A Change of Plans

On Tuesday night, while tied to the mooring ball at the Montego Bay Yacht Club and Marina, the generator alarm went off. The batteries are fully charged but the smart system in the generator figured out it would not be able to start. In the morning Gabe and I read and reread the Yanmar trouble shooting guide. I found a burnt fuse and Gabe found a disconnected wire. We fixed them but the generator was still not getting any power. We searched for more fuses and circuit breakers to no avail. Gabe decided to leave Pilar at the Montego Bay Marina until April 7 and not move her to Port Antonio. He contacted a mechanic to repair the generator. The MBYC agreed to let Pilar stay at the dock while Gabe is away. We used a Mediterranean style mooring technique. We have a long line off the bow to the mooring ball, an anchor off our port bow and lots of spring lines tying the stern to the dock.

The little white dot is our mooring ball.

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We now get on and off the boat using a plank.  Aye, we must walk the plank matey.

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Tiesday was our farewell day for Angela. She flew out of Montego Bay to go back to Chicago. Gabe needed a lot of help getting Pilar tied to the dock so Priscilla and I were glad we were still here to help. The winds are honking out of the east so it would have been a spirited ride to windward to go to Ocho Rios and then on to Port Antonio. Some things just work out.

Priscilla and I went for a tour of Montego Bay with our driver Leroy Simpson. He took us from the penthouse to the outhouse of neighborhoods. He was willing to drive through the ghettos during the day but not at night. There are many lovely homes on the hills with great ocean views.

Leroy Simpson and CFJ

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The tech arrived around 3:00 pm to work on the generator. He worked tirelessly for four hours trying to trace the source of the problem. At last he had that eureka moment when he grabbed the main power cable to the starter and the fitting crumbled in his hand. Corrosion is insidious. Rust never sleeps. He will bring a new fitting tomorrow and we shall see if that is the solution.

John and Priscilla had dinner at Margaritaville in Montego Bay. There is another Margaritaville in Negril. The cruise ships were departing so the restaurant was 99% empty. The staff was 100% high on fresh air and ganja. The odor of marijuana wafted ever so stronger as the waitstaff eventually approached. We had a spectacular view of the cruise ships as they departed Montego Bay for their next port of call. Perhaps they are cruising to the Cayman Islands or the Yucatan.

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Farewell cruise ship.  Safe journey.

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On Wednesday we has the option to take a 3 hour round trip taxi ride to Ocho Rios or chill. We chose chill. There is a Hard Rock Cafe beach club less than a 10 minute walk from the marina. Priscilla and I spent a lovely afternoon at the Hard Rock. We had lunch, swam in the pool and swam in the sea. We rented two lounge chairs and an umbrella for $12.00.

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Priscilla’s view at lunch

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Kuhmar, the generator tech returned with the cable fitting. He installed the fitting and the generator sprang to life. Upon closer examination the water pump was leaking water all over the generator which may have contributed to the rapid corrosion on the power cable fitting. Gabe retrieved a new water pump from his vast inventory of spare parts. With the new water pump installed he let the generator run for two hours while we all had dinner at the marina. The meals were excellent as was the service. The wait staff at the marina are older and not accompanied by the whiff of a spliff when they approach the table.

Our final night onboard Pilar was a quiet one. We packed our bags in preparation for our flight from Montego Bay airport to Miami on Thursday. Leroy will pick us up at 11:30 am for our 2:12 pm flight on American Airlines. It is nice that the taxi ride to the airport will be five miles and not the 100 miles from Port Antonio. We will have a 2 hour flight. Upon arrival in Miami we will require transportation to the Grove Isle Marina to retrieve our car. Perhaps Uber or Lyft will work or there may be a train or bus to get us closer. Hopefully our car was not towed away in the three weeks we have been gone. The marina has very limited parking so the Dockmaster Jorge recommended parking in the main lot for the condominium complex.

On Thursday morning Leroy picked us up at the marina and drove us to the to the Montego Bay airport.  Our flight arrived in Miami on time.  I contacted Lyft for a ride to the Grove Isle marina.  Our car had not been towed.  We drove the 104 miles from Miami and Stuart arrived home at 8:30 pm.

Priscilla and I are glad we could accompany Gabe and Angela on the first two legs of their four year circumnavigation.  Bon voyage.

“it is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Rock’n and Rolln’ in Jamaica

On Saturday morning it was a heartfelt farewell to our Cuban friends at the Marlin Marina in Cayo Largo, Cuba. The marina managers Peri and Gabino wished us well on our 320 mile cruise to Jamaica. Gabino gave us each a CD of Cuban music. We do not have a CD player on the boat so we will have to wait until we get back Miami and get our car to listen to them. We paid the Marina fee of $104 for two days with no service charge or mandatory propina (tip) that we had to pay in Marina Hemingway.

Farewell amigo Pire

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Farewell amigo Gabino

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The immigration and customs team said they would arrive at 10:20 am. They showed up at 10:45 am and dispensed with the paperwork efficiently. One federale looked for stowaways below. They returned our passports and we were cleared to depart Cuba. Now that we had our passports we could go to the bank and exchange the last of our Cuban pesos CUC’s for Yankee dollars. This process took at least 20 minutes to convert 71 CUC into USD $68.00.

Farewell to our favorite tiki bar in Cuba

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We finally shoved off at 11:15 am for our 40 plus hour cruise to Jamaica.  It is a pretty simple course as long as you don’t hit the Cayman Islands along the way.

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The wind and waves were already higher and larger than forecasted. In this part of the Caribbean Sea the winds pick up 10 kts at night instead of dropping when the sun goes down. It must have something to do with the north winds flowing over the mountain ranges in Cuba. Once again we hurdled through the pitch blackness with 4-6 footers and occasional 8 footers on the beam. The breeze was again 20 – 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Pillar handles these conditions well. The Raymarine auto pilot sways through 20* as the waves push around. Every once in a while a rogue 10 footer hits us on our front quarter and sends a wall of water over the top of the hard dodger enclosure. Since it is pitch black it is always a surprise. The moon came up around 1:00 am. and we had some visibility. Finally we could see the monstrous waves just before they roll us.

As on any sailboat the front berth on Pilar is uninhabitable in those conditions. Attempting to sleep forward would be like trying to sleep on a carnival ride that moves in 6 directions at once then launches you in the air. Since levitation is not relaxing for us, Priscilla and I moved to the quarter berths in the middle of the boat. Priscilla settled in on the leeward bunk (low side as the boat tips 20*). I was in the weather berth (high side) with a lee cloth so I would not roll out onto the floor. The lee cloth is a piece of canvas that is attached under the mattress and to the ceiling. We are only in these bunks for 4 hours at a time before we relieve Gabe and Angela for our duty shift on the helm.

By 3:00 pm on Sunday the wind and waves abated enough to flatten the boat out. Flat enough to brush our teeth because now you only needed one hand to keep from falling every time we got rolled. Pilar is a well designed boat because she has adequate handholds throughout the cabin to get from front to back without a gap. Several times as I was holding onto the ceiling rail, Pilar rolled so far that my feet came off the floor.

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As we sailed past the Cayman Islands on our way to Jamaica Captain Gabe suggested we change course from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Montego Bay is where Angela will fly out on March 21 and Priscilla and I will fly out on March 23. This saves us 40 miles which is almost 6 hours by not going to Ocho Rios.  This is a good plan if we can find a reliable marina in Montego Bay for Gabe to leave Pilar for two weeks. On the chart we see there is a Montego Bay Yacht Club and Marina. We will call them in the morning when we arrive.

We dropped the anchor in Montego Bay, Jamaica at 4:00 am. That was 320 miles and 41 hours after departing Cuba. The section of the harbor where we dropped anchor is rather rolly poly. There was one other sailboat and a 175′ powerboat anchored near us. We could see the spreaders on the other sailboat’s mast almost touch the water on each side as the waves rolled him. We were rolling at anchor like we were still in the Gulf Stream. At 7:30 am I called the Montego Bay Yacht Club. They said come on over and take a mooring ball. We tied up to the mooring ball and took the dingy to shore to meet with the customs and immigration officials. This took over 2 hours. The MBYC has a very nice building. We had coffee while we waited for the final government official to arrive.

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We saw one of the crew from a boat that was at the Marina Hemingway. She gave us an update on Darcy the Polish girl that had lost her passport. Darcy went back to her hotel in Havana too use the WIFI. While she was there the desk clerk said they found her passport, credit cards and money. Darcy hitchhiked to Cienfuegos on the south side of Cuba and got on a boat headed to Mexico.

The MBYC is not the most secure location to leave Pilar unattended for two weeks. The plan is to drop Angela off at the marina on Tuesday morning for her flight to Chicago. Gabe, John and Priscilla will sail Pilar 55 miles to Ocho Rios, spend the night then sail 45 miles to the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio where Gabe will leave Pilar. Because nothing is simple there is a fishing tournament and Gabe will need to move his boat to a mooring for three days. That will be challenging since he will be in Chicago. John and Priscilla will have a 100 mile taxi ride to the Montego Bay airport on Thursday.

We are currently the red triangle on the left side of Jamaica in Montego Bay.  Ocho Rios is the blue pin in the middle and Port Antinio is the blue pin on the right side. Pilar will stay at the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio.

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We hired a car and driver to take us from Montego Bay to Negril for diner.  Our driver Leroy is in his mid-fifties and has 10 children ranging in age from 12 – 36 years old with 8 different mothers. Leroy has never been married. He drove for one hour and we spotted a water view bar just before before sunset. We stopped for a cocktail at the Firewater Love Nest.

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There was also ganja (marijuana) already rolled and free to bar patrons. The north side of Jamaica has a long history of marijuana production and smuggling. After the Vietnam war several US pilots started making regular flights from Jamaica to Florida. Eventually they made so much money they had to open legitimate businesses to launder the money. Rick’s Cafe was opened in 1974 by one such entrepreneur.

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Another Day in Paradise

Cayo Largo has a very welcoming marina. The staff has a lot of pride in developing their tourist business. They do not get much if any investment from the government so like everywhere else in Cuba they have to make do. Last night we went to bed with the intention to fuel up and sail half way to Jamaica. We had so much fun last night at dinner and meeting the local people we decided to stay one more day and sail the 383 miles to Jamaica in one leg. On Thursday night I visited the harbormaster Gabino Cid.

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I happened to stop by his office to inquire where I could buy a WIFI card. He said the office that sells the WIFI cards closed 10 minutes ago at 8:00 pm but would I be willing to join him for a Cuba Libre. He introduced me to Raymond the airport manager. We chatted about his life. He has a passport from Spain as well as Cuba so he has traveled outside Cuba. He had visited Chicago a few years ago. He went to Brazil to start a business and lost all his money. Now at age 44 he is starting all over again. His family lives in Havana. He has two children, a boy 13 a girl 15. He works 20 days and then goes to Havana for 10 days. He earns $24 per month just like everyone else in Cuba. Gabe gave him a tip for helping tie up the boat and I gave him a can of shaving cream, a baseball for his son and a five pack of chewing gum for his daughter. A can of shaving cream costs $5.50 in Cuba. That is a weeks pay so it is real luxury.

We had dinner at the marina tiki bar. Two rounds of cocktails and four dinners cost a total of $40. It is nice to be away from Havana prices. In the afternoon we tried to rent a taxi or van to take us around the island for sight-seeing. There were no taxis available so we rented a full size tour bus and driver for $40.

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We visited several all inclusive hotels. The advantage of an all inclusive hotel is you can walk up to the bar and order a drink and walk away. It is all inclusive. The bar tender cannot accept cash. We also visited an iguana and crocodile farm.

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One of Cayo Largo’s most infamous residents was an American who was number one on the FBI’s most wanted list. Robert Lee (Bobby) Vesco the fugitive financier built a house in Cayo Largo and lived here with his family. He started a few joint ventures with Fidel Castro and had another house in Havana. Unfortunately Bobby tried to swindle Fidel and ended up dying in a Cuban jail. His house was converted into a very nice hotel and is still called the American House.

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Bobby Vesco

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We were invited to visit the crew onboard the Beneteau 57 Luna Azul (Blue Moon). Paulo the owner is from Italy and is cruising with his girlfriend Danielle. Danielle is from an Italian family from Venezuela. Paulo’s former business partner in the oil business Les is from Denmark. Les is onboard for one month and said no one else wanted to do the crossing to Jamaica. They have sailed their boat in the Mediterranean and then sailed to the Canary Islands and then to the Caribbean. It was a 16 day crossing of the Atlantic. Paulo said if there are no storms it is the most boring 16 days of your life. They had discussed sailing around the world but have currently decided to just cruise the Caribbean for a few years.

Les, Paulo and Danielle

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One of our blog readers Bill Nordeen has a strong connection to Cuba. Bill provided the following comments. “My brother’s name was Jack. He was an officer in the rebel army and part of Fidel’s inner circle, lived in the Presidential Palace after the revolution. The first issue of Life Magazine in 1959 has a picture of him from when he first joined the rebel army. I believe he rode into Havana on the right front fender of Castro’s jeep, but really don’t know for sure. If you google him and go far enough you’ll find a picture of him with William Morgan(ex U.S. Military and the strategic mastermind of the revolution, he was later executed by Fidel), a very young Bob Brown, founder of Soldier of Fortune magazine, two unnamed Cubans and Jack atop some Havana hotel. All except Bob Brown are well armed. Jack became disillusioned with Castro and I recently found an FBI memo that states he was attempting to form a 700 man Army to invade Cuba. It didn’t happen.”

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