Friday, May 6, 2016

Reporting from the Cayman Islands

Hi everyone,

We have wifi! So we can post. Apologies in advance…it’s a long one!

After leaving Key West, we had a great sail toward the Dry Tortugas, and anchored off Marquesas Key the first night. On Wednesday, April 27th, we sailed the rest of the way and arrived Wednesday afternoon. We spent a couple of great days at a place we all love. Guds was working on a post on our time in the Dry Tortugas, so she will probably post that tomorrow. 


We had left Dry Tortugas I think on May 1st (slowly starting to loose track of time/days as we fade away from "normal life"). The Plan was to sail straight to Panama. Let’s just say we had a baptism of fire 1st leg ;) I am so proud of Guds and the kids for what they endured.

The first part went really smoothly for the 1st 14 miles ;) Then we hit the gulfstream heading over to Cuba....oh boy....all Guds and I could say....thank goodness we did not attempt that part at night!!!!! With about a 2 1/2 knot current going one way and the wind in the opposite direction suddenly we had huge and confused 12ft to 15ft seas!!! You could literally see a line in the water (no kidding) were the gulf stream started. I think that was around 10.30am.....we finally broke free of its grip around 5.30pm...what a rough ride that was!!!!!

After that we had a great run and relatively good 1st night sailing through the night parallel to Cuba about 50 to 70 miles off their coastline. Good speeds of 8 knots most of the time. That continued through the next day and I think it was in the morning that I looked up and saw the main halyard had chafed through again!!!!! .....literally after sailing for only 24hrs...."what the hell" is all I was thinking!!!! My heart sank as I told Guds what I had seen!!!

We sat down quickly at the helm station to discuss our we were talking through ideas...."BANG"!!!!! My worst nightmare...the main halyard broke and gave way before I could lower the sail. The mainsail came crashing down. The downside of this was the broken halyard was now fallen down inside the mast (a much harder repair to make vs if it was all intack like the repair I had made a few days earlier in Key West). We went from sailing along at 8 knots to 3 knots in an instant!

I secured the mainsail in its bag and we sailed on for about 30 minutes on the jib while we pondered next moves. That damn Murphy through another curve ball into the mix by changing the wind direction and suddenly we could no longer sail on the jib as the wind was now coming directly in front of us.

We fired up one engine so we could at least keep moving forward. As we got closer to the west end of Cuba we started to really feel the adverse effects of the current that was flowing 1 1/2 to 2 knots against us (between Cuba and Mexico). The wind increased and the waves got worse. We were down to motoring into this at only 3 knots SOG (speed over ground).

Well, a long story short....we decided after rounding Cuba, that we should divert to Cayman Islands to do the needed repairs and refuel. It took us 2 longgggggg days and nights to make the relatively short 200 mile trip from that point. The seas were so rough and we motored into 15 knots average of wind the entire time. One of the only bad things about a catamaran....they don’t do well going into the wind/rough seas. I take my hat off to Lagoon (the manufacturer of our boat)......this boat is rock solid and we always felt safe....uncomfortable....but safe! To show you how bad conditions were our fearless Gaby that has been on a boat since she was 14 days old, and has been in some rough sailing conditions and never been sea sick in her entire 10 years on this planet, finally got seasick on the very last poor baby ;(

Guds and I did not get much rest and sleep over these days, and the night shifts were moon and pitch black....but like I said earlier....she is one tough and brave lady!!!!!! We did mainly 2hrs on, with 2hrs sleep and rotated watches like that. By the end we were so exhausted we fell asleep within minutes of coming off watch even though the boat was bouncing all over the place!!!

During all of this we seriously questioned what the hell we were doing, and should we forget the circumnavigation and just cruise the Caribbean (nice and close to the USA and all it offers with easy access to parts/flights etc). Again my rock Guds said to me after we had time to contemplate..."I don’t think we should let a broken rope effect our dream and change our plans". During all of this we were in contact with my good friend Garrick via sat phone/sat email, and he really pulled out all stops and started researching why this could have happend in such a short period of time. Collectively we contacted the mast manufacturer, Remi in France, Lagoon USA, Gary at Cajun Ropes, Garth Hichens, and Adrian in SA did his research on all cause of rapid chafe. I can’t thank all these people mentioned above enough!!!!! It was comforting to know we had access to such great people that amongst them have so much valuable and relevant knowlege, and most importantly, cared enough to try and help solve our issue. THANK YOU ALL!!!!!

Well, many emails/phone calls later, all while trying to keep us safley moving to Cayman, and it seems a consensus of opinions existed that this was not entirely an uncommon problem with big catamaran main sails under huge stress loads. The bottom line is that we believe our leach tension was a bit loose which likely caused the entry point of the main halyard not to properly enter the sheeve at the top of the mast at the correct angle, plus some other factors (sorry getting too technical for most I am sure), and this resulted in the rope being over stressed, and ultimately broke/chafed. Rather discover this now than 1500 miles from no land in the middle of the Pacific!!!!!

Also a big thank you to Adrian who tracked down a rigger in Cayman Islands while we were at sea. It’s a small world for sure....the rigger turned out to be a fellow South African, Mike Farrington (Compass Rigging) that I had raced against many years ago in SA!!!!! How lucky was that!!!!! It turns out Mike had been helped by Garth Hichens (similar to our story and who gave us our start in the USA 15 years ago in Annapolis!!!!!)...knew Ant Stewart and all my old mukkers!!!! Wow!!

Well, we finally arrived in Cayman yesterday early morning, and pulled into Barcadere Marina around 9.30am. Customs and Immigration came to the boat and cleared us in.....what a pleasant surprise how professional, kind and helpful and organised they were. It was a painless and easy task to check in, and within the hour we were free to set foot on land for the 1st time in 5 days ;)

Let me tell you how salt water/spray/mist gets everywhere when you are motoring dead into the wind and big waves.....EVERYTHING was covered in salt...even inside. While I started washing down the outside with fresh water, Guds stripped down the inside and assembled 4 bags of washing. It got sent off to the laundry (our poor little washing machine could never handle that load!) and she carried on wiping everything down inside......many hours later our boat looked clean again ;)

Mike came around and we discussed repair options...very comforting to have a fellow SA sailor to help us out. Plan is now to fix everything and we are waiting for a part from the USA that should arrive on Monday. If it does, hopefully we can fit it late Monday PM, and then we may be able to set sail Tuesday morning straight down to Panama.

Today was spent checking engines (those puppys ran flawlessly for roughly 30 hours each straight through some very rough conditions). We used 1/2 of each of our 50 gallon diesel tanks, so roughly 50 gallons used to get from west Cuba to Cayman. After thoroughly checking everything this afternoon while kids and Guds were at the marina pool, I discovered the dinghy chap (cover) had been chafed through against the davits, so installed some additional padding for our next 600 mile leg to Panama. Other than that, everything faired well! ;)

The Plan is to maybe rent a car and tour the island, and maybe take the dinghy to explore "Stingray City". More to follow.

Thank you to my family, Garrick and Adrian with whom we were in contact with through some dark times in the past few days, for all their encouraging words. I read every word you guys said, and took it to certainly helped keep us going and focused!!! Also a big thanks for everyone’s comments....soooo nice for us to read, and we all crowd around and read them aloud to each other ;). Also take a look at the “Our Boat” tab…we added some additional pictures of the inside of the boat.

Well that’s it for now.....we miss you all!!!! We are in high spirits and finally having some fun!! ;)


  1. To the intrepid captain and crew of Cool Runnings....Hi Dave, Guds, Ben and Gaby! It's Gary and Brenda, your neighbors on the L440 Pandion in the Dry Tortugas. Sounds like you had a challenging adventure after we last saw you, glad to see that all is OK and you are continuing your dream. Our sail home was an adventure, winds gusting up to 35 knots, joined by a pod of spinner dolphins (very cool!)for awhile, and anchored in the Ten Thousand Islands, our home sailing grounds, after about 15 hours. We wondered how your trip south was going. Ben and Gaby, keep us posted on all the cool stuff you see. Best, Gary and Brenda

    1. Thanks so much Gary and Brenda, and so nice to have met you in the Dry Tortugas!!!!! We have some pics we took from our boat of you guys anchored off send us an email with your email address and we can forward them to you ;) Kind regards Dave & see Guds replies below ;)

  2. Hello! So nice to hear from you guys and so awesome to have met you! So glad to hear you made it back home safely! Thanks again for the Champagne...we are saving it for when we cross the Equator! Look for it in a picture sometime soon :) Please stay in touch. It would be great to meet up again somewhere in the world!

  3. PS: If you would like, send an email to We have some nice pics we took of Pandion anchored in the Dry Tortugas. I'll email them to you!

  4. What an adventure!!! It's like reading a suspense novel and we're all on the edge of our seats. Glad to hear you all are safe in harbor and can't wait to read the next leg of the trip. Happy Mother's Day from The Hysell Family

  5. Wow guys, been reading the posts backwards and hadn't expected such an action packed tale. Given what you've been through you all look fabulous in the Cayman pics. I think most of us would still be very green about the gills. I hope you figure out exactly what is causing the chafing and that that is sorted out. Thanks for all the great posts and keep going. Ben, I love the t-shirt with the storm troopers.

  6. Phew! I've been catching up, having missed a lot I see. The experiences you two, Dave & Gudren, are giving your children, are priceless & memories stay with one, so whatever happens going forward, nothing will ever take away from this amazing adventure & the incredible family dynamic which you all so obviously have. Happy sailing & God watch over you all & be your anchor in the storm! xx Fair winds & Safe Havens xx.

  7. Phew! I've been catching up, having missed a lot I see. The experiences you two, Dave & Gudren, are giving your children, are priceless & memories stay with one, so whatever happens going forward, nothing will ever take away from this amazing adventure & the incredible family dynamic which you all so obviously have. Happy sailing & God watch over you all & be your anchor in the storm! xx Fair winds & Safe Havens xx.