Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Uh-Oh and Saharan Dust / Hurricanes

I finally learned to plot a course on Maxsea.  About time, don’t you think?  I plotted our routes from Bonaire to Cartagena.  This is a first for me as Bill normally takes charge of that kind of thing.  I decided that it was time for me to learn a little more about the software.  I know how to do whatever might need doing while we are underway and following a route that Bill has plotted, but my Maxsea knowledge stopped there.  I plotted the trip into several routes since we do not plan a straight passage.  We will stop in Curacao for a week or two; Aruba only overnight; then Monjes del Sur, VZ; then move into Colombian waters.  In Colombia we plan to stop in Cabo de Vela, Bahio Cinto, Rodadero, Punta Hermosa, and finally Cartagena.   After I finished, Bill reviewed the routes and deleted a total of three waypoints on the seven routes that were not required and served no real purpose.  So I didn’t make any big mistakes on this first plotting attempt.

We will follow the course as laid out by Lourae & Randy on S/V PIZAZZ.  They have made this trip more than a half-dozen times and have collected invaluable data that they freely share with all interested cruisers.  Unfortunately, their GPS waypoints do not agree with either of our sets of electronic charts for the waters of Colombia.  There are no paper charts available for this area.  We have a large paper pilot chart that covers the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas.  This pilot chart covers the entire northern coast of South America and the eastern coast of Central America.  But it obviously provides no details of the coastline.  It is supposed to be an area of very, very rough heavy seas and strong winds from all directions.  That trip should be interesting.  We should be doing this trip during first two weeks of September. 

There is an underwater rock wall across the main Boca Grande entrance to Cartagena.  The Spanish built this wall to keep out the British and it is still very much intact.  There is a 50-foot wide break in this wall that allows small vessels to traverse the main entrance.  The water is brown and you cannot see this underwater wall.  Unfortunately, the waypoint for the entrance provided by PIZAZZ does not agree with either of our charts.  And the entrance waypoint provided by the marina where we will be staying also does not agree with either of our charts.  There is another Boca Chica entrance to Cartagena but it is miles further south.  It saves more than 2 hours sailing time to enter at Boca Grande through the break in the underwater wall.  I plotted our route through where we think the break is located.  Not sure if we will follow that route or chicken out and waste the additional hours going to the “safe” southern entrance.  We can’t make that decision until we get there in September.

Now for the Uh-Oh. 

When our Winlink email was set-up several months ago two letters of Bill’s HAM call sign were transposed.  This means that our Winlink email is wrong because your call sign is part of your email address.   This is a problem and we aren’t 100% certain how to fix it.  Plus, once we do get the call sign corrected on Winlink then all those people who already have the wrong email address will not be able to contact us.  You can only have one Winlink email address so we cannot also leave the incorrect one functioning.  Not only that, but it is also an FCC violation to use this incorrect HAM call sign.  We truly do not know how this could have happened because your HAM call sign is supposed to be verify through the FCC database when Winlink confirms your original registration.

I discovered this transposition of letters in the call sign whenever I linked to check our latest reported position report.  I tried checking our position by entering our correct HAM or Winlink call sign which I found on Bill’s HAM license, and it showed no report for us.  I questioned Bill about it and he gave me the transposed call sign and it worked.  Turns out that the transposed call sign is printed on our boat cards and that is what Bill looked at when he first set-up Winlink, thus explaining why our Winlink email address is wrong.  So we have been violating FCC regulations for months and did not know it.  We must get this corrected ASAP.

I should have mentioned this weeks ago.  We owe a big “thank you” to a young cruiser who was in Isla Margarita.  We have a life vest for our 5-yr-old granddaughter when she visits next week, but we did not have a life vest for our 6-yr-old grandson.   She is tall and thin and still weighs less than 50 pounds; he is tall and just flat-out big and weighs over 70 pounds.  I suggested that we make an announcement on the morning VHF cruisers net in Isla Margarita that we were looking for a life vest for a child weighing 70-80 pounds.  I figured with all the cruising families in that area that maybe a boat had a life vest that their child had outgrown.  A very nice young guy gave us a life vest!  He refused to accept any payment.  How very nice of him.  He said he had bought it for when his nephew had visited and he no longer needed it.  It was just taking up space on his boat so he was happy to pass it along to another sailor who could use it.  We promised that we will also pass it along to another sailor after we are finished using it.  We don’t know this man’s name and could never understand the name of his boat.  He is an American and appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties and is cruising with his German girlfriend.  Would like to acknowledge his generosity and sorry that we don’t know his name or his boat name.

BLUEPRINT MATCH is leaving Bonaire tomorrow or the next day.  We are sad to see them go but understand the desire to move on.  They have been in Bonaire more than 2 months and are ready to move over to Curacao.  They are one of the boats that we hope to meet up with on the passages to Cartagena.  Main reason that we are sad to see them leave is that they have two young children who would have been perfect age playmates for our grandkids when they arrive next week.  These were the only young children that Bill and I know in the area right now.  Paul and Michelle have a 5-yr-old boy and a 3-yr-old girl.  They would have enjoyed playing with our grandson and granddaughter.  Oh well, not to be.  Guess the grandkids will have to deal with just adult company.

We read on one of the weather sites recently that this Saharan dust in the air is actually beneficial.  It creates a mess on and in our boats that turns into red-brown mud when a bit of rain falls, and it makes the seawater less clear and sparkling.  But its benefit out weighs its detriments.  The benefit is that all this Saharan dust is keeping the Atlantic Ocean cooler than normal.  The sun cannot penetrate the dust to heat up the ocean.  This means that the water temperature is not high enough to sustain hurricanes yet this year.  We can live with this dust and hope it continues for the next two months if it will stop potential hurricanes from forming.

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