly to St.
Thomas. This makes a lot more sense. I can take advantage of the island lee while on the way east. Clearing-in procedures once done in Puerto Rico do not need to be repeated in the USVI. And it will give me time to tackle the masthead tricolor issue. Again, sailing east can be now done in "cruising" style, with stops at some fine anchorages on the way. It is a bit tricky to dock while single-handing. Bringing the boat alongside the dock is not a problem. But to get out on to the pier to tie off the boat before wind blows her away, that is something else. There was none at the dock when I arrived (Saturday afternoon, everybody's at the bar, I suppose) so only on a fourth attempt I was able to tie the Wereda off.
Tuesday, March 16. 2010. Ponce.
Yesterday I was finally able to clear in and register at the Marina,
meaning that I paid dockage fees. As expensive as it was in Aruba! Took taxi to Walmart to make necessary purchases including a SIM chip for my phone. Also started troubleshooting my masthead Tricolor. Not quite sure yet but it seems that it could be the unit itself, not the wiring failure. Contacted OrcaGreenMarine to get some help identifyng the symptoms. A very kind lady at the Orca gave me a lot of good information regarding light operation and wiring, and promised support in case this was actually their unit failure. (Much later, while in St. Martin and mast removed, I found out that mainsail halyard had chafed through one of the three conductors, disabling the light).
Ponce, Puerto Rico. March 20, 2010.
Today Wereda set sails to Isla Caja De Muertos less than ten miles South-South-West from the shores of Ponce. It is a favorite place for fishermen and holidaymakers. It was a nice leisurely two hour sail and after arriving we found ourselves to be the only other sailboat there. It was a great and quiet overnight stay only occasionally interrupted by power boats taking part in fishing tournament held that weekend. In the morning we left the anchorage and headed East as a pod of dolphins lead the way, ahead of Wereda's bow. Our destination, Salinas, was a short 16 miles as a crow flies but it took us a better part of the day before we dropped the anchor. On the way ashore, as I prepared to climb out of dinghy, I realized I did not have my trusty Crocs with me. So had to putter back to the mother ship. Finally, in the marina I inquired about internet availability and was told by a lady holding shades wearing Chihuahua that I'll have to walk down the road to a small bar La Barkita, for that. After a short chat I asked her how long has she been staying in Salinas. She said two years! Well, I no longer felt bad about my seven month long stay in Curacao. La Barkita turned out to be a very popular place. I enjoyed a can of cold Medalia beer and a bowl of a local, excellent, spicy soup/stew there while struggling with a very slow internet connection.
March 25, 2010. Salinas, Puerto Rico. The morning saw Wereda moving out of the anchorage by the Marina de Salinas. After getting all the sails up we set the course East. Sailing all day long against the mild Easterlies took us no farther East than Punta Tuna on the south coast of Puerto Rico. The night was falling fast and I decided to sail offshore and away from land with a plan to turn back around middle of the night to make an early morning landfall at Vieques.