Friday, January 31, 2014

Port Antonio, Jamaica

Posted by Scot.  Written Jan. 26, 2014.

Some local colour.
Port Antonio, the town, is a bit rough around the edges.  It is pretty amazing how our perspective has shifted, though.  As we were walking through town today, Katie said “If this is the first town we had come to when we left Canada, we wouldn’t have known what to make of it!  Now, it seems like a fancy place!”  It’s true – compared to the cities and towns in Cuba, it feels like we have sailed forward maybe 50 or 60 years.

One of the nicer guesthouses in Port Antonio.
Attendees at Titchfield High School.
One thing that is different here, which we haven’t seen much of recently, is the rain.  It has rained hard pretty much every night and day since we have been here.  Because of the high peaks around (about 7,000 feet), the clouds moving in from the Eastern Caribbean get lifted here, and dump their rain right on Port Antonio, making this the wet side of the island of Jamaica.  It also makes it incredibly green, and lush.  Fortunately, rain here only lasts for about half an hour.  But when it rains, it rains suddenly and hard.  We have to be on top of closing our ports as soon as the first few drops hit.  Otherwise, we run the risk of having soaked beds under the open cabin hatches.

More rain clouds threatening.
Sara met a local man as we were walking around town.
Our time in Port Antonio has been spent working on the never ending list of boat projects, and enjoying the shopping in the market.  The fruits and vegetables here are tremendous, again thanks to the tropical climate and the plentiful rain.

Market fresh goodness.
One of the kids in the market.
I got to go up the mast again (actually three times) to work on our wifi extender.  I remembered to take a picture this time.
Pretty much as soon as you land in the marina in Port Antonio, you are approached by one or more of the few locals who have somehow managed to qualify to work on boats in the marina.  The marina is otherwise secured from the local population with gates and guards, but these few guys have somehow gotten the monopoly on doing boat chores.  We were prepared for this, as it is well documented in the cruising guides.

Interesting cat.
Another interesting cat.  This was the last cat built by the Dean company in South Africa.  According to the owner, the company went bankrupt while building it, and it had to be finished by a private contractor.  We looked at some Dean cats when we were boat shopping.
Anyway, when we got in, one of the guys, John “Hulk” Brown and his partner Rudy were just finishing polishing the sides of the blue hulled boat next to us.  When they were done, the boat was shining.  As he was working, Hulk noticed we had some rust on our stainless steel, and he mentioned he could get it shining for us if we wanted.  After he was done on the boat next to us, we had a quick negotiation, and agreed on a price for him to clean all our stainless and our hulls.  The next day, he and Rudy attacked our boat.  They went so far as to break out toothbrushes and clean in the nooks and crannies of our stainless fixtures so that everything shone.  When they were done with that, we talked to them about our decks, which were still showing some spotting from the marina in Cuba.  So, they came back one more day and spent the entire day cleaning and polishing our top sides, so that now they are cleaner than they have ever been, since the day we got on the boat.

Hulk and Rudy getting our stainless steel shining.
We sat down for a drink with them after it was all done, and learned a bit more about them.  Hulk has been working on boats here for a long time, and is a bit of a jack of all trades.  He really knows his cleaning products and techniques, and gave us quite a few tips about how to keep the boat shining.  He is a really pleasant, soft-spoken guy who works hard, and is as particular about getting the job done right as we are.  He has done pretty much everything you can do on a boat, and has even done some long range cruising as a deckhand for folks he met in the marina.  His dream is to eventually own a boat of his own and go sailing himself, working on other boats as we go.

Monashee, clean and shiny all over.
The whitest our boat has ever been.  Hulk even cleaned the rust off our fishing rod.
Anyway, he asked us to mention him in the blog, and let any other cruisers know that he is keen to work if they are coming through here.  We can recommend him strongly – he worked hard, delivered what was promised, and the cost was way less than it would have been to have the same work done in the States.

To Jamaica!

Posted by Alexander.  Written Jan. 23, 2014.

On the morn of the day of departure from Santiago De Cuba we did math. Mom said that the whole boat had to be washed. It was covered in spots because of the fumes of a nearby sulfur plant.

The nearby sulfur plant made the marina noisy, and messy for the boat.  Not too sure what it did to us, but we weren't sad to leave it behind.
It didn’t look very good so we had to get a special soap from the marina. It was a pink acidic toilet bowl cleaner but it was all they had. Mom wouldn’t let us help because the stuff stings. So instead we sat doing math while she washed the boat. Poor mom.

Dad wasn’t doing very well. He was pretty sick, probably from something he ate in Cuba.  He called it "Batista's Revenge", which is some sort of political statement.  Mom said we should stay until he felt a bit better but Dad had one thing to say to that! “Let's just get out of Cuba!” So we set out  in the afternoon. We cruised out of Cuba and out to sea. It was going to take the rest of the day and the night to get there. Luckily it was very calm. The wind was coming straight onto our bow so we ran the motors.  They both ran beautifully the whole way to Jamaica, so it looks like Carlos Caballero fixed them right!


We cruised on.  Just before the sun set, we saw a splash off our port side, and a minute later, we were being chased by a pack of dolphins. They were so fast that keeping up with us was no problem. They moved so smoothly through the water, they didn't seem real.  There were more than ten of them! They were leaping high into the air out of the surf and made an already fun passage awesome.

We've had dolphins swimming along with our boat a few times now, but it never gets old.  If you want to watch that in full screen, scroll your mouse over the word "vimeo" in the bottom right corner, and click it to watch it directly on vimeo.

Later into the night Christopher and I had the first watch. It was nice until I glimpsed a brief flash on the horizon. It was so faint that I thought it might be nothing. The flashes kept getting brighter if not more frequent and Christopher and I realized there was a thunderstorm in the distance. We got Mom and she said it would be fine. The east wind would blow it past us. Christopher and I were not so sure. Our mast was made of metal and was the tallest thing for miles. A thunderstorm would eat us for breakfast. So we did the rest of our watch pretty sure the boat was going to be blasted apart by lightning  Don’t worry, it wasn’t.
Our sail into Jamaica was beautiful beyond words so I’m probably going to fill this part with pictures.

The mountains rose high and green around us, and the water was bright blue.  I don't think any of us knew Jamaica was this mountainous.
Dad docked us expertly at the Errol Flynn Marina...
... and here we are.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cuban Street Fight!

Posted by Christopher.  Written January  23, 2014.

We wanted to see Santiago de Cuba fully, before we left so we got off our boat and walked off the dock to where a taxi was waiting for us. Actually it turned out there wasn’t a taxi waiting for us, but we sat there for about 20-30 minutes and finally he showed up. So we all squished into a car with 2 thirds of the space of the other taxis we’d taken and managed to make it down the road with both us, and the old run down taxi in one piece.

Waiting for our cab in the playground at the marina.  A rare thing to find in Cuba.
Not our cab.  I wish it had been.
We got out of the taxi at a place called Hotel Melia, where there was a small shopping and food area and a pool. We decided not to use the pool cause the day wasn’t too hot, but we grabbed a bite to eat at a more local restaurant that was right next to the hotel. The restaurant served three things; pop bottles, milkshakes, and a deep fried batter surrounding beef. For lack of a better option, we got the deed fried batter things and one milkshake each. (Well Mom drank some of ours, then realized how tasty they were so got one for herself). The meal was pretty tasty, and much tastier considering that we hadn’t had anything deep fried since the very north of the Bahamas when we caught the conchs.

The Emilio Bacardi museum.  Named after the Bacardi Rum guy.  They still have a Bacardi factory in Santiago de Cuba.

After that we got into a different taxi and took it to the downtown. There, we ended up with a sort of guide whether we wanted it or not. (We had to shake off two or three other Cuban guides first, before we realized it was fruitless). So he led us around, showing us to different places around the downtown.

I'm not sure what this building was, but it seemed like something important, since it was guarded out front.  It was right on the main square, El Centro.

Downtown Santiago de Cuba, just off the central square.
More local color.  Actually, our guide told us these cars were probably originally from Holguin, because violeta is a common color for cars there.

I was beginning to get really tired when we looked back, only to realize we must’ve had at least ten kids following us. We kept walking for a little while until eventually one of them caught up with us, and asked us if we had a pen. The other kids were closing in as we heard Mom say “Oh yeah, I have one pen”.  Alexander, Dad and I were showering her in “NO’S!” and “Put it back’s!” but mom had already translated it to Spanish and was handing him the pen. It was a very small time period between the point where the kid was handed the pen, and the point where several other kids were closing in to try and take it. Pretty soon, wild punch slaps were flying in both directions, as the smaller kid who got the pen tried to defend it from some bigger kids.  We figured that if you grow up in the streets of Santiago de Cuba, you grow up tough. Our tour guide was trying to break it up and we began to briskly walk away. Eventually, behind us we could see the kids beginning to simmer down.

The kids started to follow us as we walked up these stairs...
... and it was right here that they started to fight over the pen.

We walked around for the rest of the day and we found a store, that was kind of like a really small Wal-Mart. It had most of the foods you’d expect to find in Cuba, but the only cheese they had was imported gouda cheese.

Our guide told us that Fidel Castro had lived in this house when he was a boy (the yellow one on the left).
Eventually we got really tired, and so we decided to go home. We took a taxi and stopped right next to our marina, where we got back to our boat.

These guys were hanging around outside the marina when we got back.

So were these guys.

Arriving in Santiago de Cuba

Posted by Sara.  Written January 19, 2014.

Castillo del Morro sits over the entrance to the bay at Santiago de Cuba.
The marina in Santiago de Cuba is awesome.  It suits us perfectly.  Visually, it is the decaying ruin of an obviously opulent marina from pre-revolution times.  Despite the decay, it’s managed like a tightly run ship.  The rotating managers work 24 hour shifts.  The ones we have met so far are friendly, helpful, know their jobs well and speak excellent English.  In addition to the concrete docks, there is a restaurant and small store, a games room with a bowling alley and air hockey, a kids park and 4 great water toys for the kids – two huge water trampolines, one huge blow-up iceberg with climbing handles on it, and a huge spinny globe with climbing handles. 

Scot and I are a little suspect of the water here for swimming given the amount of industry in the bay. But we’re keeping quiet and just encouraging the kids to ‘not swallow the water’ and to shower as soon as they get out.  All the locals are swimming.  The kids have already spent a great many hours on the water toys.

Inflatable water toys at the Marina Marlin.
The kids had a blast climbing the "iceberg".
It was fun trying to get these spinning and try to knock each other off.
There are six other boats here; our Icelandic friends ‘Ja’, a boat from the US, two from France, one from Sweden and one from Holland.  Still not a kid in sight. 

When we pulled in after our night from Baitiquiri, Scot did a beautiful job of docking with our one working engine.  We spent the next hour getting checked in with the marina and then we crashed for a few hours to catch up on some sleep while the kids did school on their own. 

After that we decided to work on our main priority which was seeing if we could get someone to look at our engine.  The marina manager told us they had a mechanic on staff, but he wasn’t a “diesel specialist.”  We mentioned that we had read about DAMEX, a Dutch managed Cuban shipyard not far from here.  He said we would probably be able to find a diesel specialist there, so we walked over to ask.  They told us to come back after lunch, so we went all the way back to the boat, then back to the shipyard.  Eventually they let us in, and ushered us in to the modern looking industrial offices, where we finally met someone who seemed to be a manager.  Unfortunately, he told us, their diesel mechanic was out with an injury, but he suggested another shipyard further up the road.

On the way back to the marina, we ran into the marina mechanic.  Apparently the manager had mentioned our issue to him.  We weren’t sure how qualified he was with boat diesels but he was keen to come and look at it, and he asked all the right questions, following the same line of reasoning we had.  It seemed a lot easier to get him to come look at the boat as opposed to tracking down someone else at another shipyard, so we asked him to stop by when he got the chance.

We also started asking about filling our empty propane bottle which has been an issue since we arrive in Cuba.  Propane is rationed to all the Cubans for cooking so apparently it is difficult to just purchase.  There is also the worry that our fittings won’t match here.  Being down to our last 10lb. bottle and unsure where we can get more, I have been as lean as I could with the cooking for the last week.  We left our empty tank with the marina office but they weren’t confident they could help us.  We spent the rest of the day trying to relax and get away from boat issues, taking the kids bowling and on the water toys.

The mechanic, Carlos, showed up the next morning.  Within 10 minutes of testing, he had ruled out the injectors or fuel pump as the issue and narrowed it down to air getting into our fuel system. He tested by disconnecting our fuel hose, and sucking diesel fuel with a tube directly from a bucket into the pump & injectors, effectively by-passing the fuel lines.  When he did that, the engine ran perfectly.  So air was getting into the fuel system somewhere between our tank and the fuel pump.  It took him another 2 minutes to figure out where the air was getting in.  He found a slow drip of diesel coming from the bottom of our pre-fuel filter assembly, in the bowl that separates any water from the diesel. 

It did take another couple of hours to actually fix the problem by taking apart the filter and seeing that the plug in the bottom needed a new o-ring.  We even got to witness some of the famous Cuban creative problem solving.  The problem o-ring was very wide and they didn’t have a replacement but piled up 4 smaller o-rings instead – looked good to me & the price of 4 o-rings is quite a bit cheaper than having new fuel injectors couriered to us from the States.  So the Cuban mechanic rumours hold true – Carlos was fantastic.  He also loved teaching us and patiently explained everything he did (in Spanish, which I did my best to translate for Scot) and why.  Also, officially they weren’t going to charge us anything so we just slipped a ‘huge tip’ of $50 to him.  Since his salary is $15/month he will hopefully be pleased, but we still felt guilty as you couldn’t even get someone to look at your engine in the States for less than $150 as a call-out fee.  And truthfully, we would have been prepared to pay a lot more to have our engine running again.

Carlos Caballero.  He was happy to work on our engine with our tools.  He told us it is very hard to come by any reasonable tools in Cuba.
While he was working on the engine, Carlos told us about his daughter who is also a doctor.  Doctors make $20.00 per month in Cuba, so she had gone to work in Venezuela, under Chavez, where she made closer to $70.00 per month.  Apparently Venezuela has a huge need for doctors, and they recognize the excellent training the Cubans get.  He told us no other professions are allowed to go, though. 

Also Carlos is a civil engineer.  One of the waitresses who served us in Gibara was also educated as a teacher and had a masters in English but made more waitressing with tips in a tourist restaurant than the $15/month for teaching.

After our relief that our engine was working again, we treated ourselves to a fabulous lunch at the marina restaurant – grilled fish or chicken with rice, salad and french fries for $4 each.  The kids spent the afternoon on the water toys again.  After dinner, we had a movie night, with a screening of “E.T.” on the boat.

We also got a nice surprise during the movie.  We heard someone calling for us from the dock.  When we went out to check there was a man with our filled propane tank!   And only $12 CUC!  I am so excited. 

Any of you who know me well, know that I am only happy when there is good food around.  I wasn’t too pleased with our propane getting low.  The conversation of ‘well we can always eat cold ramen noodles, cold hot dogs and crackers’ did not impress me.  We haven’t had fresh bread or cheese for a week. 

Cheese seems really hard to come by here. So with no cheese or sandwich meat our lunches have been canned soup and crackers every day already – I’m not ready to eat cold soup out of a can.
Tomorrow, we are planning to head into Santiago de Cuba to check out the sights & get some groceries (hopefully cheese!)  It will be great to have a day without thinking about boat issues.

Monashee at the concrete dock in Santiago de Cuba.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

International Incident

Posted by Scot.  Written January 26, 2014.

“Vessel off my bow, vessel of my bow!  This is the United States Coast Guard!  You need to turn around immediately and go back the way you came!”

The spotlight shining directly on us lit up the night, but made it so I couldn’t see the vessel that was hailing us.  I could certainly hear him though.

“United States Coastguard, this is the sailing vessel Monashee.  We are bound for Santiago de Cuba, having left Baitiquiri tonight, and are hoping to get there by morning.  We request permission to continue on our current course,”  I responded hopefully, not sure exactly why we weren’t being allowed to keep going.

“Sailing vessel, you need to be at least 3 miles off shore.  You need to turn around and go back about 400 yards, then you may turn south until you are 3 miles off shore.  We will escort you until you are clear.”

The lights of Gunatanomo at night.  It looks like a big city from the water.  It is a remarkable contrast to Puerto Escondido, the Cuban naval station just to the East, which had a single light as we went past.
Oh.  OK.  I guess we aren’t allowed to sail right past Guantanomo Bay in the middle of the night.  Funny that there was no mention of that in either of our cruising guides.  One of them said you couldn’t sail into the bay, which seemed obvious.  The other, older one, said they requested passage in front of the base, and sailed right through to the Cuban town of Caimanera, deeper in Guantanomo bay.

I also hadn’t seen anything about staying 3 miles off shore on either of our electronic chart sets.  Later on, when I went back to look, I found that on one of the programs, at a specific zoom, there is a warning that you can’t sail through the marked waters without permission of the secretary of the Navy, or someone like that.  Oops.  I hadn’t seen that before, and had charted our course right through the forbidden territory.
By this time, Sara was up and helping me turn the boat around.  We fired up the engine, and turned right around.  Once we had verified with the coast guard that we were far enough back, we turned south, and then checked again before we turned back East.

A blurry picture of our chart plotter showing our course in front of Guantanomo, followed by a hasty retreat and a detour to the south.
So now the good vessel Monashee is documented in an American military computer somewhere.  And there are probably enough key words in this post that the hit count on our blog is going to go up significantly, as the U.S. government checks us out.  (For all I know, they are checking us out already.  I’ll have to look at our blog stats when I get back to the land of the internet). 

The U.S. Coast Guard was polite but firm, and we did apologize for our ignorance.  No harm intended gentlemen!  And hopefully this post will serve as a warning to any other naive citizens of the world – there are certain places where you have to keep your distance.  Fortunately, they didn’t feel the need to break out any major military hardware.  Right now, Sara is back in bed, and I am keeping an eye on the GPS and the lights of Gitmo as we sail past, the proper distance away.

Hopefully we can make it through the rest of the night without running afoul of any other foreign military powers.

The rising sun is always a welcome sight after a night at sea.
Epilogue: As we were beating a hasty retreat from the U.S. Coast Guard in the dark, I said to Sara, half joking “I wonder how much surveillance equipment is pointed at us right now.”  Only half-joking though.  We immediately started watching what we said, in case they could somehow hear us, even without the VHF.
At the same time, I wondered silently to myself how many weapons were pointed at us.

After we arrived at the Marina Marlin in Santiago de Cuba, we got at least a partial answer to the second of those questions.  We met a fellow, Giovanni, from the Icelandic boat (“Ja”), who we had previously met in Puerto de Vita, and again in Baracoa.  They had beaten us to Santiago de Cuba, arriving the day before us, while we were in Baitiquiri.

Anyway, when we asked him how his trip had been, without any prompting from us, he told us a story about passing in front of Guantanomo that was almost identical to ours.  They are using the same cruising guide as us, so I guess they also didn’t know you needed to be three miles out.

The only difference between their experience and ours was that they had been there in daylight, so they got to see the U.S. Coast Guard ship that ordered them to turn around.  Giovanni told us that the ship had been heavily armed with 4 huge mounted machine guns, and every one of them had been pointed at their boat the whole time, with serious looking young men at the triggers.  So I guess we know we had at least that many weapons aimed at us. 

Glad I couldn’t see them.

Adventure, adversity.

Posted by Scot.  Written January 16, 2014.

OK, we haven’t had a technical boat post for a while.  Mostly travelogue recently.  But it is time to get a few issues off my chest.

Monashee at anchor in Baracoa, with fishermen setting their net from an inner tube behind.  I don't think they really needed to come right behind our boat, but they seemed to want to get a look inside.
For the most part, we are thrilled with our boat.  When we compare it to other boats out there, we realize we lucked out with a remarkable platform that is perfect for the kind of adventure we are on, and fits our family to a “T”.  It also highlights the fact that people are willing to come out and sail around the Caribbean on boats that we would never consider.  Not that we are snobbish.  We are just not as prepared as some people to fix a million issues on an aging vessel, or to take the same risks with things like finicky engines, leaking bilges, or suspect water and power supplies.  And by “not prepared” I don’t mean that we aren't willing to fix those things.  What I mean is that there is nothing in our backgrounds or education that has really provided us with the necessary knowledge to fix those things.  So we would just be making it up as we go along.

Having said all that, though, we have been struggling with a few issues on our boat, which in the grand scheme of things are relatively minor.  For sure, if we were still in Florida, they would be really minor.  We would probably have them all fixed in a day or two, and they wouldn’t occupy much of our attention.  But sitting here, in the isolated bay of Baitiquiri, on the south coast of Cuba, where we are not even allowed to go ashore, minor issues have a way of seeming a lot more significant.  Mainly because, without everything working perfectly, the safety margin that we depend on is being chipped away.  We are getting close to the point where another minor issue or two could add up to a major issue, and make things more sketchy than we are happy to live with.

All of Baitiquir that we are allowed to see, since it is forbidden to go ashore.  Although I'm not sure there is a lot more to it.
The Baitiquiri Guarda Frontera, heading in after they checked out our boat.
The issues we are currently working through started in Georgetown, shortly after we replaced our Outback Hub.  That is the device that links up our electrical system, and gives us a readout regarding our solar input, battery charging, and battery inverter.  For some reason, not long after we put the new Hub in, we noticed that we couldn’t run our water maker or our microwave when the generator was charging the batteries.  There seems to be a significant power loss somewhere in the system.  On our panel, it looks like there is a big voltage drop when we try to run these things, but I am not sure that the analog meter is working right.  It doesn't seem to read the same when I check it with a voltmeter. 

We seem to be able to work around it by turning off the battery charger, and running those systems independently.  But that means we need to run the generator twice as long, and use twice as much diesel if we want to make water.  Before we left Georgetown, I contacted Rafael in Fort Lauderdale, and he had some trouble shooting suggestions, but nothing seemed to fix the issue. 

I also contacted Outback themselves.  They didn’t get back to me for a while, but just before we left the Bahamas for Cuba, they sent me links to a bunch of Youtube videos about the system to “help me understand it.”  For all I know, the answer might be in there somewhere.  But with next to no internet access in Cuba, that is not the most helpful approach.  Fortunately it has not been that big an issue so far, since we spent several days in a marina when we first got here.  That allowed us to charge our batteries right up on shore power, and fill our water tanks.  That means we have been able to pickle our water maker for now, and just ignore the problem.  Still, frustrating.  And something we will need to get sorted out eventually.

Our AC pwer panel.  The analog dial in the upper left may or may not be right in telling us we have a gremlin in our A/C. system.  I will need to find a marine electrician somewhere to help me out with this one.
The next issue that is troubling us has to do with our outboard engine, on our dinghy.  Before we left Ft. Lauderdale, we knew it was in need of a 100 hour service.  We tried to get this arranged there, and we did go over the engine with Rafael, who didn’t find any problems with it.  Strangely, we couldn’t find a place in Ft. Lauderdale that was willing to come and pick up our engine to do the service.  And since we had already given up our van, we had no way to get it to them.  So, we figured we would get it done in the Bahamas, where we could bring it in by boat.

In Georgetown, there is an outfit called Minn’s Watersports, who agreed to service our engine for us.  Which was good, because by that time, we were having problems with it cutting out intermittently.  Their diagnosis was water in our fuel, so they cleaned out the fuel system, dumped all our gas, and sold us a new tank full.  After doing all that, when we went to pick up the engine, they told us they didn’t have any parts to service it (like no filters, impellers, oil, etc.).  That was after keeping it for five days.  So the service still never got done.  It seemed to run better, though, so we paid them and figured we would service it ourselves when got access to the parts.  Again, not going to happen in Cuba. 

The bay at Baitquiri is full of jelly fish.  We were hoping to get under the boat to clean it here, but were not so keen after seeing this.
Then, the day before we left Georgetown, the engine started to cut out again.  We noticed, at that point, that there was very little water coming out of the cooling system (normally, there is a steady stream flowing out of these little cooling ports).  I think, now, that that was probably the problem all along, and that the engine is overheating when we run it hard. 

When we were in Puerto de Vita, I managed to hook a hose up to the system and tried to back flush it.  It seemed to clear a bit, but we haven’t gotten to test it yet, since we are really not allowed to use our dinghy in Cuban bays and anchorages.  Again, it is not a huge issue, since we seem to be able to run it a little bit, and it is OK over short distances.  But it does erode our safety margin, since the outboard on the dinghy could also be used to tow the big boat in the event of engine failure there.

Which brings me to our third issue.  As we were motoring from Puerto de Vita into Baracoa, we noticed the rpms on our starboard engine started to drop periodically, and then pick up spontaneously.  This started to happen in the last hour of our 20 hour trip.  Previously, it had seemed to be running fine.  We didn’t run the engine the entire way, but it ran for a big chunk of that trip. 

When we left Baracoa for the overnight trip around Punta Maisi, to Baitiquiri, where we are now sitting, initially, the engine seemed to run fine.  Then, again, two hours before we got here, the rpms started to drop.  This time, it was further, and more frequently.  With our limited knowledge of diesel engines, we have pored over our diesel repair book, and the owner’s manual.  It seems the most likely problem is a faulty fuel injector, although air in the fuel lines could also account for the problem.  Given that I have no way to repair a fuel injector in our current location, I decided to bleed the fuel system, and hope that might help.  I suspect it won’t, though, since  you would think if there was air in the fuel system, the problem would have been consistent, instead of getting worse as we ran the engine longer.

The fuel injectors are those three things in the middle of the picture with the small pipes running to them.
So now, we are faced with another overnight trip to Santiago de Cuba, this time with one engine that works well, one that may or may not work, and a limited ability to tow the boat, with our outboard only working partly.  That means, in the unlikely event that our second engine quits, we will only be able to move the boat under sails alone.  Which could be a challenge, since we intentionally timed all these overnight passages to coincide with little to no wind (which reduces the night time seasickness factor on our boat).  That is the forecast for the next several days. 
And it remains to be seen whether we can get fuel injectors repaired in Santiago de Cuba.  Apparently Cuban mechanics are miracle workers with limited resources, so our fingers are crossed.  But if we need parts, like a new fuel injector, we are probably screwed.  Which leaves us with trying to get the boat somewhere else.  Like 115 miles across open water to Jamaica.

Adventure.  Not always fun when you are in the middle of it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Inside the Town of Baracoa

Posted by Christopher.  Written Jan. 15, 2014.

After a lengthy night of sickening rocking, we had finally reached Baracoa. Admittedly, this was not our final destination, but a good place to stop either way.

We were surprised when the Guarda Fronterra (essentially the Cuban water border, and coast guard) said that we were allowed to actually go on land here, but we needed to leave someone on the boat. So we left Dad, who was really exhausted from the night, and brought Mom to the town, who was just a little bit less exhausted. Since we had put our Dinghy motor up on the big boat for the passage, we had Dad row us over to a landing, then row back, because there was no dock.

This is what happens after a night's passage.  I took this picture of our whole starboard hull using the "panorama" setting on our camera.  That is dad in the cabin at the back, and mom in the front.

Rowing to the dock in Baracoa.
This wreck sits right off the dock at Baracoa.

We had to climb up over these tires to get in and out of the dinghy.
Carrying our handheld radio for calling Dad back when need be, we set off to the town in search of three things: 1- somewhere where we could find good street pizza, which we found to be a recurring tasty thing in Cuba. 2- It was a BOILING hot day, so we were in search of ice cream! 3- We were looking for some good pictures in the town to put in this blog, and we found all those things in the town.

A Cuban apartment building.
First we went to go to the Pizzeria, but we soon found out it was closed until later, and we had about an hour to kill. We decided to go to the corner store to search for ice cream, and the whole time we were walking there we were taking pictures of this and that. I knew that we looked highly touristy, with our ball caps and cameras,but that look could not be helped.

Time to play spot the tourist again!
Eventually we reached the cornerstore, and mom poked her head in and asked for ice cream, in her fluent Spanish. The lady at the counter said yes, which I knew was si, and then we popped in and walked casually to the ice cream freezer. They had mounds and mounds of Vanilla Chocolate Chip flavour, and so we bought two small tubs and got four plastic spoons.

We walked around for a little while after, until we saw a nice spot in the shade, so we ate the ice cream there.

Lots of horse drawn carriages in Baracoa.
And a bici-taxi.
...or two.
After that we walked back to the Pizzeria, only to find they didn’t actually have Pizza today. Mom asked the lady in the restaurant who told us that if there’s any other places that had pizza, and she said yes. So they got someone to lead us up the street a ways up to a second floor balcony on a Casa Particular, where we could order pizza.

A Cuban pizza place.
We ordered and each got fairly big personal pizza’s, for $1 CUC each (which is the equivalent of an American dollar). they were really tasty for what you’d expect to get in Cuba, and so we ate them all up and headed back on our way.

The Malecon at Baracao.
Peeking into a Cuban church.
Checking out some market goods in Baracoa.
Finally we headed back to where Dad could pick us up, and we radioed him. He picked up the radio immediately, and soon he was underway to come get us. We climbed on the dinghy and rowed all the way back, then went and go some nice cold water and relaxed.