Life aboard Tamarisk is a lot like a heroin habit (we assume) – the highs are epic, but so are the lows when they come around. For us the lows always have the same root cause, one that was largely unexpected when we first thought of this trip over a year ago. Our curse is mechanical and electrical problems that never seem to end. As we hop along the mostly undeveloped southern coast of Cuba on our way towards Jamaica, we again face mechanical problems that will force us to make some tough decisions over the next few days.
Our list of problems is annoyingly similar to the one we entered Florida with almost three months ago. Our brand new autopilot hydraulic literally exploded a few days ago, sending hydraulic fluid everywhere, and forcing us to take the helm for 3 hours in 30+ knot winds, struggling to reach the Cuban coast for shelter. Our house battery bank refuses to hold a charge, the cause being either our new charging system or the new batteries themselves. Our new mainsail appears incapable of holding its battens (supports) thanks to the sailmaker’s idiotic decision to use cheap plastic batten holders designed for a 33’ to 50’ boat… if we were married to North Sails we’d be filing for divorce today. With a list of problems like this, and no good services before the Pacific crossing, we need a miracle to occur in Jamaica, or we’re heading back up to Florida next week.
The problem with another unplanned Florida detour (in addition to the repair costs) is now the weather. The tropical storm season in the Caribbean begins in late May and ends in November, and a passage across the Caribbean Sea is to be avoided during these months. Our detour to Florida will almost certainly give us a June departure, meaning we’ll be too late to make it to the Panama Canal this season. That would be a devastating blow to our plans, our response to which is still unclear… we’re trying not to think of that just yet.
For now, we face howling winds each night as the season begins to change and the weather becomes more disruptive and unpredictable. Without our primary autopilot or a properly functioning mainsail, our ability to sail through nights like these is limited, so we’re tucking into hidden coves where we can sleep in peace. Our progress towards Jamaica is thus slower than we’d like, but on the bright side, we’re exploring some of the most remote isolated bays we’ve been to yet, and the fishing here is like nothing we’ve experienced before. So as we’re cooking up some of Swifty’s 100+ pound (he claims) Yellow Fin Tuna (probably will be closer to 200 by the time he gets home), we’ll be thankful that our downer days are like this (probably better than a heroin habit).