Cuba Ho! Becalmed in the Straights of Florida...

April 8, 7:52am

23, 19 N / 080, 23 W

The sun is rising just off Isbjorn's starboard quarter. Greg and I are on watch, one hour yet to go. This is the best watch, the transition from night to day, another 24 hours in the bank. The ocean here, now into the Straights of Florida, is mirror calm. You could easily slalom ski.

It's been motor-on-motor-off for the past 24 hours, and it looks like the pattern might continue for the next. So far, including charging the batteries, we've run the engine 28 hours, about 10-12 of that actually under way and propelling us forward. Otherwise it's been fine light-air sailing.
"Is the tack of the mainsail supposed to be loose like that?" Rob asked yesterday afternoon while he was at the helm. No! The tack is secured to a vertical pin that in turn secures the boom to the mast at the gooseneck. It's this vertical pin that allows horizontal articulation of the boom. It was dangling from the mainsail tack about 3 inches above where it was meant to be. The fact that the boom remained in the gooseneck at all is some kind of luck!

Thankfully it was also mirror calm when this happened. I ran below and grabbed an old mast thru-bolt that had previously been used for the runners (and since replaced by a titanium version when we installed the Colligo cheeky tangs). As luck would have it, the bolt was exactly the right diameter, just a few inches too long, which hardly mattered. We tapped it home to re-secure the boom, and I lashed the tack to the top of the boom and in 20 minutes we were back in business.

The old pin failed at a weld. On the bottom, a thick washer was welded to the pin to prevent it from pulling up through the gooseneck. When this weld failed, thanks to the constant upward pull from the mainsail tack and halyard, the whole pin pulled out. We'll look for a welder in Havana to properly fix it (and hopefully get a roundabout cultural experience in the adventure!)
Speaking of Cuba, the crew, myself included, are getting increasingly excited about our landfall. We sailed over 900 miles to get to this point, in great weather, and thoughts have now shifted to coffee, cigars, rum & Habana Viejo, the old city. Fred wisely brought along a brand new Lonely Planet guidebook we've been taking turns reading to each other, highlighting some of the places we want to take in. I have a cruising guide by Nigel Calder, but it was written in 1999 and hardly relevant anymore with the quickly changing Cuban situation!

I always try to avoid thinking into the future when on a long passage, simply to stay in the moment and enjoy the sailing. And not get disappointed if the wind shifts against us or delays our ETA. But on this trip, it is particularly difficult to do that. Havana might be the most exotic landfall I've yet attempted, and the more I read the Lonely Planet, the more excited I get. Cuba wasn't 'real' until now. All the planning and prep that goes into these passages kind of left the actual thought of arriving in Havana on the back burner. I can assure you it's now at the forefront and is mostly what I think about!

This will be the last post from at-sea. We expect to arrive sometime Saturdaymorning, after the dawn, and have been deliberately ghosting along in the light air knowing that we needed to slow down in order to avoid arriving in darkness. Marina Hemingway, with its narrow entrance between two reefs, is no place to enter at night, say the guidebooks.

Before leaving Fajardo I rented a big old Colonial house in the Vedado neighborhood in Havana for the whole crew for three nights, so the plan is to leave the boat at the marina and explore ashore for a few days, really soak up the place as much as we can as visiting residents. Living with the locals also qualifies us under the People-to-People general license that is allowing us to legally go to Cuba in the first place. We also are expecting a warm welcome from Commodore Esrich of the Hemingway International Yacht Club, referred to me by the Cuban ambassador to the US himself, after a lunch meeting with Tom Harkin (more on that later!) But, as for Cuba, that's all I know for now. Our arrival tomorrow will be an adventure indeed, and we're all eagerly awaiting it!

Until next time, Viva Havana!