Ship’s Log

Cuba in One Day

8 June 2024

Phew, that was an experience. Cuba… It is impossible to describe it with just a line. But we’ve gone there, we’ve seen it and we left it after spending there just one day. The marina we parked our boat at, along with a significant part of the region it is located in looses power every day. It is the schedule the government has people living on. At the moment you have power, at night you won’t.

So with no power at night, or nearly ever, at the dock, sleeping is not an option. In order to disperse the clouds of bitie bugs and stay cool we ended up running the engine! In the middle of the night. Several times (our battery is shut). And the bunk we sleep on is located right by the engine. So, imagine, you are lying in bed, hot, sweaty, mosquitoes whining by your ear, landing on you. Covering yourself with a sheet isn’t an option, it is so hot. And the only way to run a fan is to have the engine running right by your head. Plus, you can die of carbon monoxide poisoning (there is no draft to disperse the exhaust). Meg and I both agreed, spending another night like the one we had was not an option.

I wondered through a residential area adjacent to the marina, knowing I have only a few hours before we take off. I saw slums. Shanties. Tiny things. Sickly dogs and hens with chicks. People waking up, stepping onto the street, smiling at me. I can’t imagine they live like this. To me, these conditions are inhuman.

Despite the beauty of the country somewhere far, which is impossible to reach because you would have to spend hours in a bus without air conditioner, I don’t think Meg and I would stay longer even if we could sleep at night. People’s hardship is that depressing. And I don’t think things are much better in larger towns. Despite the picture the doctor who cleared us in painted. I asked him if he wanted to be an American. He passionately shook his head. He truly believes he has it all. Or maybe he does?

Elena out

Doctor Rolando and his Russian 20-year-old motorbike

Stuck

2 June 2024

So, we’re stuck at the end of long Island in Bahamas. It’s the last stop or maybe the second last, before reaching Cuba so we can try to get stamps in our passports. To say that this is a pain, just for stupid passport stamps, would be an understatement of epic proportions. Whether it’s just a massive reluctance to do this song and dance in and out of Cuba and then back into Bahamas, or whether it’s the truly sucky weather, nobody really knows.

Only one interesting thing to discuss in this log entry would be the fact that just about every single deserted beach and reef, and don’t mistake those for actually living reefs, in Bahamas seems to be decorated by wrecked sailboats. It makes me wonder where all of these sailboats come from and what story or what tragedy let it end up lying on its side up on the rocks, or 5 m down with its snout sticking out of a sandbar, or who knows? What happened to the poor soul or souls on that forlorn sailboat at rest on the rocks? What dreams died there? Or was it a merciful end to a horrible and grinding existence for someone? Did anyone love that wreck or the wretched soul that steered it to its end? Did anybody know them? Did anybody care? Did anybody notice?

Crooked Island

29 May 2024

There was no captain’s log entry yesterday because the captain was in a foul mood after having survived probably the worst night and possibly the worst day at sea, ever! After a steering failure we dropped anchor off the island that Christopher Columbus is reported to have first landed at. Technically it wasn’t much more than a rock sticking out of nowhere so it’s hard to believe it was where Christopher Columbus declared he had discovered the West indies. No doubt, the bahamanians placed a concrete marker to claim that’s where Columbus first set foot in the new world.

Somehow captain and crew managed to Jerry rig a franken autopilot. Using the hydraulic ram from the original autopilot and wiring it directly to the autopilot computer of the temporary, toy autopilot somehow worked! So far, knock on wood three times for good luck.

Leaving that tiny island, called Samana cay, Elena lost one of her shoes overboard. This is quite a tragedy considering we haven’t been anywhere near where we can actually buy things like shoes or clothing for about 5 years now. So losing one shoe is a pretty big blow. We actually tried to rescue it, saw it three times at least, each time lost it in the waves. With heavy hearts we finally gave up and headed for where we are now anchored for the evening, off the North West tip of something called crooked Island. We notice on our charts that we were here almost 1 year ago. Wow!

Plans are to carry on toward the ragged island chain, there’s some kind of winter storm coming, cold outflow from North America, that we’re going to have to somehow weather in the next couple of days. So, to all the climate change deniers out there, let me just tell you, we’ve got winter storms right alongside developing tropical storms at he same time. That certainly doesn’t sound like a climate not going through some kind of change. It’s the one time I agree with Pope Francis, the climate is in collapse, and we are definitely seeing that and feeling that and hopefully surviving it.

First mate Elena has just asked me to add a reminder that we are doing this in order to be together. And why on a sailboat in the middle of nowhere when we don’t seem to be having a good time? Simple, this is what happens when you love across enemy lines. We are relegated to the precious few countries that both Russians and Canadians are allowed entry into. And of those countries, we are only allowed tourist entry which means running from one country to another every few months. This is becoming increasingly difficult during wartime.

WTF Just Happened… Again!

27 May 2024

Two incredibly hard days and hard nights out of Turks and Caicos and we turn around. Again!

It started okay, departing from the furthest East point of Bahamas, the weather was unusually calm. But, it just got progressively more and more normal. Normal is not a weather condition this boat can handle. Normal for an ocean means normal ocean weather and conditions. It means trade winds around 15 knots maybe 20, it means waves one to two meters in height, and choppy. Choppy simply means the waves are normal, and on a little boat they splash over the deck come through the hatches make everything salty and toss the boat around like a floater in a toilet.

As the weather went to normal, sailing went from, “okay maybe we can do this,” to “Sailing absolutely sucks!” But we stuck with it through one hellish night and up till 11:07 a.m. the following morning. The weather forecast was showing a cold front, that’s a winter storm, coming out of North America that we were in for. This would make normal sailing a little bit less pleasant than normal, and since normal already means sucks and you don’t want to be alive sailing already, that’s adding a cold front wasn’t going to be any fun. Not to mention it was another 12 days of this normal pleasure to the West indies, or at least 45 days to Montenegro. So this time, it was I, you’re intrepid captain, who said f*** it and turned the boat around.

Still can’t go back into Bahamas legally, we need to clear into another country, so we’re going to try for Cuba and hopefully find ways to negotiate our way out of various things like having the satellite equipment confiscated or being forced to take covid vaccines from rusty needles.

We might also try to hire a few souls to get some work done on this boat. One way or another it’s going to be an adventure! And that’s adventure with a capital A which means absolutely sucks, so we’ll keep the log going and you informed of our fun and enthralling good times.

Once that’s been taken care of, we’ll likely return to Bahamas to reprovision and try again for the Eastern Mediterranean.

We still have to get to Cuba, and the weather isn’t getting any less normal.

I wonder if there’s anybody out there who hates their boat as much as we hate ours.

Elena and Meg, Elena Vaytsel
Elena and Meg, Elena Vaytsel

Day Two

26 May 2024

Perfect sailing today. Still heading due north from Turks and Caicos, which wouldn’t let us in with a Russian. Eventually the wind will start to veer allowing us to start to take up some East in our course. Time is starting to take on that meaningless quality one gets while sailing. One sort of enters a trance like state. Looking at the weather ahead this is probably the last few hours of anything resembling peace and sailing is going to get harder and harder from here on in. We still don’t know where we’re actually going. It will probably be dictated by equipment failure or weather and wherever a Russian is allowed to land. The photographs are taken just before making this log entry. Yes, that’s sunset somewhere over the North Atlantic.

Elena and Meg, Elena Vaytsel
Elena and Meg, Elena Vaytsel

Day One

25 May 2024

Departure, as always, was an emotional event, kept under wraps by my ninja powers of emotional suppression. Watching safety and beauty disappear behind as one ventures into the deep ocean for who knows how long, is not easy. But, it has to be done. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. For some reason, this time I have an uneasy feeling. It could be the novel I’m reading about three astronauts being launched into space where they know they shall die. A one-way mission.

I guess I feel this way because I’m pretty sure we won’t be turning around this time. As for everything else, it’s nominal. As in, no problems. So far. I know the weather won’t stay this nice. One thing that keeps me going though, is knowing that it’s still possible to get to Grenada in the West indies. The boat really is not in good shape. For instance, the electrical system is seriously compromised by bogus batteries I stupidly purchased in Panama. Then again it was either fake batteries or no batteries at all. They’re more like capacitors. Which isn’t good considering they need to run the toy autopilot, and now the Starlink satellite communication system. And now the sun is setting, which means it’s getting dark, which means we are going to go dark as the solar panels can no longer feed the starlink, and it’s not like we can store any electricity for the dark times with fake batteries.

So, that’s me for the captain’s log, signing off on day one, and facing first night.