Cayo Anclitas, Cuba

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).


  1. Aidan

    Hi Guys,
    So sorry to read your latest travails. It sure seems to be important to have all your equipment in good order before you attempt a Pacific crossing. While I don’t have an answer you need to be sure that if you return to Florida then the fix will really happen. Can you be sure of that???
    The next question is – what repair facilities will you have available to you once you go through the Panama Canal. Where will those facilities be located? We have other friends on a round the world trip in a 62 foot sloop rigged boat. They are presently in the Caribbean. I will email them and ask if they heve any contacts that might help you.
    Very tough for you. Greetings and very best wishes from Robin and myself. We are thinking of you guys.

  2. Martin

    I’m sorry to hear about the problems with the boat but I have some good news. I do computer services for a plumber here in Pompano Fl a couple week ago he gave me a computer to get a charger and unlock it, it turns to be Piers laptop. Doing a little research with your history on the laptop y find out your Dad’s phone number in CA anyways your laptop is safe , I told the Plumber (Al,) the I found the owner of the laptop so if u can give us a call my # 954-819-0879 or 954-513-8584 Al’s is 954 815 7380 or 954 336 7248

  3. Spyro

    Have you considered installing a wind vane?
    I’m not sure if your autopilot is rated for 30+ knot winds, but I do know that autopilots work better for motoring or calm winds, when winds build up, they work more, consume a lot energy and are not as efficient. On the other hand, wind vanes perform better with more wind, they are more reliable and consume no energy. The two systems (auto pilot and wind vane) complement each other and act as a back up to one another.
    If you go to Florida, is there a warranty on the sail and autopilot?
    Two worst-case solutions I can think of are: Shipping Tamarisk a) to Panama by container ship or b) to West coast by truck. Both are expensive, but they would help you avoid the weather and save you time.

  4. Norman and Jane

    Good to hear you’re back in contact – sorry to hear of your problems but in the grand scheme of things things appear to be great for you guys – wine – women and song – seems OK to me – hope all goes well with the current repairs – don’t despair all will work out in the end