Varadero, Cuba –
January 04, 2020 –
Let me tell you the good news first: Yesterday we safely arrived in Varadero, Cuba Marina Gaviota, Varadero after a 168 hrs/503 nautical mile exciting passage:
We left GreatInagua, Bahamas on Dec 28 around 13:00 with some delay because I needed to climb the mast to cut the tangled Christmas lights off the rigging.
However we set sail and the forecasted 5 Bft quicky turned into a 6-7 Bft (near gale force) and the 3 m/10 ft waves of the forecast rather looked (and felt) like 5 m/16 ft to me.
Anyway, I met my friend Jo on “Cool Breeze” who left Great Inagua 3 hrs ahead of us and very soon later lost sight of her. She was bound to Florida, too, to the Gulf side, though. So we had charted the same general course. “Seefalke” and I were flying northwest, got a bad beating. Before VHF com with “Cool Breeze” was lost, the last transmission indicated there was a problem on “Cool Breeze”, however not serious enough that it required immediate assistance. So we agreed that we would wait for them on the other side of the front in the forecasted calm.
After two days finally we had passed the weather and as if someone pushed a button, the furious Atlantic turned into a peaceful, innocent pond. It reminded me a little of Cap’n Jack when he put on his most innocent look saying “No, it wasn’t me! Can these eyes lie?”
So I hove to in order to keep my waiting position and enjoyed the calm after the storm. This gave me the opportunity to clear the mess in the cabin that was caused by the fact that during the beating my temporarily installed refrigerator was catapulted through the boat, uncontrolledly unloading its entire content on the cabin floor. Pie was dripping from the head door, a melange of eggs, ketchup and milk turned the floor into slimy, slippery grounds and – into dogs’ paradise (and skipper’s hell). I must admit they did a great job cleaning the mess!
Running low on propane I even could make lunch in our solar oven and enjoyed the first hot meal in days. New Year’s Eve went past and the New Year started with a clear horizon. No sail, no sign of “Cool Breeze”. Finally I received a 8 digit call-back number on my satellite phone, which made no sense. But after I translated this assumed call-back number into a geographical position it could well be that “Cool Breeze” is still around 60 nautical miles behind. Later it turned out Jen could not send satellite text message so she used this trick to submit her position.
So finally on the evening of Jan 01, SAILS ON THE HORIZON!
We established a line connection, I swam over and we had dinner together after which I returned to “Seefalke” and we cut the line connection. The rest of the night we would just drift and get some well needed sleep.
It turned out in the bad weather a huge breaking sea slammed into “Cool Breeze’s” cockpit and flooded the electrical installation below. Two batteries had to be cut off and the remainder of power was not enough to run the auto-pilot, so Jen was manually steering for almost four days!
We agreed we would proceed the next morning and try to stay within VHF range. Needless to say that “Cool Breeze’s” VHF antenna was blown off and “VHF range” now meant “handheld VHF range” which is not more than three nautical miles.
Still headed for Florida the next day I received a gale warning for the Strait of Florida with gale force northerly winds. (The Strait of Florida is the sea between Florida and Cuba that we would need to cross from south to north.)
So we decided to sail northwest instead and call in Varadero, Cuba and wait for better weather there. From here it is just 80 nm to Key West, Florida.
We finally arrived in Varadero on Jan 04 around noon, so exactly 7 days after our departure. The reception was most friendly and the clearance procedure time-consuming but pleasant. Customs, immigration, coast guard, customs veterinarian and pet veterinarian one after another boarded “Seefalke” and checked every compartment and locker. GPS devices, satellite phones, emergency flares and rockets were sealed but finally the boat, the dogs and me were cleared to enter Gaviota Marina, with 1350 slips the largest marina of the northern Caribbean, however apart from some local boat we were just the third visitor of this season. Due to the unfortunate bi-lateral political tensions the marina is lacking their target clients: US sailors.
However it has all amenities you can possibly imagine and is a perfect place to wait out the storm – at rates a tenth of Florida marina prices!!
You enjoyed the read? Come aboard for another adventure on the high seas! This is the captain’s pick: