After approval by the authorities, we decide to leave Cuba as soon as possible. A quick check of the weather forecast reveals a good wind from the aft direction, which is supposed to blow us as far as Haiti. Haiti itself is very high and produces a slipstream that we want to overcome with engine power. Then, due to the wind direction, it is no longer a problem to land in Aruba and head straight for it. That's the plan.
As is the case with plans, they don't last much longer than Cuban rules. We leave the Bay of Santiago and first catch a nice wind, set the mainsail and genoa and try to get out of the 12-mile zone as quickly as possible. After three miles the glory is over, the wind is gone and the engine is allowed to work again. I suggest to Jens to tie a reef into the mainsail. Jens is too lazy and thinks that the forecast does not give that much wind. We're both happy to show our tail to Cuba.
After we leave the Cuban waters, the wind picks up again. This time from the beginning, not as predicted. But the amount is sufficient, we can sail again. Both sails are fully set, Sissi is heading towards Haiti at high speed, which we want to pass at a suitable distance. There is a strong current there that we want to avoid. I still have to climb onto the foredeck and tighten the shrouds. Obviously I didn't do it properly in Cuba. Jens still doesn't feel like reefing the mainsail. Then it just remains unrefined. Will be fine.
During the night the wind picks up, we get up to 35 knots on our nose. Now the unreefed mainsail is taking revenge on us. We only try to get around the problem with a towel-sized genoa. Plus, we're getting blown closer and closer to Haiti and the countercurrent zone. Sissi drives unfamiliar inclines. It is practically impossible to move about on the boat. We have to hold on with our hands while our feet rock in the air like the chimpanzees in the monkey house. I tell Jens that I will start bouldering in Frankfurt. It can't be worse than on the Sissi. I won't start counting my bruises.
The first night is uncomfortable, we are thrown through our bunks. The forward berth and later also the salon are transformed into a stalactite cave. For months I have been looking for the leak in the forward bunk, now I know that it is not just there that there is a leak. And now it is also clear to me where the water is entering: at the outer edge of the hatches, where they are placed on the deck. It affects all hatches. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it at this point. In the middle of the night a little bird sits down on our solar panels after first attempting to land on the spreader. He sits there until dawn before venturing back into the air. Unfortunately we were unable to classify this bird.
The next morning the wind eases more and more, we are really close to Haiti and in the calm zone. And in the countercurrent. The engine hums and Sissi only drives 1.5 kn over the ground. Two small Haitian fishing boats circle around us, want to know where we come from and ask for money. With the swell it would be almost suicide if we somehow got so close to the fishermen that we could hand something over to them. We wave to each other, then the fishermen go back to their jobs.
We drive the engine diagonally against the current in the direction in which we most likely expect wind. So we come to a speed of 2.5 kn. The first Etmal is just 102 miles.
The situation is unchanged for now. We die through the doldrums. Only around 10 p.m. does a steady wind come in from the predicted direction. We are slowly leaving the wind-dead zone. Jens has been in bed for a couple of hours so I set the genoa alone (very easy exercise) and reduce the engine speed. Our speed is increasing. Around 1 o'clock in the night the diesel can finally send to sleep. When I wake Jens at 2:30 a.m., we make a good 5 kn speed. Together we put the wind vane into operation, then I go to sleep. The heat from the engine makes it unbearably hot in the bunk.
As always, I have the first night watch, then I wake Jens. Shortly before Jens comes into the cockpit, a booby sits down on our fenders stacked at the stern. The birds get bigger. We didn't sleep well the first night, and neither did we the second night. I'm thrown through the bunk again. Jens reffts the genoa, I hear the background noise for the first time in the bunk. So far I've always been the one who reefed at night. Around eight o'clock I wake up to the noise our anchor makes when it drills into the waves. We have to reef even more. I come into the cockpit and see a good 30 kn wind on the indicator. Wow, that's 10 kn more than predicted. The waves are impressive. We continue to reef the genoa so that we are only sailing at a speed of 3 knots. But the anchor no longer drills into the waves. It is still raining in the forward berth. Jens tells that the booby disappeared shortly before sunrise.
To take off into the air, he simply jumped into the water and started from there. Cool.
We change course so that we run before the wind. Sissi is immediately calm in the water. Then I climb onto the foredeck with a life jacket and seat belt to seal all the hatches with tape. Let's see if that works and if my working hypothesis with the leak is correct.
For the next blow from Aruba to the northeast, we will check the weather forecast more closely. The drive away from Cuba is more of an escape than a carefully planned sailing trip. We forgot to check the wave forecast. The waves are now very, very uncomfortable and keep turning us off course. Not only Cuba, but also the Atlantic has rules that are relentlessly adhered to. However, the rules on the ocean don't change. If you ignore them, you get bruises and a wet forward bunk. You are only yelled at by the wind. The second Etmal is only 88 miles.
We don't enjoy our trip, we exist on the sailboat. We are dead tired. We're unwashed and sweaty. A shower is out of the question in this swell, even washing with a washcloth would only cause bruises, but not the desired cleanliness. It's still warm and humid in the boat. Our clothes stick to us. The engine cools down slowly. Wherever you reach, whatever you touch, everything is covered with a film of salt. The wooden panels on the ceiling of the salon are partially swollen and warped by the water that has penetrated.
The temporary repair with tape achieved the desired effect. At least it doesn't drip from the ceiling anymore. I want to make this more permanent and start looking for the sealant I'm sure is on board. After a while I find the tube of Sikaflex, which expired two years ago and its contents are rock hard. So it is clear that we have to live with our rainforest until we find a hardware store.
I can take a shower in a quiet minute. It feels great. Then I have my night watch and I am showered with sea water several times. I'm already salted again and the effect of the shower is gone. Nothing changes in the further circumstances, the third night is just as quiet as the first two nights. At least the course line on the on-board computer looks a bit better the next morning, we fought hard for the few miles to the east. There is still a long way to go to Aruba. The third Etmal is 79 miles.