JAMAICA TO GRAND CAYMAN, 11-13 DEC

Monday, 10 Dec, got the boat all washed up; Otis and Horace did a bang-up job. I cleaned and stored away inside, Jean-Marie got the fuel and water topped up and everything shipshape outside. A last dip in the pool, a last shower and hairwash, last posts online, and we said all our goodbyes with much handshakes and hugs. It was very similar to when we arrived with everyone visiting the boat for a final send off. I’ll miss this place.

We were up early and had coffee done and cleaned up still in darkness. By the first graying of the sky, we were casting off and motoring out. We didn’t make it out of the harbour when the engine started acting up again. It had always been hard to start but ran well once going. Now it started dying at the 45 min mark if not in gear. We rigged a system and can now prime the primary fuel filter in less than a minute before spending 10 trying to get the darn engine to catch. <sigh>

A little fishing boat (picture a 14 foot aluminum job with 4 guys and an oversize motor) tried playing chicken with us, middle of the harbour with a barge on one side of us and a cargo ship on the other side. So we deked ‘em out and slid around behind. Sheesh!

Another beautiful sunrise greeted us as we turned out of the mouth into the main channel. We headed out past the tanker parking lot to make our turn west and we just made the last marker when a cargo ship came roaring up on our starboard side. Not having turn signals on the boat, we hugged the marker to make our turn and he cut inside. We sped up, he sped up. We were farther along so we just cut over and made our turn; once we crossed his bow we were outta there. Sheesh again! Crazy drivers even on the high seas.

It was about 8-10 foot waves and crappy wind the whole first day and most of the way through the night. The current, tide, waves and wind all seemed to come from different directions. Late afternoon during one of the doldrums, Jean-Marie went to snug up the main boom when the rope fouled. The core stretched out in this hands while the wrapping fed back into the pulley and jammed everything. So we cross-tied the boom and he re-rigged it with new rope.

We spent an uncomfortable night in a washing machine. It was a dark moon and the sky filled with clouds early on. Not being able to see what was happening was very disconcerting.

To top it off, toward the end of this long night, and during the ‘dark before the dawn’, the traveller stop came off. During the latest dying of the wind when the boom was snapping, it went to port and just kept going. Jean-Marie climbed out and rigged a pull and we winched the boom back in so he could re-attach the traveller and lock it into place with 2 pairs of vice grips. MacGyver is alive and well on this boat! Would this night never end?

Sunrise the next morning, Day 2/12 Dec, was spectacular. I marvel that the sun has risen every day for millions of years and it is completely different every time. With daylight came calmer seas after awhile but also calmer wind. We motored when we had to but were fairly content with the 5 knots or so. It was such a nice change from our last trip. We spent most of the day working on the engine and other stuff. Some of our “other stuff” is kinda personal so I won’t detail it here. Suffice to say, autopilot is a blessing.

In the afternoon, we were graced by the visit of another swallow. How do these things get out here 500 miles in the middle of nowhere?? He circled the boat several times then got up the nerve to land on the bimini. He rode with us the rest of the day and into the evening, just sitting quietly and unafraid by our moving around.

So, with calm-ish seas, decent weather, so-so winds – all coming from the proper directions, we thought maybe, just maybe, it would be a smoother night. Well it turned out to be too smooth. We flipped and flapped all night, motoring off and on, anything to try to keep going in the right direction. The swallow really didn’t like the boom swinging over his head so decided to launch out on his own again.

Morning of Day 3/13 Dec saw us only 20 some odd nautical miles out. The sun came up, the wind picked up, the seas were calm and we rode the last bit of the way under full sail. It was an absolutely perfect morning of sailing. Now THIS is what I signed on for!!

About 3 miles out, we called for Port Authority for instructions – and they answered on the first call! We scooted around through the cruise ships (there were 4 of them in) and got to follow an honest-to-goodness pirate ship in the rest of the way. Dodging cruise ship tenders we toodled around until the Harbour Patrol came alongside and gave us our paperwork to complete, which we did while turning circles trying to stay off the rocks and out of everyone’s way. Once they were ready for us, we followed them to the visitors dock, tied up and went to see Customs and Immigration. Twenty minutes later we were free to go. (mwaa-haa-haa) Harbour Patrol was busy so we let ourselves out and headed to the transit buoy area where we called to find out where they wanted us. They said to pick a spot and settle in so we did.

Hooking a buoy line is another grand experience – I got to do the cool “Titanic” thing in the bow. Able to hook the rope twice, it also got away from me twice – I didn’t know what to do with it once I had it. So I took the wheel and Jean-Marie showed off his skills – on the first try, of course.

After getting the boat settled in her new camping spot, we took the dinghy over to town – a cigarette, a drink and a meal were the priority list. Dinner at Breeze’s was great; Jean-Marie had mahi mahi and I had shrimp – good meal but expensive as we figured it would be. A cool drink to try is the Reggae Raspberry Mohito: raspberry rum with raspberry puree, mint, lime and juice. So good and really packs a punch.

On the trek to find cigarettes (pretty much only in the duty free shops and expensive), I did find a coffee shop with wifi – and great latte. First decent cup of coffee since Starbucks in Curacao! It was heaven – even in 35 degree sun.

We had a relaxing evening back aboard, finding a good radio station (reminded me of the Bear in Edmonton) and I even had a skinny dip to freshen up. Even with all the traffic around and the cruise ships anchored just over there, someone would have needed binoculars trained on just the right spot at just the right moment – and then it would serve them right for spying!

All in all, not a bad trip at all – Tues 0600 until Thurs noon-ish. No bad weather, no squalls, no 30 ft waves – a few mishaps with the boom and engine, one little sun shower of 30 seconds, a swallow visitor and a small pod of dolphins on Day 2. Yup, I would count this one a success.

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