24 October 2015 | Escuda de Veraguas
23 October 2015 | Zapatilla Islas
26 June 2015 | Discovery Bay
25 June 2015 | Escuda de Veraguas
23 June 2015 | Turtle Bay
21 June 2015 | The Lemmons
21 June 2015 | Swimming Pool, Eastern Holandes
19 June 2015 | Swimming Pool, Eastern Holandes
19 June 2015 | Eastern Coco Banderas
18 June 2015 | Ogopsibudup
16 June 2015 | Ogopsibudup (You think I make these up?!)
16 June 2015 | Gannirguinnitdup
10 June 2015 | Los Gruillos
10 June 2015 | Los Gruillos
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.
22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Today was dominated by interactions with the Guarda Frontera. We started out by deciding to go beach combing before the sun got too high and went over to the long beach on Cayo Cinco Balas. This was the first Cuban beach where we found significant plastic washed up on shore, but it is wide open to the ocean so that probably explains it. We were enjoying the beach when one of the flats boats that take fly fishermen out fishing in this area came running up to us. We were told that walking on the beach was not allowed. I know that the only places foreigners are allowed to go ashore is at a marina, but I had heard that the deserted islands were OK. Certainly we had no problem at Cayo Blanco or Machos de la Fuera and they were NOT deserted. Anyway, we said OK and headed back to dink and the boat. At least it was on our last day and we had already walked about as much beach as we wanted. After lunch another flats boat came zooming up to us, this time with uniformed officials. It was explained (in Spanish, no English) that one was the Port Captain for the Jardines de la Reina and the other was Dept of Interior (whatever that is). The Capt. examined our papers and then our passports, looking at every single page and commenting that we went to Panama a lot. They were also amused by the 'watermark' pictures on the pages - especially the steam engine and the long horn steers. After he finished, he said we needed to wait for the inspector. So we waited. And waited. To pass time, I showed them the chartplotter which impressed them greatly and then the engines - also approved. After about a 1/2 hr. wait, the inspector arrived - complete with dog & handler - in another flats boat. I think the dog still needs some training, but he dutifully sniffed the starboard berth, head and 'workshop'. He refused to go down into the port hull and finally the handler picked him up and carried him down. Then the fun began. In the aft cabin (Sandy's) the dog 'alerted' (barked) at some coconuts. He would bat one around and crouch and bark. The handler tried taking one at at time away and still the dog barked and batted the others. As soon as he heard the 'alert', the Capt. sent the other two men down to investigate. The Interior guy (with whom I had been chatting while we waited) apologized and indicated the Capt was being excessive, but they had to do what he said. They decided the coconuts were OK and after poking around Sandy's dirty clothes which were on the floor near them, they left. Then the Capt insisted that the other inspector (not the dog handler) also make a thorough visual inspection - it was really more of a 'pro forma', but we did it. And then the Capt insisted that he inspect the beer locker under the cockpit floor and the lazarette and the engine compartments. Finally it was decided that everything was OK. We all shook hands and they left. The whole process took ~2 hrs. Everyone was very polite and, other than the Capt., all were very friendly. With the afternoon mostly shot, Deb & I determined to do one last snorkel. We went to a section of reef we had spotted on our way back to the boat yesterday - just beyond where the reef ends, but well inside it. A large area of good sized coral heads and formations looked very promising. We anchored essentially in the middle. This allowed us a short snorkel with the current (I would guess it was 1-2 kts), a longish swim against the current and then a nice drift back to dink. The plan worked great. And the coral was great. But even better were the fish! Hundreds of them. First we saw three queen trigger fish at the same time .Then several large hog fish. Then a huge (3-4') snapper. A ray floated by. Tons of good sized parrot fish and snappers. And our large snapper followed us the whole time like a puppy dog! Lots of trunk fish. One more angel (or was it the same one relocated?) It was really a great time for our last snorkel in Cuba. We are doing lots of apps and drinks for dinner which sound delicious. Tomorrow we sail for Cienfuegos (over two days with a stop for the night.)
Hookah Paradise - without the hookah
22 June 2016 | Jardines de La Reina
Deb & I were determined that we were not going to let hookah's demise prevent us from enjoying the beautiful reef - so we snorkeled. Over the day, we did several different patches of reef. The best was right where the breaking reef ends. At that point there were a large number of big coral formations spread over a wide area of sand on the edge of the 'channel' coming in. Because it was deeper and nearer the open water, the fish were even better. We saw more and bigger hogfish than we have ever seen. A huge grouper that I thought qualified as jewfish, but Deb didn't. A medium sized sting ray. Several large barracudas. And finally one small angel fish. It was the first angel we had seen in Cuba. Usually they are abundant, but at least we saw one. It would have been better with the hookah, but it was great as it was. Today is supposed to be pretty calm, no wind to sail, so I think we will stay put another day and then make the trip to Cienfuegos in two long days rather than on overnight - it will be easier that way.