Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rio Dulce Gorge

I've booked my flights home for 3/13.  I'm flying out of Guatemala City on Friday the 13th.  So I've less than 2 weeks here in the Rio Dulce Marina area.  In fact I'll likely take the bus to Guatemala City 2 days early but certainly one.  It depends on what I find as far as hostels near the airport and if I want the extra day in the big city?  I guess it also gives me an extra margin of time for any bus breakdowns.  It's a 6 hour bus ride.  
But this is about the Gorge of the Rio Dulce.  It's impressive especially the first half or so of the 7.5 mile "gorge".  The cruising guide book talks of seeing parrots and hearing howler monkeys but on the drizzly day we went through it was only pelicans, cormorants and egrets.  For those who ever saw any of the old Johnny Wiesmiller Tarzan movies I guess they were filmed here or at least some filming was done in the Rio Dulce gorge.  It makes me want to find some of those old films and watch them again.  I think they were from back in the 1940's?  
There is a lot of boat traffic and at least half is various kinds of tourism.  Some were just shuttling tourist from Fronteras to Livngston or visa versa and some more like guided nature boat tours.  I'm sure some are a day trip with lunch in Livingston and back?  Just guessing as I've not been checking out the tourist brochures.  The other boats were fishermen or local families and while plenty had outboards on the various kinds of boats there were a fair amount if dug out canoes being paddled with Mayan couples or familes.  The dwellings on the shore along the way ranged from simple thatched roof huts with no insect screens or electricity.. To fancy Eco lodges or newer private homes of wealthy Guatemalans that still fit well into the jungle landscape.  It was fortunate the rain held off to just drizzle for the gorge but it rained heavily as we motored down the length of El Golfete.  I mostly stayed in the pilot house monitoring Navionics while Walter stood out in the rain.  Then the sun began to shine just as we reached the Marina area.  We were anchored just off the Bruno's Marina dinghy dock in Fronteras 4 hours after pulling up the anchor in Livingston.  Today (Sunday) we will go look at some more marinas.  Walter is shopping around for the one he will keep Asperida at for potentially a year.
Some photos...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Anchored near Fronteras

We had a nice restful sleep and were underway at 8:45 am to the Marina area of Rio Dulce. It was a 4 hour cruise and while we had hoped for good lighting for photos of the 7.5 mile gorge section it was cloudy then began to drizzle. It still made for interesting photos I think. The steep 300 foot jungle covered limestone gorge is impressive. As we approached the El Golfete section it rained very hard. By the time we reached where we decided to anchor the rain had stopped and some remaining clouds keep it cooler.

Entering the gorge of Rio Dulce

Taken from the Cafe we are having a Pizza. Asperida is lined up with the white boat on the left so hidden somehow?

Also from the Sundog Cafe

Posted with BlogPress on iPhone

Location:Highway 5,Livingston,Guatemala

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Grand Cayman to Rio Dulce

As it turned out we should have cleared out and left on Friday the 20th.  By Saturday morning it was rocking and rolling even though the wind was supposed to be NE.  We went to town with the wind about 12 knots but by the time we got back it was gusting to 22 knots and the waves were too big to deal with the dinghy but we managed.  Although not without damage to the ladder brackets.  It went smoothly to undo our mooring line and we were underway, first raising the missen then letting out a partial genoa.  It took a while but we managed to get the sails balanced for auto pilot.  Early on we were doing 6 knots and it said we would arrive in 3 days and 8 hours but now we are getting about 5 knots.  It's really rough but we are going in the right direction and it's more comfortable than it was on the mooring.  It's about 12:30 am and we left the mooring about 12 hours ago.  I'm on the 12 to 4 am shift and we switch for tomorrow.  
It's February 22nd and my 61st birthday.  Last year I had just jumped ship in Punta Allen, Mexico with $4 US worth of pesos.  I spent my birthday with Norma who was traveling in a VW Westfalia van parked under some palm trees on the beach.  I also met a young coulple from the UK and found the little resort where they were staying took credit cards!  Now a year later I'm actually going to see Rio Dulce.  I wonder if I'll run into Larry?  I jumped ship crewing for him from Florida to Rio Dulce but ...... We didn't get along. 
The wind is supposed to let up about mid day so maybe another 12 hours.  Hopefully it won't drop to nothing as it sure would be nice to get there in 5 days rather than 7.   
It's midday Sunday and the wind is down to 11 to 14 knots.  We are sailing just over 4 knots now.  The remainder at this speed would take 3 days 15 hours.  It's light winds in the forecast and slow going.  It seems it's going to end up being at least 4 more days unless we get luckier with the wind or motor if need be.  The remaining issue with the engine is fuel somehow getting added to the crankcase oil?  He switched a pump while on the mooring but until we use the engine we won't know if that solved it?  It's still rough but the seas are dropping too.  Wind in the single digits by Wednesday.   Too bad we can't have a south or north wind and be on a reach.  We've been on a broad reach with missen and most if the genoa but our course is further south than direct to Rio Dulce so we will have to jibe eventually.  
As it turned out we are now on a course that's ideal.  The wind dropped but it's still good and we are doing just under 5 knots.  It sounds like the next 2 days will be about 14 knots but Wednesday the wind dies down to 5 or less knots.

First sunset

First sunrise 
It's just past 12:30 pm on Monday the 23rd.  We've now been underway 48 hours with 266 NM remaining to Rio Dulce though the mouth of the River is about 20 NM less than that.  Our first 24 hour period we did 114 NM and the second one was 117 NM so 234 NM total which means in not too much longer we will be half way to the river mouth where the entry port town of Livingston is.  About 8 am the wind went from east to northeast so we unfortunately are heading southerly more than our preferred course.  We will have to jibe before we get too close to the Honduran bay islands.  That tack will undoubtedly have us heading even more north of our course than the southerly tack we are now on.  Grib files were forecasting east winds. At least we have wind.  It's supposed to drop to 5 knots or less Wednesday but potentially from the SE which might allow us to actually slowly sail on course?  
It's been just over 72 hours now and while we only did 86 NM during the 3rd 24 hour day it leaves 180 NM or 160 NM to where we will anchor to clear in at Livingston.  At the 72 hour mark it was also just 127 NM to the south end of Belize's barrier reef at the Sapodilla Cayes which we had to plot the course a hair south to clear them.  Then we enter an area that doesn't often have very much wind on the Grib files?  
It's interesting that we've seen only 3 other boats at night and none during the day so far.  The first night Walter called one on the radio because he was heading right for Asperida.  He was able to call the boat by name and reference the call was from Asperida.  He altered course promptly but gave no reply.  That was during the 8 pm to midnight shift and when I came up he pointed out another ship that seemed to be going slow for a freighter.  I ended up altering course to pass behind that one when it was evident he wasn't going to give me any sort of right of way.  Then last night at the  start of my night shift Walter pointed out a boat a long was off and a long time later it was on the AIS and called Gulden Heeuw it looked like it was a big tall ship and it had upper and lower running lights and the ever popular blue lights that confuse the issue of green light on starboard side... For a while we thought it was coming right at us even on an intercept course but finally as it was closer you could see the port running lights and that the confusing lights were in fact blue.  Also we could see it's course and speed and it even briefly altered it so as not to pass behind us as close as it might have.  We were doing 3 knots and it was going 5 knots.  As it passed off our stern it was about 3.35 NM away.  
Wow I missed writing yesterday?  It was a slow day and our fourth day 24 hour total was only 76 hours.  It's now about 1 pm on the start of the 5th day.  We are currently becalmed as of about 12:15 pm.  It was just as the Grib files said and it also said it would only last about 3 or 4 hours then start blowing again eventually 12 knots from the east so hopefully that Grib file forecast will also be true.  Even with the slow 2 day totals following the first 2 days each over 100 NM it still appears we will end up getting to the mouth of the Rio Dulce a few hours into the start of the 6th day.  That is if the wind does comeback like it says.  I asked about just motoring a few hours but he says it's too far but I only mentioned it because we did motor a 4 hour very calm part of the Passage to the Cayman Islands...which took is 5 days 9 hours!!! Not a good total for a 310 NM passage.  I think this 477 mile passage to the port town Livingston will beat that.  I'm in the only shade big enough that's from the missen.  We rolled up the genoa until we get wind.  I'll definitely have a cockpit Bimini on my future sailboat.  Last night we had a couple ships though only one on my shift.  Just lights in the distance and it's name on AIS was Norwegian Sun.
After about 4 hours of calm the wind finally began to blow around 4:15 pm and we were sailing again.  Slowly at first barely more than 1 knot but as the evening went on we were doing 4 knots or so by sunset.  Had we been able to sail those 4 hours we'd be 12 to 16 NMs closer.  It still looks like if the wind holds through the night and on we will arrive to Livingston in the first 4 or 5 hours of the 6th 24 hour day.  We need it to be daylight and ideally cross the bar at the mouth at high tide which is about 1:45 pm I believe.
Huh! Well after the 4 hour calm at the beginning of day 5 we ended up with the mild east wind becoming a strong SE wind perhaps a catabolic wind off the mountains of Honduras?  It was early into Walters 8 pm to midnight shift and he called me up around 10 pm to roll in some genoa but the wind was 20 to 25 knots and we could not.  Auto pilot was working fine so we called it good.  The main concern was trashing the Genoa which already has some damage on about 6 feet of the mid leach area.  I went back to try sleeping and by the start of my midnight shift the winds were down to the 15 to 18 knot range and continued dropping.  Walter said at times Asperida was clocking speeds of 8 knots when the wind was strongest with just the missen and genoa.  By 1:15 am the we were only going 3 or 4 knots.  Then we got becalmed again about 8 NM before reaching the waypoint south of the Belize barrier reef.  We drifted almost 2 NM closer to our way point and the reef during the rest of my frustrating shift.  At the start of Walters 4 am to 8 am after seeing we'd not really moved much it was time to use the engine.  The total remaining distance to Livingston was 40 NM.  I slept again getting up once to do the day tank and then got up in time for the sunrise.  Checking out navionics I saw we would indeed be getting to Livingston today!!  In fact as I write this section we are at anchor about 10 NM from the crossing of the bar at the mouth.  We are waiting to cross during the high tide.  We anchored here to wait about 8:30 am of the 5th 24 hour day which doesn't actually end until 12:30 pm so I guess we can say we could have arrived to Livingston under 5 total days but it will be a few minutes over the 5 day mark by the time we are anchored at Livingston.  (In fact we anchored off Livingston at 1:56 pm so our total time was 5 days, 26 minutes.  Now hopefully we will be cleared in today so we can go ashore in Livingston and maybe I'll even find wifi to upload this ?

Sunrise behind us on our 5th day approaching Guatemala.

Livingston, Guatemala.  Waiting for the officials to come to the boat to clear us in so we can go ashore.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cold front comes through

GYesterday, Wednesday, it was the start of our second full day of south winds and good sized breakers on the reef.  Before my trip to shore on Tuesday I watched all morning to see how they were breaking and where I'd want to approach the gap in the reef.  It's right where the cruise ship passenger shuttle boats dock on a single concrete pier.  A red buoy marks the right side but it's well inside the reef so it doesn't really mark the gap on the outside.  The waves were intimidating on my approach so I used caution and stayed well out until I saw the gap straight in line with the pier and went in successfully with waves on either side breaking on the reef as I rode in on a wave that didn't break due to the deeper water.  The waves yesterday when Walter went ashore might have been even bigger than Tuesday but mostly it was that they came even more from the south not SSE like Tuesday.  He set out and I was surprised he was on a direct line toward the gap rather than staying well off the reef until in line with the gap, then heading straight in.. I watched with concern hoping no big sets would roll through.  Then I saw that he was not going to be so lucky and he was hit by a big breaker I suppose 50 to 100 feet before reaching the gap. I thought for sure he had been flipped as he disappeared behind the breaker and was quite relieved when I saw the dinghy finally reappear right side up with him still in it once past the reef on the calmer water inside.  He had been hit and tossed to the floor and surfed right over the reef all without hitting any coral with the outboard..  He was of course soaked but his tablet was ok being in both a semi water resistant case and his daypack.  I was glad when I saw him get back up on the side tube and continue motoring toward the dock at the public beach.  He was greeted by folks at the beach saying awesome surf dude or something along those lines.  
I credit my years of whitewater kayaking and sea kayaking and facing similar paddling through gaps in reef or avoiding breakers in general gave me a better appreciation of why you do not want to take short cuts to a gap in the reef?  Anyway it was a relief that the dinghy was not flipped!

As Walter was on shore I did laundry in the sink in a bucket.. I washed in seawater then rinsed in sea water than rinsed a couple more times in fresh water.  During this process I'd noticed 3 sailboats heading this way from the George Town direction.  As I went out to hang my laundry I noticed the wind had picked up to 12 knots from the west so Asperida was now beam to the waves of the 2 days of south winds and was rocking and rolling.  The 3 sailboats were hoping for the 3 port authority moorings here at Spotts Bay but were out of luck and one had to anchor.  Then later the small 'Pirate' tall ship circled around the already moored sailboats.  It's a boat that is listed in tourist brochures doing group and family tours with the crew dressed as pirates.. sword fighting on deck, shooting off the cannon, snorkel stop etc.  It was called 'Pirates of the Cayman Islands'.  I'm not sure of the boats name but it too was out of luck and continued east around the point where it likely knows of other moorings or good anchoring.  Then a while after it got dark a sailing trimaran came right toward us as if they could not see our anchor light?  Walter turned on our bright spot light and they altered course and tied to a makeshift private mooring right next to us.  The wind had done just as the grib files predicted.  During the night the light south wind clocked west then north and about 4 am was howling in the rigging at 20 to 25 knots and the southerly seas were somewhat flattened.  It was the most restful few hours toward morning compared to the last 2 nights of noise and rocking and rolling all the while just 150' upwind of a coral reef.  Going up on deck in the morning, we also have 2 tugs towing barges out aways just heading back and forth avoiding the unprotected George Town area until the wind slacks off.  Also a huge private mega Yacht anchored just beyond the 3 sailboats, 4 counting the catamaran on the private mooring right next to us.  Another small cruising sailboat is anchored or moored far to the west of us and out from it quite a ways was a huge, huge, huge tall ship.  It later came by fairly close to us perhaps looking for a better place to anchor or perhaps they have what the cruise ships have.. Where the boat stays as if docked using thrusters and GPS?  It was that big.. 

The 3 sailboats.  The closest one at anchor plus the Pirate Ship circling around before continuing east.

In this morning photo you can see the 3 sailboats who arrived together and the Red Sail Sports catamaran plus not so easy to see the huge tall ship in the distance...furthest to the left.  You can also see the mega power yacht and theres a 6th sailboat you can't really see in the photo.  

Even with 20 to 25 knots it's pretty flat and much more relaxing though so far quite cold out on deck.. At least in shorts and a T-shirt.  We've just been reading and listening to Cayman Islands radio station.

The big tall ship I mentioned even unloaded a few tenders and shuttled passengers to shore.  It's now left the area but I'm sure remains on the south side of the island.... Or not as the wind has dropped?

Ok the grib files have proven inaccurate for today Friday the wind is around 15 knots and a lot more from the east like ENE?  The grib files had the wind still 20 to 25 knots eventually from the NE by Saturday.  Anyway Walter decided to go ashore for email and hopefully also a grib file update.. Plus dinner for tonight.  
We plan to both go to George Town tomorrow, Saturday morning to clear out of the Caymans.  I guess if you do it before noon on Saturday there is no overtime fee.  Then we will set out but we might wait until morning.. Sunday the 22nd which is also my 61st birthday.  I really had assumed and hoped we'd be in Rio Dulce by now for my birthday.  Now I'm hoping we can at least do the passage in 7 days at most! It's about 497 NM all the way into the Marina area from the Cayman Islands.  That's about 570 statute miles!! 
A cruise ship came here this morning and has been shuttling passengers back and forth.  It's quite cold out and time in the cockpit is brief.  The sun has tried to break through the clouds so an improvement over yesterday which was completely overcast.  I have a feeling we might start to see some sun tomorrow and hopefully it will not be a cold start to our passage to Guatemala.
Walter returned and I guess it was 40 degrees in Miami?  the low I'm assuming.  Cold all up the east coast.  Often that can mean warmer than usual back in Minnesota?  

We plan to set out Friday 2/20 ... Now looks it like Sunday

It's Wednesday almost noon on the 18th as I write this.  We have sat moored on the boat through 2 days and nights of southerly winds mostly 10 to 15 knots, occasionally stronger early on when still SE.  It's now down to 5 knots or less and is supposed to be light as it swings west then north.  About 1 am early Thursday it should be NNE at 20 to 25 knots.  This continues through Friday but since it's off-shore and there won't be waves it won't be a problem taking the dinghy to shore.   Actually we have gone to the shore.  The first day Walter went to find out about whether Sue might be coming.  Yesterday I went and there were good sized waves even in the gap in the reef I took the dinghy through.  With our mismatched pair of oars, one not able to fit the oar lock you have in mind the non ideal scenario that having an outboard issue could lead too as the waves were breaking 4 footers or more over the coral reef.  They would likely dump the dinghy over if you were carried over the reef due to outboard issue.  
I guess Walter is going ashore today to get the for sure word on whether Sue is coming or not?  It did not sound like it due to the short duration of her vacation and the high cost of the 2 one way airfares.
The waves are still breaking big on the reef but the wind is very light now.  I don't think I will bother going ashore until Friday the day we will check out and head SW to Rio Dulce.  That would be when I upload this blog entry.  (Actually I stayed on the boat Friday but will upload this and the newer post Saturday the 21st as we are going to town to clear out.)
OK now it looks like we won't set out until possibly Sunday as the winds begin to drop then and the seas will drop as well.  So never mind the title of this blog post.. I'll post it as is when ever I get ashore next.  I'm going to write another about the events of yesterday and how different it is now with the strong north wind.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It's been a week

This evening about 4:30 pm it will have been a week since clearing into the Cayman Islands.  We are still where we grabbed a mooring that first night and about to have the first wind from the south since being here.  It's supposed to be east right now up to 20 but so far I've not seen even 18 knots?  It's starting to swing slightly south and it's about ESE as I write this.  About 1 pm it is supposed to get a bit lighter with max of 15 knots, then by 4 am tomorrow morning it's supposed to drop to 10 knots.  Eventually it will really die off and a front passes through with a chance of rain then stronger 20 to 25 knot NNE winds which continue swinging more NE until the end of my current Grib files which is 8 am Friday the 20th.  We might be on our way by then depending on whether Walter's friend Sue comes to sail with us and we wait that long?
We rigged up a mooring line bridle for the boat with some large diameter spectra type line.  Still with this south wind of 15 to potentially 20 knots we can't both leave the boat today.  Walter will need to check email for the latest on whether or not Sue is coming so I will likely stay aboard to deal with an unlikely mooring failure..  We need new grib files too.  I wish we could get a marine weather update daily while underway?!?!

Walter is pumping the fuel/oil mixture that accumulates in the engine crankcase when we motor.  He researched the problem in a Deisel troubleshooting manual and suspected a leak of some diaphragm on a pump I believe that's part of the fuel system.  The diaphragm looked fine so he switched the whole pump out for a spare he had.  We won't know if that solved that issue until we've motored a fair amount like several hours.   Since the replacing of heat exchanger on our last stop, we've used the engine a couple times for durations of 4 hours or so...maybe longer?  The only problem seems to be the fuel getting into the crankcase oil.

OK Walter returned with the news that Sue is not going to come.. Or it sounded that way due to her really only having 10 days vacation and airfare to Caymans and then back from Guatemala City would total about $1,200.  I suppose I'm looking at a return to Duluth airfare from Guatemala City to be at least $800 though maybe if I get it more days in advance I can find a lower rate?  If it's substantially cheaper I'll just fly to the cities and visit my mom and beg a friend to come get me.   Weather now looks like we might not be setting out until after Friday the 20th?  That will make our stop here in the Cayman's the longest place we've been.  I was at one point hoping we would be in Rio a Dulce about the 20th when I thought we were to just take a rest of 2 or 3 days?  Oh well.  Strong north winds to almost 30 knots are forecast for late Wednesday through Friday so I guess we will wait for that to slack off.  Then we have to check out of the country via the bus to town I suppose the day before we depart.

This is actually from the evening before ... Sunday evening.  Last night it was just gray with no sunset.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Farewell to Candace

Last night was our last night with Candace on board.  She met a local guy who lives at the condo development next to the public beach we are moored out from.  His name was Roger and he was a very nice and helpful guy.  He took us in his truck to the big hardware store in George Town sort of like a Home Depot back home.  We got a few things like rust remover, 5 gallon gas jug, water jug and a bunch of insect screen to help keep the bugs out of the boat when we get to Rio Dulce.  Rumor has it there can be bugs there.  We invited him out to the boat as he has his own little fishing boat he keeps anchored just off the condo beach.  He even filled and brought out the new 5 gallons water jug.  We chatted into the night and it was after 10 pm by the time we all,said good bye..  Then we had dinner and went to sleep.  Come morning Candace was packing up her stuff and when done she went on a last swim to the beach.  I guess she saw 5 sea turtles on that last swim.  The particular beach 'Spotts Beach' is listed as a good place to see turtles.  It has some patches of turtle grass and a little reef so it gets a lot of beach snorkelers.  There is a little parking lot, porta potty and garbage cans.  It's pretty popular at times.  It's been convenient since we are on a mooring ball just out from the reef.  
Then we all went to shore and caught the next bus to George Town but got off at the bus stop closest to the Airport and had lunch at a place called Mango Tree.  Then we walked about a mile with Candace's huge duffel bag double carrying it.  We eventually left after getting to the spot where only passengers with boarding passes could go.  
Walter and I stopped at a grocery store near where we ate lunch and stopped again at Mango Tree for a drink and one last check for new email.  Then we took a bus back and were out on the boat by 4:20 pm.. It's unusually quite and boring sounding around here?  Just the sound of the wind in the rigging.
I guess we are sort of waiting to see if another friend of Walter's about to start a 2 week vacation wants to come sail to Rio Dulce with us..  I hope we hear from her that she wants to come but if not... Off we will go sailing to Rio Dulce about 495 miles away.   It's about 475 miles to the mouth of the river where we check in to the country at a town called Livingston that apparently has no road access to it?  After a night anchored there we head up the river known for where scenes from old Tarzan movies were filmed.  The ones with the former Olympic swimmer Johnnie Wiesmiller.  I'm not sure how it's spelled.

Photos from last night but it was dark by the time Roger arrived

Friday, February 13, 2015

George Town vs George Town

Yesterday we went to George Town on the public bus.  It's $2 and first we had to make our way past the guanlet of the cruise ship shuttling zone where the usual public bus stop also sits.  We opted to walk a half a block further and flag down a public bus after finding out the public buses have a red or orange circle on the front.  They are just large vans just like the many shuttles and taxis transporting the hundreds and hundreds of cruise ship passengers.  The cruise ship shuttles were $5 each and dominated the scene.  To me George Town, Grand Cayman is another place ruined by the cruise ship industry.  How many jewelry stores does a small town need?  Did I really travel here to take my pick of HardRock, McDonald's, Subway, PizzaHut, Burger King or KFC?   I much preferred George Town in the Bahamas.  It was more like I was on a cruising sailboat visiting a local town.  It's a maximum example of large numbers of cruisers but the town is still much as it was before all the visitors on cruising sailboats and the lesser number of power yacht cruisers began arriving in large numbers.
The good news about our time in Town was we did find a spare impeller for the raw water pump of the boat engines cooling system.  We checked internet again at a coffee shop but nothing else about it was really of much interest IMHO
Some photos......

On this last photo while it is not crazy rough on the water this large restaurant seating area had all the tables pulled way back.  If you look close at the pier in the background you can see the waves rolling along higher than the top of the pier... This is used to drop off cruise ship passengers who are brought in by tenders from the ships which stay out a few hundred yards.  It was all taking place where we were moored the last 2 days but today the normal east wind has returned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

First day ashore on Grand Cayman

We had a rolling noisy night from swell from the SW wind yesterday abeam of us once the wind switched to the NW.  Regardless of the lack of restful sleep it was easy to wake up and we had a cruise ship right out from us with passenger boats from George Town shuttling passengers ashore who would then board buses for the 5 miles to George Town.  This was due to the NW wind making it too choppy out front of George Town and the reason we are here as well.  The NW wind is very light now so we shall see if any new cruise ships are here in the morning.  A second ship had joined the first just before we took the dinghy to shore.  It turned out there was a nice public beach access where we could park the dinghy.  Candace got some info from a timeshare type condo development right next to the beach access.  We decided to not go to George Town this first day as a shopping mall thing was much closer to us in a town called Savanah.  We chose to use the wifi at a subway and did a little shopping.  Tomorrow we will bus to George Town and continue to look for things on our list.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Subway wifi in the Caymans Islands

We motored the final just under 40 miles to reach George Town, Cayman Islands about 4:30 pm.. A SSW wind had come up as we neared George Yown and after several VHF conversations with Port Sevurity the told us where to come to clear in.. Even 10 minutes out we exchanged dialog.  As we neared the pier with a tail wind and waves pushing in to a dead end corner with minimal maneuvering room.. The security guys said it's too rough you can't dock here now and it's going to get worse.. Then the Customs lady who I think we had been talking with came and she did the most swift clearing in even waving the after 4 pm extra fee we expected to get us cleared and off the pier.. It's was stressful that initial backing away from the pier and clearing the docked tug boat and pile of rocks to the right.  We were finally turned around and heading out.. One of the port Security guys then radioed us the location coordinates for 3 port authority moorng buoys about 4 miles east on the south shore of Grand Cayman.  It's where boats go when a NW wind blows as the area out in front of George Town is wide open to the west.
Our attempt to snag the mooring line was far from idea and we lost our long boat hook.. Then we snagged it with the shorter one and lost that too but it was at least still hooked on the mooring line loop. Finally after a few attempts to get a lasso on the buoy and even anchor nearby.. (Can you believe we had problems with the windless which this morning we discovered was due to the Genoa sheet flipping this stop lever on the chain wheel so it tripped the breaker each time we tried to drop it..). Anyway just minutes before darkness we did one last ditch effort involving me at the helm Walter at the side of the boat and Candace by far our best swimmer jumping in and handing the boat hook pole up to Walter who walked it up to the bow.  I positioned the boat perfectly then put it in neutral just as Candace jumped in and once Walter had the mooring line killed the engine and went to assist as Candace treaded water about 30 feet our until we were secure.  After all the failed attempts it was of course quite a relief..  Then the SW wind did switch to the NW and the waves holding us in line with them became swells on our beam coming on sets.. It was a rolling, load nights rest.  If the swells continue to roll we will use the stern anchor to hold us in line with the swells as the NW wind had us broadside to them but they were getting smaller. 
Also 2 cruise ships...eventually 3 with multitudes of local tour boats shuttling people to shore are anchored just out from where we are moored due to the NW wind on the normally protected west shore.. When the usual easterly trades are blowing. 

Doesn't look so bad in the photos but it was a real risk for Asperida.  

Passage to the Cayman Islands

The distance was to be about 315 NM.  With the usual easterly trade winds it should take 4 days or so?... The first day was uneventful with lighter wind and speed than ideal.  At least we were making progress even if only 2 knots at times.  As I write here we are beginning the second night of our passage to the Cayman Islands.  We are only a third of the way there.  We motored during our second day about 4 hours for lack of wind but we really don't want to stress our engine despite it's apparent repairs.  For example I'm about to sleep now to rest for my 12 am to 4 am shift.  We are moving slowly with a 5 or 6 knot wind at less than 2 knots with some of that likely from the easterly current here.  It's supposed to be 5 knot max wind all night.  
Time to sleep..zzzzz
It's the beginning of our 3rd day.  February 6th... I began the midnight to 4 am shift finding out we were basically drifting in a current heading SSW.  The speed was at times 2.2 knots but usually just over 1 knot.  The light breeze did occasionally fill the main but we'd rolled the genoa in for lack of wind.  During the 3 shifts we actually gained 8 miles closer to our destination thanks to the amount of westing we had.  Of course we haddrifted an actual 15 miles or more but it was mostly south.   I wondered why we had not motored last night and found out that Walter suspects a leaking or blown head gasket as the engine oil level is twice of what it should be as in the coolant leaking into the crankcase?  I was hopeful the engine problems were over but no such luck.  Later I believe he will attempt to suck out the coolant water which should be under the oil to reaffirm his suspicion.  At any rate again we are at the mercy of the wind not wanting to use the engine beyond anchoring.  The wind has improved this morning and we are getting a bit over 3 knots.  And it's allowing us to head right for the Cayman Islands for the first time.  At our current speed we would arrive in 2 days and 4 hours or 52 hours.  Timewise we are not yet halfway?? We were hoping for the 15 to 20 knot typical trade winds ??? (I guess we wanted 10 to 15).. Hahaha.. We are looking at at least 2 more nights assuming the wind doesn't drop off again. 
Update later at 4 pm february 6th..
Walter was perplexed when what was sucked out of the bottom of the crankcase was not water/coolant but just oil?  Though it seemed kind of thin I thought and he seems to be leaning toward the possibility of a cylinder lacking compression, possibly not firing and passing diesel fuel into the engine oil?  Better than a head gasket failure it would seem but I'm no machanic.  It still means minimal engine use I believe and sucking out the extra fuel deluted oil after any engine use.  
At about 4 pm, February 6th, we officially passed the halfway mark distance wise anyway... Despite our 4 hours of motoring at over 7 knots yesterday the bulk of our sailing has been averaging under 3 knots so if the winds pick up the next couple days we might be halfway time wise as well?  Time will tell as it's dropped off now to 5 or 6 knots and our speed is under 2 knots currently. 
Ok it's mid morning of February 7... Last night after the day of light but ok winds we as usual hoped for a better night of wind than the previous one.. The wind began to increase I suppose 2 hours or so from the start of my midnight shift.  I was summoned on deck about 11 to help roll in some of the genoa which is done by hand no dedicated winch... Ouch it was hard.  Once reduced the boat had bad weather helm and wanted to head north of our course.  Obviously again we needed to reef the main but we've learned in the past it's no easy task with wind on the sail. We furled in the rest of the genoa and fired up the engine but could not get it on auto pilot staying into the wind. We made an effort with wind in the sail but it proved futile.  Winds were 17 to 22 at the time.. It would have been good sailing with reefed main and partial genoa or the jib but all we could do was try to reduce stress and head north with our leeway making our course NW toward the little Cayman Islands which are still quite a ways from the Grand Cayman Island.  At one point it began to rain so we went in and let her run north at about 2.2 knots when a reefed main would have likely allowed us 5 knots right on course to our destination.  On our first day we chose to keep the main at the first big reefing point and used the missen.  Light winds caused us to raise the main almost all the way up..  It is now obvious we should have been content with slower speeds the entire way just to be safer concerning the apparent inability to reef or even drop the main once the winds blowing over 15 knots or so.  Its now 10 am... The start of the 4th day which begins at 8:30 am, the time we set out on february 4th. I guess gust are occasionally reaching 30 knots.. We are heading east of the Little Caymans about 8 miles off.  Waiting for the wind to die down so we can begin sailing on our intended course again. It's close to 12 hours now from when the winds began to pick up.  Now if this doesn't sound like fun... Add to this we have no current marine forecast and we set out using Grib files downloaded at the hotel on Monday the 2nd.  Those ended at 2 am this morning and winds were only to be 15 knots from NNE?? 
I see 2 important lessons in this,  both of which are common knowledge and previously known to me.., One is always make sure you can drop and reef your main no matter what the conditions!  Two... have a way or even 2 ways to get a current, up to date marine forecast no matter where you are..  That's the latest.
It's now 1 pm and we are just beyond the Little Caymans.  We are just under 114 NM from our destination and it was about 133 NM when we were trying to reef the main unsuccessfully.  The wind is the same though I never saw it gust over 24 knots while I watched a while.
Now it's dark and we are going to try keeping watch shifts which kind of didn't happen for 5 hours or so last night?  I set a course line now to the northwest corner of the Cayman Island.  Our original course was to be along the south side and where we anchor is closer to the southwest corner but we've been forced to sail so northerly we will be approaching it from the north once the wind allows it.  We are 101 NM from the NW corner then it's another 5 or 6 south to where we anchor out from George Town... Not to be confused with the one in the Bahamas.
After another night of the boat heading NW about 2.2 knots in some of the strongest winds yet 25 to 30 knots it finally was morning.  We were less than 90 miles to the NW corner of the main Cayman Island.  The winds were now down to the usual 17 to 22 knots with occasional gusts to 24.  Walter decided it was time to try hauling down the main using the long extendable boat hook pole.  First we decided to tack using the engine and were now heading south back toward Little Cayman Island.  It worked to haul the sail down to the desired reef point.   With the tack of the reef now secured we used long pieces of webbing to try and pull the extra sail down so we might eventuay reach the clew of our reef.  Walter actually went up in the sail on the windward side to pass a line through the clew reef point.  We used a small block and tackle and hauled the reef clew down and out. We bundled up more bunched sail and rigged another line with one other extra block down to the mast.  Finally after almost 36 hours since the strong wind had us hoelessly sailing slowly about 50 degrees north of our desired course we are able to balance the genoa to the reefed main and sail toward our destination.  Also the winds are down now to 15 to 18 knots.  If we keep our current speed... a bit over 4 knots we will arrive sometime tomorrow morning.  We were getting about 5 before the wind dropped off.  It's still rough but we are at a much preferred angle to the waves and it's improving with the lower winds.  We have agreed to keep the main reefed all the way to Rio Dulce, once we leave Cayman Islands after a couple days rest and repair.  We had a couple luff slides blow out on the main... But that's like a safety relief valve in the situation we subjected the mainsail too.  Better than a ripped sail or damage to standing rigging.  Happy times! 
It's another relaxing slow sailing night.  After we managed to reef the main the winds slowly deminished. We are now sailing only 2 to 3 knots and the winds are 8 to 12 knots.  Depending on the speed of the wind we will arrive sometime during the day I think... Hopefully we can sail faster and reach Grand Cayman Island before dark.  3 knots average would do it.
It's just passed 3 am February 9th.  So much for averaging 3 knots.  We've been floundering in light winds and going so slow it doesn't register speed on Navionics.  It sounds like we may do a bit of motoring once my shift ends at 4 am? And it's raining.  
And the night was calm with little teasing winds that than dropped off.  We basically didn't sail we drifted.  I though we might have motored.. Well as the morning continued to be windless we did begin to motor and did so the remaking 36 miles or so.. The wind of course did begin to blow as we were nearing our destination of the Vayman Island Customs Dock in George Town.. It was tense as the wind and waves seemed to continue having there way with us.  We were lucky to get cleared in and out of the custom's dock area with out boat damage .. Severe boat damage was just a whisker away.  4 miles around the south side and just before sunset the snagging of the mooring buoy was also way more challenging than you hope for.  We were told to moor here by the port security people at customs as a couple days of strong NW wind are forecast..  I should be able to upload this tomorrow but it's on my iPhone so I don't have any photos.  
I wish that wind would hurry and swing NW as it's crazy bouncy right now...and raining.
It's morning now and due to that NW wind a cruise ship is anchored nearby with tenders taking the passengers to shore and buses the 5 miles to George Town.  Another cruise ship is also coming in to anchor.  

Whale sighting and more

With my iPad now used as our main navigation for days of non stop sailing, I'd written a couple of blog posts on my iPhone but could not log-in an additional device onto the hotel wifi I bought access for.  Much of it was old news anyway and some content ended up not even being the way things turned I deleted them.
Highlights were seeing a whale on one of the days trying to sail to Ile a Vache during very calm to no winds.  It was slender and black or very dark with a very small dorsal fin reminding me of the Mink Whale I saw kayaking the B.C. & SE Alaska inside passage in 2010.  So that's my guess as to what kind it was but I don't know if they get down in the Caribbean or not?  It was less than 100 feet from Asperida the first time it surfaced.  I'm guessing 30 feet in length but it's hard so say as only a portion is ever above the surface.
Another thing worth mentioning was our day of deciding to head north.  It was getting to where we felt by the time we did manage to reach Ile a Vache, Candace's group would be back in the USA?  One final effort involved an iridium satellite phone call to Rob in Les Cayes to try and give our location just 16 miles north of some town I forget the name of on the north side of the southern peninsula.  The idea was to see if they could hire someone in that town to come bring us a substantial amount of engine oil so we could motor to Ile a Vache in the absence of wind or the expected headwinds once we were around the point? This attempt at communication was not successful.  As we sat wondering what to do and discussing heading north to Great Inagua Island for more oil and to continue on to the USA, we noticed a small Haitian fishing boat sailing in the light offshore breeze wing on wind right toward us... The light breeze was useless for moving Asperida but the small boat was closing fast.  Considering we were floundering around in a very small area within view of land for over 2 days we were concerned they might be coming out to exploit the seemingly disabled sailboat.. So we used a bit of our limited oil and fired up the engines...heading north to put some distance between us.  Later a slight SW wind allowed us to slowly sail toward a very large Caribbean island.. although the Bahamas was our planned destination.  As you know from the last post it didn't work out that way.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Where is Asperida ???

UpkI'm beginning to write this the evening of January 21st but will just add to it as days pass until it's uploaded once we reach Ile a Vache. 

I have to wonder what those who have followed Asperida on AIS must be thinking?  It was supposed to be a multiple 3 day/night non stop sail from Great Inagua Island to Ile a' Vache, Haiti to get Candace to her group in Les Cayes.  About 30 miles south of Great Inagua Island after checking out of the Bahama's in Mathew Town, Walter noticed problems with the engine.  It was discovered the engine was overheated and we shut it down.  It has overheated badly and it now uses a lot of oil.  There is a slight leak from the transmission as well but very minor.  Based on a 1999 copywrite cruising guide, it was decided we best head to a fairly close 'Port of Entry on 'the forbidden island' to assess, repair the engine situation.. We would have returned to Mathew Town on Great Inagua Island but it's completely exposed to all be settled east winds.  There was talk of even going to Miami so Candace could still catch the flight on the 23rd with her group.  A quick look at the chart and we knew that was not an option.. Perhaps Candace could catch a flight to Port au Prince from the forbidden island?  Anyway as we made our way to Bara??? on the island we ran into a few rain squalls but the winds weren't too strong.  In fact the sailing was really slow all day and it got dark before we arrived.  We should have rolled up the main sail as it's no easy task if the wind is strong with no engine but we wanted to sail as fast as we could.  Of course just as we were getting somewhat close and after dark we got hit with a strong squall and we just sailed up and down the shore.  Gusts were to 30 knots on that one.  It let up some but was still better sailing than it was all day.  We continued to Bara??? and wouldn't you know it we got hit with more strong winds.  We approached the entrance to the bay but just could not roll down the mainsail.  We had to turn away and try sailing up and down hoping it would let up.. 

So there we were on a lee shore in a 52' sailboat with a mainsail we could not reef and an engine that we could only use for a brief period like entering the bay had we been able to lower the mainsail or to help tack the boat .. We needed to use the engine briefly a couple times to help tack.  At some point we realized this wind was going to last a while so we struggled up the coast way way too close all night long.  I think a westerly moving current was helpful as we were heading west.. It was a stressful night but by morning we had reached a westerly bend of the coastline and the winds became more favorable.  It was then we looked up and found another port of entry (according to the 1999 cruising guide) we could make the next morning with one more overnight.  It seemed to me the idea was now to get Candace to Haiti via flight to Port au Prince from the forbidden island and Walter and I would deal with the engine.  Perhaps heading to  Miami or at least the USA?.  At any rate much of this was more an assumption on my part.  During the day after the stressful and dangerous night Walter did some work in the engine room and discovered the impeller on the water pump for the cooling system had disintegrated so the cause of the overheating engine was found.  He replaced the waterpump impeller and would let the thread lock stuff set overnight before testing it.  It was a pleasant sail during that next night and we saw a lot of freighters.  Asperida has AIS so they see us.  The navigation computer stopped working.  We have been using my iPad with Navionics since leaving Great Inagua Island I think?  Or was it sooner?   
The next morning with the engine overheating problem solved Walter decides we can still get Candace to Haiti as even though the engine now uses oil he has a couple extra gallons on board.  We end up using the oil at a higher rate than anticipated so we do our best to sail and it goes good until a change in the wind then not so good.. It also seemed the westerly moving current was now fighting us.  Now I admit I was sleep deprived and I'm having trouble remembering how much we sailed that final night of the 5 nights and how much we used the engine.  It was very strange and the sailing just wasn't working in the direction we needed.  We would shut off the engine and attempt to just sail while the oil level was checked and topped up.. The boat only wanted to sail west back the way we came or south toward shore so I just kept it hard to starboard and watched us move slowly west a knot of less until the engine was going again.  
All this time we thought once we got to that same turn of the shore we would have a good wind to sail SE toward Bara??? but when we got quite a ways east past that point we still could not sail toward Bara???.  Once when the wind had let up we decided to motor into the wind and roll down the mainsail and try just the misen and a jib.   It was very rough and an exhausting ordeal but it felt great to get the main down and the jib raised.  We used harness and tethers and I've not really done much of that sort of thing.  
Efforts to sail with our rig failed perhaps because of that current against us?  Even after turning that corner where we assumed we could sail ... We had to motor and the wind really picked up.  Gusts were 25 knots.  It was very difficult moving around on the boat in the waves.  I should mention that during the night based on the rate of the engine using oil going on to Haiti was not an option and Bara??? was again our emergency destination.  We were not even sure we would make it there on the oil we had.  Walter even dug into his cockpit locker where he keeps paints, varnish, adhesives, solvents etc...and various partial quart bottles of engine oil.  That last 25 miles or so we did not shut the engine down to check and add he just added a bit every now and then while underway.. About 3 PM we finally motor sailed into the bay at Bara??? and dropped the jib and misen with all kinds of people watching us arrive.  Not a single cruising sailboat in the little bay.  Just a few fishing boats.  We anchored and were promptly visited by local officials telling us we can not stop here it is not a port of entry..  We struggle with a language barrier to communicate it is an emergency stop and we can not leave without at least a good quantity of engine oil.  They are not happy with us being here.  Later they brought out a local doctor wearing a white lab coat and latex gloves to question us concerning our state if health and off course as is the norm now..have we any symptoms of Ebola or have we visited any west African countries?  
Granted we were here due to an engine emergency but had hoped to clear into the country and go ashore and find a shower and dinner somewhere in town...and Internet perhaps.  It did rain just before dark so we all took a shower in the rain on our swimsuits of course.  It was off to badly needed sleep at 7 PM and then we got a call on the radio.. Asperida Asperida Asperida (some name I couldn't understand) calling.  I answered back as the radio is near my berth.  He wanted to know what we need to get us on our way .. I said mechanic and engine oil.  He says he will call back.. which he did 20 minutes later with the answer no mechanic no engine oil in Bara??? we need to go to Santi??? De C???.  We tell him the captain is sleeping and to call back in the morning.  He does call back 12 hours later but it's still much to early.  It's now the 21st of January.  Walter talks to him a few times and they send someone to drive 200 mountainous miles to Santi??? for the oil.. We are getting 10 gallons and are hopeful we will be on our way to Ile a Vache tomorrow.??.  Yesterday, the 21st, after getting things squared away concerning our qwest for oil we decide to use the dinghy with just oars to set out a stern anchor to face us into the swell that comes in the opening of the bay.  As Walter and I are paddling the dinghy out to drop the anchor Asperida received frantic radio calls from multiple sources.  Candace tells them we are not going ashore only setting a stern anchor.  By the time we are back to Asperida with the anchor line and get out of the dinghy a boat with a couple 'officials' has paddled out.   The boat they use is an old wooden boat that is sculled out with a single oar used as a paddle from a guy in the very bow.  We used the same sculling technique as them as we lost one oar some days ago and were using an extra that did not fit the oar lock on the dinghy.  I sculled from the bow as Walter untangled and played out the line.  We are definitely being watched by more than one official?  It's such a different experience than last winter when I helped a guy sail from Marathon Florida to Mexico and spent 3 weeks on the forbidden island.  I sure wish this place was still a port of entry.  It's hot and humid during the day and it rained again last night.  I guess that means it's the 22nd now.  It becomes much cooler right as the sun is getting low.  This town looks pretty cool from the boat.  I wish we could have checked it out.  It's very scenic and mountainous.  Unfortunately we are quarantined to the boat.  
It's now 1/22 about 9:30 AM and no word from the guy about the oil?   We spent the day on the boat and decided to rig up a tarp to collect rainwater to fill the tank which we have only added 30 gallons too in Georgetown.  It was last filled in Palm Beach at the marina doing repairs on the driveshaft.  It is a 500 gallon tank of course but there are 3 of use using it for nearly 2 month.  Anyway the first tarp was too big and before it even rained it got windy so we put it away.  Then we rigged up the mainsail cover to the starboard Genoa sheet and tied it on with pieces of parachute coard along the side with oval holes for the twisting knobs on the opposite side.  With no easy way to tie the twist knob side 2 of us were going to hold it out taught and one would direct the bottom end to the funnel on the opening.  It finally did rain after dark and we all ran out in swimsuits to gather water until we were cold.. Then we gave that up and tried to bath but of course the rain stopped and final rinsing was with water from the bay in a bucket.. It still felt good to bath and wash the hair..  Then we went to sleep only to finally get another radio call about 10:45 PM.. Asperida Asperida Asperida (some name I couldn't understand) calling.  I answered and he said " oil come maybe tomorrow morning.. 10 o'clock.
Candace was supposed to meet her group in Haiti on the 23rd...which is today.  It's apparent we will not be leaving today and it's a two overnighter run from Baracoa to Ile a Vache.   At 11 AM or so a fishing boat load of officials came to the boat.. This was many of those who had been telling us we are not to leave our boat.  There was also a C??? woman with a lovely smile who's name I can not remember.  She was from the marina in Santi??? De C??? and had driven with the oil for us.  Despite not being cleared in officially much info from our passports and boat documentation were taken this time.  Prior to this visit no one wanted to even tie up to Asperida let alone come aboard.  There were still 4 guys on the boat acting as boat fenders and another 4 who had come aboard including the town doctor wearing the same latex gloves and lab coat.  Today, those with uniforms had complete uniforms for this visit.  Earlier visits it was like they just threw on a shirt to come out and quickly tell us it's not a port of entry.  Even the woman who came from the marina with the oil had a nice uniform.  It was great to finally have someone who could translate our situation as most simply could not understand how we took 5 days to come from Great Inagua Island to Bara??? due to engine emergency?  It should only take a day or less in there minds.  Plus our boat had been spotted well west of Bara??? and then we turned east to come back.. Of course they wanted us to leave pronto.. We preferred an early morning departure as we could then make the 30 miles to the end of C??? before the trades crank up.. Thanks to now having an interpreter were were easily granted another night..."but leave early!!"
Below is a screen save from my Navionics App of a route I added to roughly show the convoluted back and forth travels we had due over 5 days and nights since leaving the south end of Long Island...  


The approximate mileage traveled over these days was 380 NM.  Ignore where it says 166.6 NM.  We have 219 nautical miles or so to Ile a Vache.  It should take about 2 days...48 hours depending on how fast we can sail as we only received 5 gallons of oil not the 10 gallons we switched our request to later.. It took 3 gallons to get from where we turned around at waypoint 11 to return to Bara???.  In other words we will only be motoring when we have too.  If we get good easterly trades the sail from the east end of C??? to the west end of Haiti's southern point should go well.   The first 30 miles to the end of C??? and the final part heading east to Ile a Vache could be a headwind and against a current.

We will be leaving early in the morning so I'll not write anymore on this multi day post.  I'll upload it as soon as I can at Ile a Vache.  As it turns out we ended up being quarantined to our boat 4 nights in the little bay at Bara???, C???.  
Haha... I've written a more recent multiway ongoing post on the iPhone .  
And the latest is as of February 1st, we are now heading to Rio Dulce Guatemala.
I had 2 other posts written on my iPhone but I can't log in with it here so I'll next be posting from Rio Dulce, Guatemala!  It's been a grand adventure in my book.. Don't anyone dare feel sorry for me.