Poulston Post

27 December 2020 | Salt Spring
21 October 2019 | Salt Spring
15 September 2018 | Salt Spring Island
23 December 2017 | Salt Spring Island
23 November 2017 | Back in Canada
14 September 2017
22 August 2017 | Vanuatu
16 July 2017 | Musket Cove
16 May 2017 | Opua
27 March 2017 | Opua
30 January 2017 | Opua
20 December 2016 | Upper Coomera
11 November 2016 | Tonga
10 October 2016 | Cook Islands and Niue
05 September 2016 | Societies
19 August 2016
20 July 2016
18 April 2016 | Isabella, Galapagos
11 March 2016 | Jane warm and sunny
15 January 2016 | Cuba

Cuba

15 January 2016 | Cuba
Jane warm and sunny

As I write this we are having a kind and gentle sail between Cuba and Cayman Brac, one of the three Cayman Islands. The sun has just risen, always a wonderful sight at sea with it’s deep red sphere promising another beautiful day.

Cuba is a truly fascinating country. It is one of the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans and bigger than we realised, in fact not much smaller than England. It is rarely explored by the cruising community and we are really pleased that we managed to visit it before we leave the Caribbean. We saw very few boats of any kind while we explored the southern coast. We think the waters may be busier in the spring, but by then we will be in Panama and so had no choice in timing our visit. The weather is always unsettled around Christmas, but although some anchorages were a tad rolly, even in our Catamaran, we felt we lucked out with the weather.

We arrived in the Cayos de San Felipe, and over four days made our way east around the north part of the reef system to Cayo Largo to check in. Not the best of routes as the wind on the whole was on our nose, but luckily there was not much and the iron donkey (engine, normally only use one) did her job. We hardly saw a soul, although on our second night we enjoyed an anchorage with a lobster boat. They came alongside to give us 12 huge lobsters and seemed very happy when we offered a bottle of rum as a gift.

Our wine cellar (or should I call it booze cellar) is under our bed. Well sadly three in the bed does not work. Birdie Num Num had not left us, but without our knowledge had snuggled into a gap in our pillows. We were so upset when we found him under the mattress, both of us had become quite attached to the wee little thing, but it was certainly lucky we found him when we did. We like to think that we gave him a few extra days, for if we had not appeared he probably would not have survived. We still wonder how long he might have stayed on board with us.

Our next night in Cayo Rosario another boat came up to us and gave us a huge grouper (enough for four meals); which they had just caught. They did not want a gift, just lots of smiles and odd words from our Spanish dictionary seemed to make them happy. We were quickly finding out how friendly and generous the Cubans are. Checking into Cayo Largo was easy and everyone was so helpful, however there was no fresh fruit and vegtables anywhere. We only found one shop; which was at the marina, so not sure where the locals get food as they were not allowed access. Every item I bought was written down in a book, not that there was much to buy except for some eggs, bread and cheap rum. The Cuban diet is very basic and it was lucky I had food in our freezer and stores to help add to meals.

We used Nigel Calder’s pilot book while we were in Cuba, but since the latest hurricane and with silting, a lot has changed. Going into Cayo Largo we found there were now two channels not one, most confusing. Even our charts were way off and we were constantly on our toes with reefs, steel piles for fish pens just above the water and depths/reefs not as marked. Like Belize, Cuba is not for the faint hearted, as in ski-ing we would call the sailing triple black diamond, and in a monohull it would have been even harder. We saw a brand new Catana Catamaran on the reef in the Cayos de Dios, a reminder how careful one has to be.

Our plan was to go back west and around Isla de la Juventud before heading back to Cayo Largo for Christmas. For once our itinerary worked and we had a fantastic time. We had anchorages all to ourselves, sunshine and beautiful unspoilt scenery with not a hotel or house to be seen. Well there was one hotel on Juventud, but it was pretty rundown being built before the revolution and having only about six guests when we were there.

We visited Cayo Hijo de Las Belleatos, a favourite spot for locals close to Cayo Largo. At Cayo Rosario we had a tense night with thunder and lightening very close to the boat, but it was a beautiful spot. In Cayo Largo we had met a French 57 foot lagoon at the marina who had been hit by lightening. They lost all their electrics and were wandering around the boat at night with their head flash lights (torches) on. Always a fear with boating and bad weather. We put our phone, ipads, laptops and hand held radio in our microwave to keep them safe.

At Cayo Campos we were led into the anchorage off the island by the two wardens; it looked impossible on the charts/pilot. They look after the monkeys and iguanas on the island, ten days on, ten days off – what a job. We gave them a bottle of rum as a thank you, total cost $4 and they brought us 20 lobsters the next morning and insisted we come ashore to visit. Next was Cayo Matais and then onto Caleta Puerto Frances at the bottom of Isla Juventud.

Puerto Frances was a stunning spot where we went ashore to see the wardens who look after the area and to explore. A dive boat came into the bay every day and the snorkelling was great. Our last night there a charter boat with four Swiss guys arrived and invited us over for sundowners. The captain charters a Cat every year over Christmas and knew the area well, however although they had been very successful fishing they had not had any lobster. I gave them eight of ours and in return they gave us a new fishing lure that they said caught them fish every day. Well we have just caught a three foot baracuda with it, so it is now our favourite.

Our pilot book said that it was worth taking a land trip to Nueva Gerona and our Swiss friends said that there was a large market on Sundays. The timing was right and so we decided to go into Marina Siguanea for a couple of nights. We have never touched bottom, but I suppose there is a first time for everything. The narrow entrance to the marina is now mainly silted over and we hit sand on our way in. We do not draw much (have 4.6 feet below us) so hopefully they will dredge the canal soon. Security is tight in Cuba and we were immediately boarded by the Guardia (police) who needed to check our papers. Must admit it was a change to not see firearms on government personnel and they always take off their shoes when boarding ☺ They came out at 5am in the morning to check us out of the country in Cienfuegos and to make sure there was only the two of us on board.

The other reason we went into the marina was because a cold front was forecast to come through. A good call as we hardly felt the strong winds, being very protected from the hills all around. Our day in Nueva Gerona was interesting. We like to take public transport and experience the locals, being Sunday everyone was dressed up and in party mode, such fun. The town was certainly different and not what we were expecting. After walking everywhere we never found the market, but did see one person selling pork on a street corner. However we did meet Tony and he made our day. No one speaks English and our Spanish is next to nothing, but we were able to explain that we were looking for fresh fruit and vegetables. “Come to my casa/house” he says, so off we go expecting oranges to be picked from his back yard. However, over wonderful fresh brewed coffee, he raids his family’s kitchen and finds us eggs, onions,
peppers, tomatoes and lemons. Not only that he wants nothing for them (not sure what his wife thought later). Tony brought out a beautiful box of cigars; which we bought for next to nothing for Russell’s Christmas present. Such a charming man telling us that we were now family and if we needed anything ‘anything” we were to let him know.

There was only one restaurant in town and on the menu there was pork, pork, or pork cooked six different ways. Small perfect sized servings and joy of joys it came with a little salad. There we met Dennis a local entrepreneur who spoke a bit of English and found us eggs and a friend to take us back to the marina. All in all a fascinating day out.

Then it was back to Cayo Largo with more lobster being traded on the way, this time for cooking oil and rum. When we got to Cayo Rosario Russ was not feeling well, a runny tummy we put down to too much lobster. I managed to get us back to Cayo Largo in crazy seas and wind, but it was a very quiet Christmas day with Russ sick in bed for three days before I managed to get him off the boat to a doctor. The medical system in Cuba is excellent and he was immediately looked at, injected and put on two drips for a couple of hours. Feeling much better we set off for Cienfuegos on the mainland two days away.

Russ was as well as we thought and it was a long trip, but we made it and as soon as we arrived at the marina the doctor there knew exactly what the problem was. A new virus is being carried by mosquitoes and the new anti biotics and strict diet that we were given did the trick. It is probably the longest I have ever seen Russ go without a beer and both of us lost a lot of weight as I also had some kind of bug that I was fighting. Thankfully we are both back on form and made up for lost time when we explored Trinidad and Havana after enjoying a quiet New Year on a friends boat as Russ was still on the mend.

Trinidad is one of the oldest cities in the New World, first settled in 1514 and is a wonderful colonial city. It is now on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites with some of the buildings having been tastefully restored. We found it charming. In contrast Havana looks like it has just come through a war. Many of the oldest buildings are in a state of imminent collapse, held together by planks of wood, luckily we saw lot of restoration happening in the city. We stayed in the old town which has many grand old buildings and a lot of the larger homes all lovingly restored. It is a fascinating place to explore and on top of that there is the buzz. Everywhere we went there was music. We went to a concert where everyone was dancing, the moves were some of the best I have seen. The bands where we heard the flute played with amazing energy, the sax with such style, the best live music we have heard in years. For any music lover Cuba is a must. In Havana our best dinner was at Ernest Hemmingway’s Florentina, a circular dining room with huge stunning paintings and yummy food. Best band had to be in a restaurant in the Plaza Vieja. Artwork and crafts in Plaza San Francisco and old books Plaza de Armas.

I did not mention money. Luckily times have changed and ATM machines can be found in most cities. The bank at Cayo Largo also cashed money for me with my passport and English Visa card. Our Canadian Mastercards cards did not work. Apparently American cards are not accepted, maybe there was some link. Cubans love Canadians, so much that we are the only country that can stay longer than a month without having to get an extension; which was lucky as we ended up spending more than a month in the country. No one takes credit cards, it is a cash society with two currencies, one for locals (used in markets, stalls, bakery) and one for everything else. We stayed in people’s homes at $30 a night, there are a lot of them and costs vary. Breakfast was an extra $4-$5 and huge. Hotels seemed very expensive in the cities, although the all inclusive ones in Cayo Largo were cheaper. We could have eaten and drunk for free when we went to get some wifi, as they have no wrist bands for guests. Wifi is very, very limited. You have to buy a card, valid for one hour and they are not often available. It can be used (if there is wifi available) in a large hotel lobby or city square. We lost touch with the world for a month.

We could easily have stayed longer in Cuba, we loved the rich culture and traditions dating back hundreds of years. The people are some of the most spontaneously generous and friendly we have come across. Visiting Cuba is a an educational experience and one for the self sufficient cruiser as provisioning is difficult. However a meal of chicken only costs $3.50 with a cocktail for $2 at the marina, so we went out and socialised as much as possible whilst adding to the local economy. It was like going back 50 years, a time warp and the old cars were like being in a museum. Fuel is expensive and scarce, so a lot of people use oxen for farming, horses, horse and cart, or bicycle and cart for getting around.

Time now to enjoy treats not had for a while in the Cayman Islands. We have so many pictures to share that we have broken them down into three parts. Hope that they do not bore you too much, but pictures are better than words and we hope that you enjoy. As Piglet said to Pooh “what day is it today?” “My favourite Day” Pooh replied.
Comments
Vessel Name: Ta-B
Vessel Make/Model: Fontaine Pajot 46' Bahia Maestro
Hailing Port: Vancouver, Canada
Crew: Jane and Russell Poulston
About: We feel we are the perfect blend of Britain (Jane) and New Zealand (Russell), although our home for the last 31 years has been Vancouver, Canada. We have two terrific kids, Amy and Edwin, who are boy/girl twins and now 31 years old.
Extra:
Our sailing dreams were somewhat flexible. We spent our first two years in the Caribbean before crossing the Atlantic. We then spent five years in the Med before returning to the Caribbean for a couple of years. Lastly we crossed the Pacific and after two years sold our boat in Fiji. Ta-b now is [...]
Ta-B's Photos - Last Bonaire Fish Pictures (Main)
Roll on 2021
23 Photos
Created 30 December 2020
Salt Spring Time
14 Photos
Created 26 October 2019
Stages of building our new home
25 Photos
Created 26 October 2019
Special trip to Japan with Amy
15 Photos
Created 26 October 2019
Palm Springs Road Trip
6 Photos
Created 26 October 2019
Special party
10 Photos
Created 26 October 2019
Pictures from Salt Spring
17 Photos
Created 15 September 2018
Salt Spring Island
15 Photos
Created 22 December 2017
Snorkeling Time with my Fishie friends
13 Photos
Created 23 November 2017
Fiji with Edwin and Iva on board
27 Photos
Created 23 November 2017
Fiji with Amy and Luke onboard
13 Photos
Created 23 November 2017
New Caledonia
14 Photos
Created 14 September 2017
Vanuatu
34 Photos
Created 22 August 2017
Fabulous Fulaga and island picnic
25 Photos
Created 16 July 2017
Fiji
17 Photos
Created 16 July 2017
Goodbye New Zealand
18 Photos
Created 16 May 2017
New Zealand Road Trip
31 Photos
Created 27 March 2017
Family Time Down Under
35 Photos
Created 30 January 2017
New Zealand
15 Photos
Created 20 December 2016
Tonga
16 Photos
Created 11 November 2016
Niue
23 Photos
Created 18 October 2016
The Cook Islands
29 Photos
Created 15 October 2016
Taaha to Maupiti
22 Photos
Created 6 September 2016
Tahiti to Huahine
34 Photos
Created 19 August 2016
Tuamotus or Tomatoes
20 Photos
Created 18 July 2016
Pacific to Marquesas
17 Photos
Created 31 May 2016
More from Galapagos
26 Photos
Created 22 May 2016
Panama and the Galapagos
38 Photos
Created 14 April 2016
Cuba to San Blas
41 Photos
Created 2 March 2016
Havana
29 Photos
Created 15 January 2016
Trinidad
21 Photos
Created 15 January 2016
Cuba south coast
27 Photos
Created 15 January 2016
Belize
21 Photos
Created 27 December 2015
Adiós Guatemala
20 Photos
Created 15 November 2015
44 Photos
Created 25 October 2015
More Land Time
11 Photos
Created 26 August 2015
Summer in Vancouver and BC
16 Photos
Created 26 August 2015
Rio Dulce May 2015
23 Photos
Created 18 June 2015
Honduras
26 Photos
Created 15 June 2015
Provencia
9 Photos
Created 2 April 2015
San Blas Islands
38 Photos
Created 2 April 2015
Cartagena
26 Photos
Created 1 March 2015
Curacao and Santa Marta
40 Photos
Created 1 March 2015
Vancouver
20 Photos
Created 1 February 2015
Australia and New Zealand
38 Photos
Created 1 January 2015
Lovely Bonaire
63 Photos
Created 29 October 2014
Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands
32 Photos
Created 11 September 2014
British and US Virgin Islands
36 Photos
Created 29 July 2014
St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands
39 Photos
Created 24 June 2014
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32 Photos
Created 9 May 2014
Dominica
32 Photos
Created 3 April 2014
Martinique
41 Photos
Created 12 March 2014
Grenadines and Carriacou
26 Photos
Created 19 February 2014
Atlantic and Barbados
62 Photos
Created 5 January 2014
Now back to the Caribbean
27 Photos
Created 26 November 2013
Menorca to Canaries
23 Photos
Created 1 November 2013
Sicily and Sardinia
18 Photos
Created 4 September 2013
Jamie's pictures
17 Photos
Created 12 August 2013
Croatia, Montenegro and Ionian
46 Photos
Created 12 August 2013
Russell's Pictures
36 Photos
Created 30 June 2013
Venice and Croatia
50 Photos
Created 29 June 2013
Greece
50 Photos
Created 26 May 2013
Vancouver and Turkey
11 Photos
Created 1 May 2013
Land time in Canada
26 Photos
Created 26 March 2013
Ephesus and Gallipoli
17 Photos
Created 9 December 2012
Turkey and England
22 Photos
Created 28 October 2012
Cyprus and Southern Turkey
41 Photos
Created 23 September 2012
Jordan and Jerusalem
52 Photos
Created 15 July 2012
EMYR Group 3 Boats
7 Photos
Created 15 July 2012
EMYR Last Leg
30 Photos
Created 15 July 2012
25 Photos
Created 4 June 2012
EMYR Turkey
34 Photos
Created 2 June 2012
March and April
20 Photos
Created 2 May 2012
Australia and New Zealand
43 Photos
Created 1 March 2012
November to January 2012
26 Photos
Created 22 January 2012
Yoga and Boops visit, plus some older pictures from October
65 Photos
Created 9 November 2011
West and Evans Trips
22 Photos
Created 11 October 2011
Trip back south
25 Photos
Created 26 September 2011
Heading North
47 Photos
Created 6 August 2011
29 Photos
Created 4 July 2011
Happy Days in Marmaris
11 Photos
Created 4 July 2011
7 Photos
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March trip to Capadocia
41 Photos
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Landtime
9 Photos
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Salerno to Marmaris
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36 Photos
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21 Photos
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11 Photos
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Europe April-June
17 Photos
Created 17 June 2010
20 Photos
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33 Photos
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26 Photos
Created 8 September 2009
Jamie visit
20 Photos
Created 11 August 2009
23 Photos
Created 27 July 2009
Azores to Lagos
20 Photos
Created 1 July 2009
Bermuda to the Azores
17 Photos
Created 8 June 2009
Bermuda
12 Photos
Created 16 May 2009
Trip with Kim and Cam
22 Photos
Created 13 May 2009
St. Martin
15 Photos
Created 1 May 2009
32 Photos
Created 28 February 2009
Virgin Islands
19 Photos
Created 29 January 2009
34 Photos
Created 9 January 2009
11 Photos
Created 9 January 2009
24 Photos
Created 12 December 2008
Trip back home and on the hard
10 Photos
Created 11 December 2008
24 Photos
Created 14 October 2008
15 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 24 September 2008
48 Photos
Created 24 September 2008
11 Photos
Created 24 August 2008
First few weeks in Bonaire
15 Photos
Created 24 August 2008
25 Photos
Created 28 July 2008
12 Photos
Created 5 July 2008
7 Photos
Created 2 June 2008
Still in St. Martin
9 Photos
Created 2 June 2008
24 Photos
Created 7 May 2008
6 Photos
Created 7 May 2008
14 Photos
Created 8 April 2008
Libby and Adrian's visit. Antigua and Barbuda
19 Photos
Created 27 March 2008
21 Photos
Created 14 March 2008
9 Photos
Created 20 February 2008
18 Photos
Created 7 February 2008
13 Photos
Created 28 January 2008
10 Photos
Created 28 January 2008
19 Photos
Created 6 January 2008
Pictures of Ta-b
5 Photos
Created 19 December 2007
Trinidad to Grenada
13 Photos
Created 19 December 2007
11 Photos
Created 6 December 2007