After waiting for over a week for a decent weather window to Cartagena, Columbia, we finally had an opportunity to head south for a few days not to Cartagena as originally planned but to Jamaica Port Antonio to be exact. So, we left Clarence Town Long Island Bahamas around 6:30 a.m. and immediately realized there’s no wind at least not enough to sail. No wind means no sailing, but we threw out a couple of fishing lines and immediately heard the zing of the reel. I slowed the boat while Rankin reeled in the fish which we soon determined was a barracuda not the fish of choice in this area for fear of cigutera a poison which can affect the nervous system. We got it to the side of the boat, unfortunately, the fish managed to get under the boat and around our rudder. Since we couldn’t pull him up, Rankin let out more fishing line and the barracuda came into sight at our stern. Rankin managed to jiggle the fish off the line then while holding the line with lure in hand he cut the line and then I reeled in our lureless line which easily came unwrapped from the rudder (YEAH). What a relief. We were glad when that was over and there was no damage. We kept the other line in the water and quickly had another fish on the line. This fish was a fighter and it was so exciting to watch him jump and fight. It took Rankin about twenty minutes to reel this big boy in. It was a Mahi Mahi. Rankin gaffed him and we brought him aboard. While Rankin was holding the gaff, I tried to spray his gills with alcohol. Meanwhile, the fish was flopping around spraying blood all over us and the boat (YUK). Next thing we knew, he was off the gaff and back in the water, but still on the line. We tried to get him aboard again, but the line broke. The fish and our new lure were lost. We decided not to put any more lines in the water for a while. I took the helm while Rankin rested.
With no lures in the water, we continued our trip motoring about twelve hours. Finally around 6 p.m., the winds picked up enough to sail. It was wonderful turning off the engine and hearing just the peaceful sounds of the ocean and winds. We had a nice evening sail though it looked a bit squally at first the weather later cleared. We did three hour watches and felt pretty rested that night. Later in the evening, we saw a 165 ft Motor Yacht called Norwegian Queen which we spoke with on VHF. This just happened to be the same motor yacht we saw in St. Simon Island, Georgia last year … what a small world.
Around 9 a.m. on Friday, January 20th we arrived the Windward Passage and were buzzed several times by a low flying helicopter which we later determined was the United States Coast Guard. Shortly thereafter, the Coast Guard hailed us on VHF channel 16 and asked for our vessel name and home port which we gladly provided then they promptly flew off. Our travel through the Windward Passage was uneventful. We saw a few large vessels but the passage wasn’t nearly as busy as we had anticipated. We had a very nice sail with wind 10-15 knots, 100-120 degrees, seas 4-6 feet. Around mid morning, we noticed the beautiful outline of Cuba to starboard and a similar outline of Haiti to port.
Friday late afternoon the wind picked up and the next thing you know we were sailing along with 25-30 knot winds around 120 degrees (not so bad off the aft quarter) and seas building to 10 feet (aft quarter again not too bad). At this point with evening approaching, we decided to add two reefs to the main and a couple of reefs to the jib. Gypsea handled like a charm, AUTO (our autopilot which we haven’t named yet) kept up with wind and seas, and we were comfortable. However, due to the direction of the wind, we ended up jibing our way along our course to Jamaica. Our chart had a zig zag pattern down it like someone had sewn a stitch across the screen. Since we were jibing about every two hours, we altered our watches from a three hour watch schedule to a two hour watch schedule.
Saturday morning conditions still persisted but didn’t worsen. We noticed the outer shield to our main sheet (a line which holds the boom in place) broke apart, but the main sheet didn't completely break (YEAH). Since we still had a reefed main up, we secured the boom with a another line in case our main sheet completely separated. We will replace or repair the main sheet in Jamaica. The wind finally dropped to 10-12 knots about three hours out from Port Antonio and seas quickly calmed to about 5-6 feet. Winds again dropped and forced us to motor the remaining two hours into Port Antonio.
As we came into the anchorage, we waved down a couple in their dinghy and they (Tony & Jacqualine from the sailing vessel Jakker) directed us to the dock for the night and told us we could check in with immigration and customs tomorrow. We've already met several cruisers at the dock and it looks like a beautiful little spot with white Christmas lights decorating the nearby buildings and the sounds of tree frogs in the background. We were allowed to stay at the dock for the night with customs and immigration coming tomorrow to check us into Jamaica. With the boat secure, we had a cocktail before calling it a night. Until the next time …