Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 22, 2016

Sailing from Jamaica to Providencia

13.4.16 – Wednesday – Gili and Yaron left in the morning and a new crew member came on board. He is Gil Margalit, a 57 years old Israeli, who lived and worked in the U.S for about 20 years and is now back in Israel working as a Hi-Tech entrepreneur. He saw an ad that a friend of mine put up in his sailing club and got in touch.

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   As we were talking, getting to know each other, it turned out that he met my son a few years ago; small world!

In the afternoon we went shopping in the big Mega Mart, a few minutes taxi ride from the marina. As we were finishing our business there my phone rang. Remember that our starboard engine is in-operative? I was advised to take the injectors out and put oil into the cylinders; when I looked at the motor I decided I wanted a professional to do it. The call was from Dawson, the marina’s dock master and he said the mechanic arrived. Back at the marina we met the man and brought him aboard. He did the job quickly and efficiently; I’m sure I would have bungled something there. The name of the man is Sonny Morris, tel. 876-3102256; he also does aluminum and stainless steel welding .

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14.4.16 – Thursday – In the morning we did the departure procedure. We decided to go to Negril, 27 miles away on the west of the island, a familiarization trip for Gil, spend the night there and go towards Providencia Friday morning. Man makes plans  and Poseidon laughs (my version of a known German proverb). While motoring  we noticed that the alternator charge current was unstable, sometimes disappearing completely. Having only that alternator to charge the house batteries it was a “No Go” item and needed to be fixed. I thought the problem was dirty connections and decided to continue to Negril and clean them up there. If worse come to worst, we could always replace it with the one from the dead engine.

We came into Bloody Bay, about which the guide raves and found ourselves in an anchorage opposite a big resort, loud music blaring incessantly but an O.K place for the night. I went into the engine room while Gil went swimming. After cleaning the cable terminals, as I tried putting the big positive cable back in place, it sparked frightfully and it took me a minute to realize that we lost all electrical power on board. No navigation, refrigeration, water – nothing!

I looked up the main fuses and couldn’t understand their condition. Gil checked the main one with the multimeter and thought it was fine. Clearly an electrician was required but where could we find one? It was already late afternoon; going back to Montego Bay in the dark with no lights was out of the question. Gil had an idea:”Why don’t you go to the resort? they have big boats, they may have a man”. On shore I met Nike, a man working in the resort’s water-sports center. “Yes, we have one, I’ll bring him tomorrow at twelve o’clock”.

Back to waiting on the boat. We considered our situation; we could use water from the spare Jerry-cans I keep on every trip, our gas system was operational and we would use inflatable LED lantern (Luci – 15$ at Amazon) as an anchor and house lights. Our fridge and freezer would keep the food cold if not frozen – we would survive until the electrician comes. I donned my swimming trunks and as I was descending the stern to go into the water, my eye caught water flowing out of an outlet in the hull, the exact purpose of which I could not readily determine, but it obviously came from the starboard engine room. Forget swimming! Instead I dived into the engine room and discovered that a connection of a  pipe to the salt water broke and the bilge-pump was doing the job and sucking it all out.

It took a while to plug the pipe but the incident brought up a serious matter. Clearly I failed doing PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE. The adage “If its not broke – don’t fix it” has no place in long range cruising. I need to think, consult other people, formulate and follow a plan in that regard. I feel very bad about this and know that the tendency to come to the boat and just go sailing is not good enough; I need to take more time for preventive maintenance.

15.4.16 – Friday – During our wait for the electrician I dismantled the port alternator. I figured that after the shock it received its probably burned on the inside and anyway, the starboard one had better performance lately; I wanted to put it on the operating engine. Surprisingly, Santos, the man we were waiting for came on time. He quickly determined that the 250 amps fuse which we mistakenly thought to be good was defective. I only had a 175 amps one but once installed it gave us the power back. When Santos picked up the alternator I wanted him to install, he showed me that its bearing was bad, the shaft not steady in place. He took both alternators and made an operating one out of the two. Inexplicably it only gave about 30 amps and that after some improvisations which I will not go into.

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At the end he wanted me to pay 100$ for each hour of his labor; the man worked four hours. Reminding him that the repair was less than perfect he agreed to take 50$ per, which is still not very cheap.

(Should one send alternators, starters etc. for a periodical inspection? The port alternator has been in more than one checkup and no one noticed that an isolating ring of the plus stud was missing – the cause of the short).

On one of the times I went ashore, a man accosted me. He said his name was Captain X (name withheld for a reason) and asked me about my trip. “Are you going back to the U.S?” he inquired “You can take a package for me, stash it in the boat and make a lot of money”. “I’m too old for this, man” I said. “This is even better, they will not check you”. When he understood that I was not going back to the U.S he suggested a delivery to Barbados. Getting a clear and decisive Negative he sighed saying:”O.K Man, if you reconsider, I’m here on the beach, my phone number is on my boat but don’t call, find me here”. This is Jamaica, where people say “YA MAN” all the time.

As another slap to  my ego as a boat maintainer we found out that the connection of  the accumulator tank I installed in Florida opened spilling the port water tank which was on at the time into the bilge. Once discovered and rectified, we had one tank full and with the help of a resort boat skipper named Captain Monk I “evaded” the resort’s security and filled two more Jerry-cans as spare. We were ready to  go. Initially we wanted to go immediately but it meant three nights out and possibly a nighttime arrival so I decided to go early in the morning  and hopefully get to destination Monday midday.

16.4.16 – Saturday – Out at 0605. Light wind so a lot of motoring. Leaving Jamaica behind, we quickly entered deep ocean; Walton Bank, with depths up to a minimum of 20 meters came as a surprise. I checked all the route at large scale before going out but this one hid at the 1:260000 scale and I missed it. The border between it and the deep was full of fishing traps which we had to evade. We were fishing too. Gil was politely skeptical until we saw two Mahi Mahis jump clear out of the water in pursuit of something. One of them hit the lure. I fought it all the way to the stern but before I could gaff it on board it gave a mighty tug and broke free. I didn’t mind; let this beautiful fish go on living, we’ll get another. Just past four p.m. when I took some chicken breast for dinner out of the freezer another fish was on; a nice big headed tuna which gave two and a half meals for the crew.

The wind was fluctuating in both velocity and direction. From time to time I tried using sails only but when the SOG went down below 4 knots I went back to motor-sailing. By evening it stabilized, enabling sailing at around 4.5 knots. Good enough for now; tomorrow it’ll get better. We had our tuna dinner and started our watch system. I went to bed at 2200.

17.4.16 – Sunday – I slept soundly and continuously waking up at 0124, six minutes before the start of my watch. I could hear that the boat was going well. Flat sea, 12-14 knots wind from the east, the moon two thirds full – great sailing. It continued all day long, the boat going fast enough for a daylight arrival into Providencia.

18.4.16 – Monday – As the sun rose we had about 60 miles to go. I was not happy with the alternator performance and started considering entering Panama in Bocas del Toro, where I know an electrician who should be able to make it work correctly. A mile and a half to the Providencia entry channel we started the engine, mostly for charging and went in under sail. Suddenly the “water hi temp” alarm and light came on. I shut the engine down and looking into the engine room saw a small puddle of coolant in the bilge. I put a wet rag on the coolant filling port to cool it and had enough time to replenish it. At the very last moment we started the engine, dropped sails and anchored. Investigation postponed for later.

We went over to Bernardo Bush’s agency; the man called the authorities and arranged that our clearance would be as “Transit” so that we would not have to pay the 100$ tourist tax. Thanks Bernardo! In the past he loaned me a lot of jerry-cans and let me fill them from his rainwater tank. Now he gave us four 5 gallons plastic bottles and sent us to the supermarket to buy the water. Each of us carried two of those to the dinghy. It was quite difficult; they added 50% to my body weight.

Back on the boat I went into the back of the engine room, Gil started the engine and I shined the flashlight in search of the leak. Found that the pipe coming from the hot water tank to the engine was the culprit, its end torn beneath the tightening metal band. That was easily repaired; let’s hope there would be no more surprises.

As I was toiling I heard Gil speak to some one. One of the yachties came over to invite us to a meeting in a bar on Santa Catalina island. After a shower we went over. It was a nice meeting with representatives from Canada, the U.S and England.The latter brought their musical instruments, Stephaney played the violin and Stewart sang and played the guitar. Nice!

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19.4.16 – Tuesday – You meet interesting people among the yachties; we met an elderly couple from Culebra in Puerto Rico at Bernardo’s. They told us they where sailing straight home and that they had no engine at all. That’s close to a thousand miles as the crow flies and is against the prevailing winds. Their boat is named “Espiritu Libre” and just like the boat they are colorful characters. Here they are going out of Providencia.

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We plan to leave this evening and reach Bocas, Panama Thursday afternoon.



  1. Loving your journey!

    Thank you so much


    Sent to you by Duncan Reynolds of K and R Group, proudly Trading since 1986 In the construction and property industry.

    Campaigning and supporting in the ongoing fight against Breast cancer.


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