09 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
08 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
08 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
06 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
06 June 2016 | Santiago de Cuba
05 June 2016 | Marina Trinidad
03 June 2016 | Marina Trinidad
03 June 2016 | Marina Trinidad
03 June 2016 | Cayo Blanco
02 June 2016 | Cayo Blanco
31 May 2016 | en route to Cayo Blanco
31 May 2016 | Cayo Sal, Cuba
29 May 2016 | Cayo Largo, Cuba
29 May 2016 | Cayo Largo, Cuba
28 May 2016 | Cayo Largo, Cuba
28 May 2016 | Approaching Cuba
27 May 2016 | Grand Cayman
26 May 2016 | Grand Cayman
27 June 2016 | En route to Cayman Brach
Sandy & Will were back at the dock by 8:00 so I could take their passports to clear us out. First I paid the marina bill. Somehow I confused the rate and thought it was $0.06/ft/day when it was really $0.20/ft/day. Fortunately I had enough cuc's left to pay the full amount. Then I went to the Port Capt. who informed us that he needed t do an on board inspection before we left. This was a new one. Never had that happen in any country we have visited. Of course he wanted me to come in to the dock. Given the fiasco we had last time, I convinced him to come out to the boat in my dinghy. He did, the inspection was more than perfunctory, but less than thorough. When I brought them back to the dock, he said, "You'll be gone in 5 minutes, yes?" Well, actually I wanted to buy one bottle of rum with my remaining cuc's, but it turns out the marina store is not open so I guess I just have a few cuc's for decoration - and no more rum to bring home. Oh well. It was totally flat calm, so we weighed anchor and motored out of the bay. Along the way we found a couple little fishing boats and stopped to give them the remaining line & hooks I had put together. I'm sure they appreciated it much more that the 'professional' fishermen we met in Machos de la Fuerta. By 11:00 we had cleared the bay and were on a course for Cayman Brach. There was a bit of wind so we raised sail and tried sailing. It was up and down, but we sailed or motor-sailed as needed. At one point we saw a Cuban Coast Guard ship pass us at some distance. Later, as he was on a reciprocal course and we were sailing more or less towards him, he hailed us on channel 16. "We are conducting exercises and you must keep 12 miles off." (We were about 3 miles at that point and they were between us and our destination. "How do you suggest I do that?" "You should steer a course of 090 until you are 12 nm off." "I cannot sail 090 as that is where the wind is from. I will sail as close to East as I can until we clear you." He seemed happy with that and it wouldn't hurt us to make a bit more E while we can anyway. So we changed course, re trimmed sails and went E (well, really SE). When I figured we had cleared him enough, we came back on course. Since we were still at that point going away from him, I figured it would be OK. It was. The wind was really crazy. Pipes up, put in a reef; dies down, shake it out; repeat; really pipes up, put in double reef; shake one out; shake other one out; add motor. But we are still on course to make Cayman Brach before dark tomorrow so all is well. More then.
Last Day in Cuba
27 June 2016 | Cienfuegos
On our last day in Cuba, Deb & I started out by walking to the Pallacio de Valle, one of many elaborate mansions built by the wealthy of Cienfuegos in the 30's and 40's. I had read that El Bodega was a casual restaurant in the building where we might get lunch and there was also a formal restaurant and a roof top bar. When we arrived, the entrance was all a flutter. It seems there were several girls (~15) who were shooting their 'coming out' pictures there today. This is a REAL BIG THING in Cuba. The girls have elaborate gowns, fancy hairdos and lots of makeup, then they pose in provocative ways at some gorgeous setting while professional photographers capture their emerging beauty. It must cost a fortune! The grand staircase of this place was a perfect spot and several different parties were waiting their turn. We were informed that it was $2.00cuc to see the house and take pictures, but that also included a free drink at the roof top bar. OK, deal. We managed to get up the staircase between shootings. The 'seeing the house' part was a real disappointment as only a couple rooms were open and they were unfurnished. You could see other furnished rooms through iron gates, but not get there. Not sure if this was because it was Sunday and the house wasn't really open for tours or what. Anyway, a spiral staircase (Deb is getting quite good at them!) led tot he roof top bar which DID have great views of the city and the harbor. The drinks were pretty weak, but since it was still before noon, that was just as well. We did find El Bodega which was a bar in the basement of the building and smelled it - very musty and maybe some bad plumbing thrown in. Not a place we wanted to have lunch. We caught a bici-taxi in to town again - only $2.00cuc this time - Sundays are slow. Unfortunately, all the street vendors, pulled pork and cold beer was gone. Yesterday had been a special festival for the rejuvenation of El Boulevard and we had just stumbled upon it. Glad we did, sorry it was not still there. We ran into our 'friends' from yesterday - two young men to whom we had given packages of soap and shampoo for their wives and kids. They were effusive about how much their wives loved the gifts. They helped us find more veggies to buy - mangoes, tomatoes, pineapple, etc. They tried to find us a spot for lunch, but Cuba just doesn't do lunch. Every place was a full menu of dinner servings. After several false starts, we thanked them and just went into El Rapido which was not selling $1.00 mojitos today, but did have a rather strange pizza that served as lunch. After that, we hit the art galleries and other shops again. For some reason, today we did much better. Perhaps part of it was that we HAD to spend all our cuc's as you cannot change them back and they are probably all going to be worthless within the year when (if) Cuba goes back to a single currency. At any rate we found great little gifts and even a couple paintings we agreed upon. The artist was a cool guy in his 20's with (fake) dreads who spoke about as much English as I did Spanish and was very pleased we liked his work. He actually had one painting of an old tobacco farmer that I might have bought, but it was more than we had left (and worth it). Another bici-taxi ($3.00cuc this time - always ask before getting in, but it is quite few miles so they earn the money) brought us back to the marina and dink brought us to the boat just before the afternoon thunderstorms hit. We ferried cushions back and forth about 4 times as each storm passed and it seemed to be clear until another one rolled in. We luxuriated in fresh tomatoes by having BLTs for dinner. And, of course, rum and a cigar in the net after all the squalls passed. Today I have to pay our marina bill ($7.74cuc) and then clear out with Customs and Port Captain. Once all that is done, I will spend the last of my cuc's at the marina store on rum. By law all rum is sold at the same price everywhere (except black market) so it makes it convenient to use the marina store. It looks like we will be motoring at least for a while as it is dead calm. The grib files so some breeze off shore, so I am hopeful, but our visas expire so we have no choice but to leave today.
26 June 2016 | Cienfuegos
I was awakened by yelling quite near the boat ~7:00. It turned out to be the men and women's crew practicing. There were singles, doubles, quads, and octets - the later with a helmsman. The rowers appeared to be college age. I wonder whom they compete against. It was certainly different than we had seen elsewhere. Apparently Cienfuegos is a more affluent city and less run by the tourist trade. (It is the busiest port in the country.) The graceful boats gliding across the flat water in front of the marina and the mansions on the water's edge was quite a sight. I took Sandy & Will in to the dinghy dock by 7:30 and they went off in search of veggies. I checked the fuel and decided I needed to buy some so emptied the 3 x 5 gal. jugs into the tank and went in to the fuel dock to refill them. $1.00cuc/litre. By 10:00, Sandy & Will were back with veggies. They decided that they wanted to stay in a casa particular that they had read about that seemed real nice and had internet access, so on my next trip in for diesel I took them ashore. We agreed to meet later at a 'Rapido' they had found on the pedestrian boulevard that had $1.00cuc mojitos that Sandy assured me were actually pretty good. By 11:00, Deb & I were ready to go see the town so we left dink at the dinghy dock and walked out to the main street and immediately found a bici-taxi into the square for $3.00cuc. The driver was really nice. He had family in Florida (doesn't EVERY Cuban?) and pointed out various sights along the way. The square (Parque Marti) is very impressive. All of the buildings are in excellent condition at least exteriorly. There is a large gazebo near the center that is a WiFi hotspot. How cool to be sitting in this ancient city (known as the 'Paris of Cuba' for its French influenced architecture) sitting in the gazebo and checking email and facebook with several Cubans. We had lunch at the Palantino, a taverna recommended by the guide book. It was right on the square and convenient, but the food was the same ham & cheese sandwiches that are ubiquitous here (and not very good). Oh well, the setting was great. As we walked around the square afterwards, we discovered that most of the ground floors of the huge colonial buildings were now art galleries, usually run by the artist or his family. Several were quite interesting. Extending both S and E from the square are pedestrian boulevards. The Rapido where we had agreed to meet was on the E one, but since it was well before 3:00, we walked the S one first. The center of the street was filled with carts selling the typical souvenirs and the sides of the street were lined with more art galleries. Deb looked in vain for a present for her mother. The E boulevard was quite different. Near the square, the center was filled with trees and benches and the sides were stores - but more stores for locals than tourists - clothing and even furniture stores. Further down, the center was filled with the Cuban version of food trucks. Apparently attached to some nearby restaurant, several carts were selling 'cerdo assada' sandwiches - basically pulled pork that looked MUCH better than what we had for lunch! There were also carts selling mixed drinks - mojitos, Cuba Libre, etc. - and beer - ice cold draft for $0.50cuc! And walking around with a beer or drink is no problem. We found the Rapido and it had a band playing popular music at about 110 dB! Sandy said it had been much quieter in the morning. It did have good mojitos however. Will was feeling a bit under the weather and had not come, and we agreed that if we did not run into each other before then, they would be back at the boat ready to go by 8:00 Monday. We caught another bici-taxi back to the marina while Sandy went off in search of internet cards. At the boat, I made blackened snapper which Deb actually liked and she made fried green tomatoes which I enjoyed - a good meal, just the two of us. I wanted to go in to the nearby hotel and see their Cabaret show which the guide book had highly recommended. It started @ 10:00 and went until 'late.' Deb was less enthusiastic about going out, but agreed. We took dink in to the dock and walked the couple blocks to the hotel. It hadn't started yet - "maybe 10:30 or 11:00" We waited in a beautiful open air lounge near the swimming pool. Hotel Jagua is quite the nice place! When we finally heard music coming from the Cabaret, we went back. Cover charge was $3.00cuc per person for non-hotel guests but included a Cuba Libre. Inside was dark with an empty stage and sort of bad MTV on multiple screens around the stage. We were the first ones there. Gradually the room filled - mostly with 20's & 30's dressed to the nines. Still no live show. After nearly an hour, I asked the bartender if there was going to be a show. "Yes, the video goes until 12:00 or so and then the live show." We gave up and left. I guess we are just not city people.
Welcome to Cienfuegos
23 June 2016 | Cienfuegos
The morning began with NE winds ~12 kts as predicted. Once again we were underway by 6:30 and sailing nicely 7-8 kts. By 9:00, however, the wind had already begun to fade and clock E. Our course was NW and we hadn't made enough extra W to allow us to swing N as the wind swung E, so we slowed down. Our original ETA had been 4:30 (based on predicted 5 kts), by 9:00 it had fallen to 12:30, but as the wind fell our ETA rose. Finally the wind got around to 120* apparent and we could fly the spinnaker. That got our speed back up in the 5-6 kt range and very comfortably. The wind continued to clock and soon we were sailing by the lee, but still over 5 kts. Then we gybed the spinnaker (initially UNintentionally, then in a controlled fashion!) By 1:00 our speed was down to 3 kts and our ETA was 6:30, so we dowsed the spinnaker and fired up an engine. The channel into Cienfuegos is quite long (8-9 nm) but extremely well buoyed. There were red/green pairs and huge range markers everywhere. Unfortunately, the tide was falling so we were fighting a 1-1 1/2 kt current most of the way (It is a very large bay that drains through a fairly narrow opening.) I started hailing Cienfuegos Marina at 2 nm out and never got an answer. I had emailed them before we left and was told "No room. All charter boats." Indeed, when we arrived that looked to be the case. There was one other boat anchored so we anchored a respectful distance from them. Still no answer from the marina, but Guarda Frontera did answer and confirmed that I should come ashore to the marina office to complete paperwork, so I launched dink and did that. The marina manager was very pleasant, directed me how to find the dinghy dock and greeted me there. We went to his office to complete the contract (even though we are at anchor). Cuban regulations require that our access to Cuba (and Cuban's access to us) be controlled through a marina and so they charge a minimal fee ($0.06cuc/ft/day) for use of dinghy dock and we are prohibited from going anywhere else in the dinghy. The fee also includes use of all marina facilities which in this case may not be a joke as the bathroom/showers are controlled by a key you have to get at the office so they might actually be decent enough to use - unlike Trinidad or Cayo Largo. After finishing with the marina manager, I went next door to the Aduana (Customs officer). He was in full dress uniform and very pleasant and friendly. He welcomed us to Cienfuegos and greatly appreciated the printed crew list I gave him which saved him writing it all down. After customs came the Port Captain. He was much younger than the one in the Jardines, but had a similar attitude. No, he would not ride out to the boat in my dinghy. He would not ride out to the boat in the marina's launcha. We had to bring the boat in to the dock - no option. The available dock was an imposing concrete affair. At least we could pull alongside and into the wind. I dinghied back to the boat and told the rest the 'good' news. We got all our fenders and lines prepared and then weighed anchor and proceeded to the dock. I'm not sure exactly why, but the docking was a fiasco. Of course, there was no one there to help us. I brought the bow right up to a cleat and Will lassoed it on the second try, but somehow instead of holding us tight while the stern drifted in (my plan), we ended up with the bow 10+' off and the stern further out. The stern line was too short to successfully throw to the marina personnel who had now shown up. After quite a bit of thrashing and some yelling, I got the boat close enough to the dock to get the spring line ashore and then the stern line and work our way in until we were secure. We touched the bow once on the concrete, but only a minor scratch. We were secure. And then we waited for the Port Captain and the Drug Inspector to arrive. But not for long. The came and did their thing. This dog looked like the parent of the one in the Jardines but was even more uncontrolled and distractible. He jumped (with wet feet) on each of the berths and refused to even sniff in several areas he was directed to. Whatever. Maybe if there HAD been drugs he would have behaved totally differently. Finally they were done. Before departing, they gave us a list of 'rules.' Anchor in front of the marina (not back in the bay where we had been); dinghy ONLY to dinghy dock and back; dinghy out of water at night, anchor light required; NO ONE on boat without permission of Port Captain; etc. By the time we got anchored for the second time, the afternoon thunderstorm had arrived and we were all soaked. Fortunately it was over by dinner so it only dampened cocktail hour. As we were finishing dinner, a band started up on shore - playing 60's US & British music! - Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Elton John. How strange to be anchored at our last stop in Cuba - the third largest city in the country, and be laying in the net listening to 60's music in English. Seemed a fitting end to a confused day. Today, Sandy & Will are heading in to the veggie market early to get some provisioning done and then we will all 'do the town' later. Maybe even a Cabaret if we can stay up late enough (starts @ 10:00).
23 June 2016 | Macho de la Fuera
After studying the strong diurnal pattern of the winds - 15-18 kts from NE in AM, 0-5 kts SW in PM, we came up with a Plan B to get to Cienfuegos. Rather than try to do it in a 24 hr sail (that would end up being motoring for at least part of it as the wind dies), we would do two day sails using the strong morning winds to make most of our distance. And IT WORKED! At least for today. By 6:00 we had 17 kts from NE. We had anchor up and underway by 6:30. Apparent wind was 120* and we were making 7-8 kts in a very comfortable fashion After ~2 hrs of true down wind sailing, we came about 40 * to our final destination. This brought the apparent wind around to 90* and we really took off - . I saw the knot meter hit 9.9, but never 10.0. Mostly it was 8-9 kts and again very comfortable. About 7-8 nm out from our destination, the wind began to fade and our speed dropped, but we were still making 5 kts in 8 kts of wind! As we approached the reef at Macho de la Fuera, we rolled up gennie, spun into the wind and dropped the main (all under sail - no engine). We couldn't quite make it all the way around to where I could unroll gennie again, so I did have to fire up one engine briefly. (Yes, I could have unrolled gennie and backed her to get us around, but I'm a lazy sailor and it didn't really take much diesel.) With just gennie, we made 3.2 kts across the reef and up towards our anchorage. Finally we rolled up gennie and motored to the exact same spot of sand we had anchored in last time. We had come ~46 nm in just over 6 hrs. - not a bad day! Hopefully tomorrow will be as good.