Posted on Dec 1, 2014
On December 21 we woke up early. We had spent the night in West End, Roatan Island and had to return to Coxen Hole where Claudia, a friend visiting us, was expecting to flew back to Italy.
Once Claudia left, we completed the formalities to leave the country, made some provisioning and by 15h we were ready to set sail for Old Providence, our intermediate step towards Panama.
The forecast predicted light winds (around 10 knots) from east south / east for the next 3 days and for which the approximately 400 miles that separated us from our destination, appear to bed very slow: upwind and without large sail at the bow due to a problem with the job furler.
For the past two weeks in fact, a problem with the drum of the furler prevented us from using our big genoa and we only had our storm jib, a handkerchief of just 14 square meters.
Starting from Guatemala, the route to Panama presents some difficulties. The first 300 miles, along the costs of Honduras, are almost certainly to be done against the wind because of the trade wind that blows constantly from the east in its north or south components.
Moreover, the trade wind blows on average between 18 and 25 knots (real), that with the speed of our boat turn quickly in 25/35 knots of apparent! Not exactly a comfortable stretch.
Many prefer to avoid this route, sailing up to the Cayman Islands before falling back with a more favorable angle. All but lengthening the path of more than 400 miles (70%)!
But there are other reasons to avoid the direct route along the coast of Honduras. In fact left the Honduras costs you are sailing near the coast of Nicaragua, a country certainly not among the safest.
At our departure from Rio Dulce we were advised to go well off the coast of Nicaragua, because the fishermen of the area do not seem to have completely "given up" to the ancient pirate activities.
But the idea to stretch again to over 100 miles on our journey with the expecting wind conditions and without Genoa led me to underestimate the suggestion.
So I decided on a course of 90 ° with the idea to keep some thirty miles from the coast to the border between Honduras and Nicaragua and then break down to about 50 degrees and, through the Edinburg Channel ", take off again towards Old Providence.
As a precaution, we have decided to hold off the navigation lights at night and to maintain close surveillance radar six miles for all 24 hours.
For the first two days everything went fine, except that the fuel made in Guatemala before our departure proved to be contaminated and as the level of the same fell in the tanks, we began to experience power problems.
Dirty filters, feed pipes clogged and finally, engines off! I had to clean the entire fuel system and considered that Angelique II has four tanks positioned at bow and stern of each hull, you can imagine the amount of work.
Furthermore, most of the contaminated fuel was no longer usable, for which we put in some spare jerry cans with the intention of downloading in Old Providence.
So we were with little fuel, light wind and little "canvas" !!
Day 24 around 11 am we had just passed the Edimburg Channel and our position was 14 ° 11.947'N; 082 ° 16.289W.
Sunshine, wind from 125° at around 15 knots and us on a course of 163°, starboard tack.
From some time we had a boat on the radar, quite firm on its position, about 6 miles NE ahead of us. In the days before we had encountered some of them and no one had ever shown any hostile and even suspicious attitude.
Truly at 07:34h of the same day, I recorded on my logbook: "We passed the area of shallow water on the border between Honduras and Guatemala. The suggestions of those with whom we discussed the route to keep after Roatan, they said to keep on a route of 90 ° to 200 miles from the island due to the presence of fishermen / Pirates / traffickers. We have only met fishing boats engaged in their honest work. "
But arrived at about 3 miles away, the fishing boat began to move for a colliding route.
We noticed the fact, but we did not worried that much.
In the following minutes their course became increasingly colliding with our own. At that point an uneasy feeling grew in all the crew. It was not yet fear, just our sixth sense warning that something was wrong.
I thought the best move to make was to immediately change course route, tacking. A change of course that could also mean for those looking at us, the choice of a not colliding course, perhaps to facilitate navigation to those engaged in fishing operations and at the same time would force our fishermen friends to reveal their intentions. If they would continued on their course, there would be nothing to fear. If it were us the object of their interest, they would be forced to change course, stating clearly their hostile intentions.
At that point we began to observe them with our binoculars. It was a 60/70 foot boat in poor condition, with no fishing equipment, which instead we had noticed in all vessels sighted in the previous days.
It the meantime the distance between the 2 vessel decreased to about two miles.
Few minutes later our tack even the fishing boat was changing course of about 180 °, putting his bow to our stern.
We were sailing on port tack at an angle of about 35 degrees to the wind and, considering the little sail on the bow, we developed only 5 or 6 knots.
The boat, at this point openly pirate, would have reached us shortly.
I quickly realized that the only possible way out of such situation was developing speed.
I decided to tack again. Starboard tack then, but this time taking Angelique II to 90 ° angle to the wind. With this maneuver, I managed to cross the "ship" pirate course, now less than 200 meters from our stern, remaining ahead.
The entire crew was in the bow, around the quarterdeck and I think I also saw the hooks on shore, ready to be launched.
The starboard engine us pushing us but the port side engine was struggling as a result of the known contaminated fuel. However we were doinge 8 knots and the pirate ship seemed to not gain any further on our stern.
Completed the maneuver, I had to focus on speed.
I yelled at Ray "gennaker out", and in less than 30 seconds, the gennaker was ashore.
At that point, the log begun to score 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 knots. The pirate ship started to become smaller and smaller. The gloomy figures on the quarterdeck less distinguishable.
I started hearing noises, which became more and more distinguishable as the pirate ship pulled away. They were the voices of Vale and Ray.
After just a few minutes the pirates decided to "give up", changing route again. We decided to stay on a full speed course until we had put at least 10 miles of water between us and them.
I felt a deep sense of despair. It was not just the fear of the experience just lived, but also the feeling of having lost something.
Perhaps a romantic idea of the sea, where the dangers come from the nature and not from human being.
But the over the hours I realized that "romance" is not involved. Sea stories are full of pirates, which in many sense are also very "romantic" figures.
The real problem is that I have always experienced these stories in a narrative or fiction dimension.
This time, instead, it was a life experience, a lifetime experience!
To watch our Pirates of the Caribbean video click here
Posted on May 24, 2014
Three months in Cuba and I'm not able to find proper words to describe the feelings we experienced.
Cuba, a Country of many contradictions, incredible culture and wonderful people.
Fortunately we have many images of those moments frozen by our 35 mm.
Some of them are in collected in this video.
Posted on Mar 23, 2014
Pietra Boca Grande in the Jardines de la Reina is the area of operations of Avalon, the Italian/Cuban company that has the exclusive rights for the tourism business in the entire region. From what the head of the operation on site told us, no more than 500 divers per year are allowed to dive these waters, an area around 300 square kilometers !
Those who willing to scuba dive this region can only do through Avalon and this applies also to private transiting boats like us. The receptivity of their structures is limited to 8 rooms at the floating Hotel in Palapa Tortuga and a dozen of cabins distributed between two diving boats.
Well we were not aware of that and we went for a "do it yourself"!
On March 19, the first day in Pietra Boca Grande, we decided to take a dive off the pass, about half a mile off the reef .
We chose one of the buoys Avalon placed in the area and and after having left Angelique II securely anchored in about two meters of water inside the pass, we reached the buoy with our dinghy.
Secured the dinghy to the buoy we started to prepare our equipment for the dive.
Completed this stage I was about to help Valentina wearing her BCD when we noticed that the dinghy was surrounded by 5/6s sharks circling us.
A melting pot of feelings caught us: enthusiasm, excitement, amazement, but also a little of fear, which within a minute turned at least for Valentina in a firm " no, I'm not going in the water with those friends there" .
It had been years that I hear of the Jardines and his sharks and now that I was there certainly I could not get away. So enthusiasm, excitement and amazement prevailed on fear., so I said " Let me do it " and I jumped into the water.
Sharks reacted moving few meters away from the dinghy and also alite more deep.
I began my descent to the bottom, along the rope which secures the buoy to the bottom.
Reached the bottom at -28 meters, I sheltered myself at the top of a gully in order to have at least my back protected by a wall.
In few seconds I saw several large groupers and a large turtle, but Sharks were my goal.
It took Just a few seconds to realize that I was their goal as well!
They started spinning around me before at a distance of few meters, then closer and closer until they got to touch the flashes of my camera, which is less than half a meter away from me until I had to start using the flash arms extended to their maximum length to keep them away from me.
At that moment the fear has once again prevailed over enthusiasm, excitement, wonder and I thought it would be really foolish to risk an accident and I decided to try to reach the surface .
With a bit of courage I dropped my refuge in the corner and I swem to the bottom of the buoy.
Immediately sharks (at that point about a dozen ) have moved away a few meters, returning to the initial circle .
Getting closer to the surface and having them at a more relaxing distance, I regained tranquillity and I even decided to make my safety stop for 3 minutes at 4.5 meters.
Enjoying my trilling video here
Posted on Mar 21, 2014
Arriving from the north coast of Haiti, the course to Santiago de Cuba crosses the stretch of sea in front of the American Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, an area that extends for about 8 miles along the coast, at a distance of three miles and where navigation is interdicted.
It was about 2 am when the radar warned us to be at a distance of 4 miles from the "American" coasts of Cuba .
At that point we changed our course so that we would take parallel to the boundary waters of the Naval base, we tuned the sails on the new course, modified the radius of radar guard zone bringing it to 2 miles and returned to cot.
But a few minutes after the radar alarm began playing .
A small boat with flashing blue lights was heading towards us.
It was clear it was the American military vessel, but since we were in Cuban waters we could not understand what they wanted from us.
In fact, once they come to about a quarter of a mile from us, the vessel veered on our own route. In short, they escorted us remaining at the same distance until we crossed the southern limit of the boundary waters of the United States.
Few hours later in Santiago, Gonzalo our Spanish friend who left Dominican Republic few days before us, told us that while approaching Santiago he found himself within the waters of the US Naval Base. It was night and at one point the entire vessel was illuminated from above as a big blow to flash. He was sure it was one drone, one of those airplanes with no crew on board, sent to take a nice picture.
This was our welcome in "American" Cuba
The harbor of Santiago develops inside the cost for few miles, but the Santiago Marina, the only possible landing place for a not Cuban pleasure vessel, it is right at the beginning of the bay.
We had contacted the Guarda Fronteira on VHF channel 16 about 4 miles from the entrance of the bay to inform them of our arrival, so once inside the Harbor Master of the Marina called us, giving instructions for anchoring and to remain in waiting for a visit on board by the authorities. We anchored few meters away from Cabron, the boat of Gonzalo and Anna.
After a couple of hours, the the harbor master asked via radio if I could go ashore to pick up the authorities for the inspection on board.
Once I reached the pier of the marina, I found a gentleman who introduced himself as the health officer together with a nice lady, the officer in charge of the Guarda Fronteira.
Delivered to the latter passports, crew list (always have multiple copies ready for use) and ship documents, after wearing the white coat of " order ," the health officer climbed into the dinghy and together we returned to the boat.
Once on board and kissed Valentina affectionately as a relative who had not seen for a long time, we sat around the cockpit table to start " health inspection " .
Dr. Nieto Luis Armando Dominguez is a very nice guy, well educated as the rest of the vast majority of Cubans and very cute. He did his doctorate in Canada and , therefore, speaks excellent English, but he had no way to show it off as our Spanish starts to become acceptable .
He had with him a series of questionnaires and forms to fill out, in order to ascertain the state of our health, quality, origin and condition of any supplies on board and most of all make sure that we had health insurance that would cover the eventual medical expenses during our stay. At this request, we pulled out our "Tessera Sanitaria" with a brand new chip that had a great effect so to avoid the compulsory purchase of a local insurance policy for the cost of 10 CUC (convertible peso), equal to 10 US$.
This unique interview took place in a totally relaxed atmosphere, it seemed we were talking with our old family doctor. The questionnaire was alternated with stories of his experiences in Florida when he went to visit his father, who had taken refuge there years before. Or his entrepreneurial projects in restaurant (if anyone is interested in opening a restaurant in Santiago , I have the authorization to provide contact of Dr. Luis), or the shared passion for photography between Vale and his lady, all in front of 5 beers (3 of which he drunk with us plus other 2 he took with him that would have consumed later with his lovely wife toasting to our health) and 2 packages of pistachio.
After completing the inspection, which for completeness of information contemplated also an inspection of our galley fridge and freeze, Dr. Luis asked me to come back to the dock to bring on board the Guarda Fronteira officer.
This second visit was maintained on the same tone of absolute informality and after about half an hour the two officers demanded to be brought back ashore, where a team of 5 soldiers and two dogs was waiting to get on the dinghy for an inspection on board. The short drive from the pier to Angelique II turned into a journey of hope. The poor dinghy almost sunk by the weight of this diverse crew, with small waves generated by strong wind blowing in the harbor that day, started to take on water which turned the military wet and the dogs frightened.
Once on board one of the two dogs was so frightened that he refused to get in the boat to do his job. The second, however very slowly regained tranquility and accompanied by the instructor and us, passed inspection in every cabin, every single closet or drawer.
However, the atmosphere was always very friendly and very gentle.
The return ashore, this time with a favorable wind, was a less tragic leg.
At this point we could take down the yellow flag ( quarantine ) and we were to all intents and purposes finally free to go ashore .
It was Saturday and we need to change some money in the day if we would avoid to remain segregated in the marina until the following Monday, so we asked for a taxi (the marina is about 10 miles from the center of Santiago) to go downtown.
In Cuba there are two different currencies: the CUC with which is accepted in most commercial services open to tourists (hotels, restaurants, supermarkets), but also some services such as telephone or fuels and the Pesos, which is the currency normally used by the Cuban population . The exchange rate between Pesos and CUC and is 20 to 1.
Cuba is experiencing a situation of great economic contradictions, it is like the Country is in midstream and could not decide whether to cross over or go back.
The average salary in Cuba and is 20 CUC per month.
A liter of diesel at the pump costs 1 CUC, a beer in cans at the supermarket costs 0.80 CUC, lunch at an average restaurant in the center or in a private house costs 8/10 CUC, taxi ride from the marina ( very populated area ) to the center costs from 5 to 10 CUC (state owned Taxi is 10 , with the private sector depends on the ability to negotiate), one hour of internet access at the Post offices costs 4.5 CUC, prices absolutely not compatible with an average salary .
But at the same time a liter of diesel on the black market costs 5 pesos, one quarter of the official price ( and it seems that no one diesel at the pump service in Cuba , so much this service should not be submerged ). 2,5 lb of bread costs 6 pesos ( almost a quarter of a CUC). The "Guagua" (a sort of truck) from the marina to the city center costs 0.5 pesos ( one-fortieth of CUC) . A dish in a state owned restaurant, usually chicken and rice costs on average 10 Pesos.
But most of all , a pair of unbranded jeans costs 25 CUC, a pair of Adidas cost 30 CUC and the new generations all dress jeans , polo shirts and Adidas!
Obviously, the state provides the primary needs. Each family, depending on the number of members is entitled to a certain amount each month rice, milk, bread and other basic foods as health care and education .
But everything else, especially for the demanding young Cubans, families have to find their own way!
We arrived down town Santiago mid-afternoon, too late and tired to get around, so we decided to go to the Casa de la Trova, a sort of Cafe where they play constantly live the "trova", a genre of popular music that definitely has a very long tradition in Cuba
Unforgettable Experience. Seated at a table enjoying a ice cold lemonade we listened the "Duos Melodia Cubana" a group composed of two middle-aged woman accompanied by three musicians that introduced us to the traditional “trova”.
Very romantic sounds, beautiful voices , and above all so much style and class.
The two singers , even if they did not wear designer labels, they were so sophisticated in their elegance that would have the same effect in any snob circle of any major European capital.
In the company of our Spanish friends Gonzalo, Anna and Pablo we dedicated the following days, to the discovery of Santiago and its surroundings. We were also joined by Franz and Christine, two Germans on board a vintage Ketch we had already met in Cape Verde and Ricardo a black Hungarian that has crossed the Atlantic with his wife and their three children on a tiny catamaran. He is now based in Jamaica where he does some charter. We met him after his landing in Santiago with a crew of 10 people of different nationalities whom after the ritual on board inspection by the immigration and port authorities (could you visualize the scene of the small catamaran already overloaded by the abundant crew, boarded by a squad of soldiers plus dogs?), moved to an hotel in Santiago, leaving Richard free to enjoy our to accompany.
We were lucky enough to have a beautiful guide to accompany us during our discovery of Santiago: Leidys a girl from Santiago which our friends Gonzalo and Anna had met some days before our arrival.
For transportation from the marina and the center for excursions around the city we have entrusted to Daniel, a former officer of the Cuban army's special forces. Danilo is not a taxi the driver, but a manufacture . Manufacturer of automobiles, machines, anything having to do with the mechanics. Normally it is his son to drive the old Chevy with a Russian diesel engine. But unfortunately few days before our arrival the child was fined by the police and his driving licence was confiscated for 40 days, so Dad had to replace Danilo .
A very special man who not only drove as around for a bargain price, but Danilo has made himself available to help us out with any of our needs. From finding the eggs, apparently disappeared from the market of Santiago, to save on fuel ...... , to solve some technical problems on board and so it goes .
Santiago de Cuba is the rival city of Havana as far as literature, music and politics are concerned and is considered the 'cradle' of the revolution as it has played a central role in the overthrow of the Batista regime. It is the second largest city and unlike the other towns of the island, it has a distinctive Caribbean flavor due to the presence of French landowners and Haitians who settled there in the nineteenth century. In the city you will find the island's oldest palaces and museums, including the Casa de Diego Velázquez and the Museo Municipal Bacardi. The town overlooks the Bay of Santiago de Cuba and many homes have wrought iron balconies, arched windows and narrow stairs outside. The Cementerio Santa Iphigenia, where our friend Leidys work as guide, is the final resting place of many famous revolutionaries, including José Martí, whose embalmed body is on display.
Posted on Mar 4, 2014
The park stretches for about 30 miles along the coast of Samana Bay, it is the kingdom of Pelicans and Frigate.
A karst land, in which mother nature has enjoyed drawing, a jagged coastline where the mangroves have created a maze of canals fully covered by green.
Except for a small and welcoming community of fishermen, we did not encounter any other boats during our stay.
Once anchored Angelique II, we sailed with our powerful dinghy to explore this wonder of nature.
Enjoy a short clip here
Posted on Feb 19, 2014
With us, Pablo, the son of our dear Spanish friend Anna.
The weather was not the best. Wind around 20 knots with breaking waves.
We were the first boat to go out. In fact every day many boats leave from Samana for Whale Watching which is the key attraction of this region of the Dominican Republic, especially in this season .
The first 2 hours ..... nothing happened. Then around 10 o'clock we saw the first whale watching boat reaching the ares and we decided to follow them.
One more hour and still nothing. Then all of a sudden we noticed about 1 mile in front of us the characteristic puff of water. A whale had emerged to breathe.
We full throttled our engines to reach our first Humpback Whale.
I immediately jumped into the water with my underwater camera while Vale kept the rudder under control, but unfortunately we lost the whale.
We than decided to join a large group of whale watching boats few miles away from us.
Once there I had my heart in my throat: a large group of humpback whales was precisely in the midst of the whale watching boats .
But we were struggling to get closer. It seemed that other boats did everything to keep us away. In fact, few minutes after the crews began gesticulating animatedly to us. We have not heard what they said, but the message was clear: "get out of here".
There is, as far as we know, no rule that forbade us to stay in that area with the our boat, but I fear the logic behind that behavior was: do you want to see whales ? Pay the ticket and come join us!
Our first and essential rule is to not only stay out of trouble, but from any perilous situations in general. So bar to the right and off to find "our"own whales .
However having realized that it was already lunch time, we decided that hunting on a full stomach would be continued under the best auspices. A beautiful " aglio, oglio and peperoncino " spaghetti reconciled us with the world and returned the right enthusiasm.
The results do not delayed.
Less than a mile away from us a whale began to jump. One, two , three, four times.
These are the moments when you want an offshore under your ass.
But mom whale waited for us. She was with her puppy, who according to Pablo's opinion was not than few weeks old.
They shared with us few minutes jumping and playing. Then, they are dove.
We remained few minutes in silence. Speechless Then we looked at each other and in unison we said: let's go back!
Posted on Feb 5, 2014
When nature builds small wonders. The Bath, a maze of caves, tunnels and small pools ofsea water, on the edge of the beach the result of successive volcanic eruptions which putthese layers of lava on existing and old layers that have undergone a slow cooling and a slowerosion of work from the sea.
Enjoy our video here