Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cayo Campos

We discovered a gem when we stopped here, beautiful clear water, reefs to snorkel on and white sandy beaches to stroll down. 
Cayo Campos is a park with a warden's hut.  There are three rangers that keep watch over the wildlife here, where includes, jutias, iguanas, crocodiles and an introduced species of monkeys. 
The monkey troop comes to the warden station in the late afternoon and although quite shy of us, they took bananas from the ranger. They stay close by and feed on the crabs that they get amounts the mangroves. Notice the chickens in the background, the two species seem to get along just fine!

We had two marvellously long walks on the trails cut through the mangroves. On the second hike we went on a quest to see if we could see a crocodile.  We managed a glimpse of the first four inches of his nose after a very patient quiet wait beside the pond where he hangs out during the day. We were informed that during the night about 2200 they leave their day time sanctuary and head out to feed in the ocean. 
We came upon a marker bouy which had been driven up on the shore.  I hope we do not have to go through the spot it used to mark and if we do, I hope the charts are accurate. 
My latest headgear find, not something I will probably ever use on the boat so I left it onshore for another soul to find. 
Slimy seaweed on a piece of rock right at the water's edge. 

East of Nueva Gerona

We have had an eventful few days, we have been escorted in an army jeep back to our dinghy and dragged anchor in an isolated key, where we were very alone! 
We had read there was a very unusual prison near Neuva Gerona and since we did not have time to visit on our shopping trip we decided to stop on our way as we sailed past and see if we could find it. Another cruiser told us that we could drop our anchor in the bay just to the east of town and walk to the prison. After a lovely sail along the north coast of Isla Juventud we saw a large building in the general area and anchored about 500 meters from the beach. I felt a bit funny about it because there was no Gaurda hut about and there were people on the beach. Oh well, the Presido Model is the spot where Fidel and Raul Castro were imprisoned after a failed attempt to take one of Batista's army bases, pre-revolution, and we really were interested in visiting it. 

Barry is up at the top in a white shirt just left of the stairwell.
The gorgeous building where they ate their meals. We figured there were 450 cells in one building with two to a cell and five buildings, that is a lot of prisoners, they must of cooked and fed them all day. 

We had a great time exploring the prison complex, it was quite something. We headed back and about 200m from the entrance we noticed an army jeep coming toward us. It slowed down and then stopped and an officer indicated to us we should halt as he got out of the vehicle, while talking on his phone. Damn, I knew we should not have stopped there. He asked if we spoke Spanish and we told him, a little, so once he had us ensconced in the jeep he very slowly explained that we should not have anchored where we did. He said, or at least, we think he said, that an alarm went out when they saw our dinghy on the beach. He did not yell at us but we knew we were getting a scolding. He told us we were too close to the beach and would have to move the boat and that we should have anchored back at Nueva Gerona, which was about 4 miles away and has a convenient Gaurda hut where guys can hang out on the roof and make sure we behave and that, heaven forbid, no Cuban's come to visit our boat. 
He drove us back to the beach and we walked back to the dinghy. Standing guard over it was a Gaurda officer with a white shirt and stripes (a dead give away he is someone important) and a fellow in the normal green fatigues. The important guy got a call on his phone as we walked up (hmm do ya think it was the guy from the jeep), and then indicated we were to go back to the boat and leave. He got very excited when we were starting the dinghy motor and the dinghy turned and started to go sideways instead of straight back to the boat.  We hauled anchor and set sail under the watchful eye of all three of the officials, Cuba was once again safe from the dreaded foreigners on boats!!! 
We sailed about seven miles away and anchored at one of the isolated mangrove keys to the east of Isla Juventud. A Norther was scheduled to come through, the trade winds blow from the south east here so when a cold front comes, the winds clock around to the south, west and then blow a houlie out of the north. We were protected from the southeasterlies, and the norther but the anchorage was open to the west.  We got a good hold on the anchor when we set it while the wind was blowing from the southeast. We had the anchor alarm set, but Barry turned it off about 0300 when the wind had dropped and nothing had happened. I woke up and was listening to the shortwave radio just after 0700 when I figured the boat was not head to wind as it should be, we were tilting.  Barry looked out and we were very close to the mangroves, YIKES, we had dragged our anchor and were bumping on the bottom.  Fortunately there was enough water under us or the bottom was soft enough that we powered out of there as Barry hauled the anchor chain in. That was not good, there was not another soul around and we would have really had to work to get ourselves out of there if we had been any shallower, phew, dodged a bullet I'd say. 
We reanchored in another spot, the winds were northwesterly by then so we did have to worry about more than a 90 degree shift in the next 24 hours.  Barry had a hard time sleeping that night but the anchor held.  We are on our way further east towards Cayo Largo, a resort island. We will stop at least once or twice before we get there. Once we have explored that area we will turn back and head towards the west tip of Cuba. 

Sailing Info.

We are using the "Cruisng Guide to Cuba" written by Capt. Cheryl Barr,  Volume 1, Varadero to Trinidad, published by Yacht Pilot in Nova Scotia.  It has lots of great information, with way points to help you transit narrow passes and lots of information on what is available in the small towns covered by the book, as well as the flora and fauna in the area.  We have heard the Nigel Calder's book is very good as well. 

Cayo el Navio  21*52.9' N  X  082*36.0' W 
Anchored in 3m of water with sea grass bottom, anchor held in the SE and S wind
We dragged into the mangroves when the wind switched to the W 
Managed to power ourselves out of the area leaving big light spots where we had churned up the bottom. 
Reanchored at   21*53.2' N  X  082*36.3' W in 3m. Anchor held in winds NW through E. 
Protection from NW to SE.  No services 

Cayo Campos   21*33.7' N  X  082*20.6' W
Anchored in 4m in sand, anchor dug in well 
Good protection, reef to stop waves where open to the south 
Nice beaches and great swimming and snorkelling, 5 boats in anchorage, most we've seen yet
Great walking trails ashore

Isla Juventud

In Nueva Gerona after buying our fresh food we found a school where we left the supplies we had purchased in the U.S. for that purpose.  We figure not too many foreigners make their way to this school so we were pleased to find it. 
The people at the school were not sure what to do with our gifts and if you look at the four ladies in the back left of the picture, the one sitting at the table is making a list of everything we gifted them, the smaller one is telling her what to do and the one with her hands on her hips is just shaking her head in confusion!!  
The market in Nueva Gerona certainly had enough eggs for everyone, we did not avail ourselves of these chickens, instead taking the easier way out and buying frozen drumsticks in the local super mercado! 
The mystery of the missing toilets seats of Cuba was solved, there were never any to begin with!!

This is the Gaurda house or station at the Marina Seguanea, notice the fellow on the roof on the left hand of the picture, he is often up at the top making sure everyone behaves.

Sailing Info.

We are using the "Cruisng Guide to Cuba" written by Capt. Cheryl Barr,  Volume 1, Varadero to Trinidad, published by Yacht Pilot in Nova Scotia.  It has lots of great information, with way points to help you transit narrow passes and lots of information on what is available in the small towns covered by the book, as well as the flora and fauna in the area.  We have heard the Nigel Calder's book is very good as well. 

Ensenada de lots Barcos  21*54.5' N  X  083*00.0' W
Anchored in 2.5m of water, decent holding
Open to the west and south wind and waves funnel into bay
Bay is very shallow throughout, no services

Thursday, March 17, 2016

South Coast of Cuba

We put up our Dobson Yacht Club burgee (Sydney, NS)  the one with the red lion on it at the club at Marina San Antonio at the very west end of Cuba.  We used they fresh water to clean two weeks of salt of the boat, yeah!  Cat's Paw IV looks lonely by herself at the end of the dock!
We made it around the west end of Cuba a couple of days ago.  The booming easterlies let up for a few days and we had a gentle sail across to Isla de Juventud.  We are currently in Nueva Gerona, it is an hour and a half bus ride from where we are anchored, for the day, stocking up on fresh fruits and veggies, after not having any for about a week.  I am going to love the salad I am planning for supper!! 
The top five pictures were taken yesterday when we went out for a two tank dive.  Barry got to drive the boat on the way back and the Cuban fellow in the background is interested in sailing so we searched the boat for the most helpful things we had and gave him a book and some CD's and videos about sailing. They are mostly for the long distance cruisers but something is better than nothing. We ordered lunch on the boat and I was asked what we would like fish or lobster and I chose lobster of course.  We stopped before we went diving and the dive master jumped in and I was trying to figure out what was going on.  Sure enough, he was catching lunch, you can't get much fresher than that!!!
The diving was very good and we saw some huge green moray eels, huge lobsters everywhere and lots and lots of reef fish. The coral was on it's way back from a hurricane that went through here in 2008. 
We are not sure how much longer we will spend here. Are basic supplies are quite reduced and it is hard to get most everything here. We may head further east to a spot called Cayo Largo that is supposed to have great beaches and good diving but we may just head slowly back west and head to the U.S.  Our visa's are good until the middle of April so we may stay until then. Time will tell meanwhile we are having a great time and enjoying ourselves as always!!

Sailing Info.

We are using the "Cruisng Guide to Cuba" written by Capt. Cheryl Barr,  Volume 1, Varadero to Trinidad, published by Yacht Pilot in Nova Scotia.  It has lots of great information, with way points to help you transit narrow passes and lots of information on what is available in the small towns covered by the book, as well as the flora and fauna in the area.  We have heard the Nigel Calder's book is very good as well. 

Marina Cabo San Antonio  21*54.1' N  X  084* 54.5' W
Tied up to the dock, $0.40/ft.  no charge for water or electricity
Concrete dock with big black cushioning fenders, too protect boat have fenders at all levels. 
Showers, with restaurant and small store available, no fresh fruit or veg available, no internet
Able to check in and out of country here 

Marina Siguanea    21*37' N X 082*59' W
Anchored in 3m. just north of the entrance to the Marina. We had to anchor twice but once the anchor set we had good holding. 
Protected from prevailing easterlies
Marina offers diving and a small store which had eggs, cereal, cheese, some meat and drinks. 
Hotel is a 20 min walk away, Internet may be available on their computer 
Daily bus available to Nueva Gerona, 1 and 1/2 hours, where you can resupply, wifi available 

North coast of Cuba

We left civilization and some cruising buddies once we left Cayo Levisa. We have been taking our time and doing short hops and riding the easterlies, west down the north shore of Cuba.  Our anchorages have consisted of Cayos or Keys, small mostly mangrove islands that are inside the reef that separates Cuba from the Straits of Florida. The cruisng guide we have is excellent with very specific routes to get in and out of the anchorages so there have been very few stressful moments since we left Marina Hemigway!!  For the most part the sky has been clear enabling us to see and avoid the reefs and sandbars we have to weave through to get to the anchorages.  
At Cayo Innes de Soto we stayed  for a few days while a blustery (30 knot) wind blew itself out. Each day we took a dinghy ride through the mangrove maze. At one spot we saw the remains of some sort of fishing weir. It had been built across the channel. I imagine at some point it was very effective in catching any fish that had the misfortune of swimming through the spot. 
One day after we had set anchor we spied a small fishing boat chugging noisily towards us. We negotiated a price and they left with 4 fewer lobsters and 2 fewer fish than they had arrived with.  There was a father, his two sons and a buddy on board,  I asked if I could take a picture but was refused.  The Captain indicated that they were not supposed to be consorting with us.  We managed to figure out a few things he said but his Spanish was very different than we have encountered before and we had trouble understanding him. 
We have been on the go for almost two weeks and we have no fresh fruit or vegetables on board. We thought we might be able to procure some in the town of La Fe, a very small place, which seems to be dedicated to fishing. Once we anchored the Gaurda called us on the radio and spouted increasingly frustrated demands at us over the radio.  We tried as best we could to answer his questions but did not succeed. We went ashore in the dinghy, the book said we could, and were met two yards off shore by the head guy. He looked at our papers and then very patiently explained that international boats could not go here, there were no tourist accomodations, ( this was the Cuba we wanted to see) and we would not be allowed to come ashore.  I told him we had no fruits and vegetables and that we wanted some very badly, no luck!  To give him credit he did allow us to spend the night at anchor but demanded to know when we were going to leave and what time did we expect to get to our next anchorage. HUMFF!!
Barry was very disappointed we could not explore the town, I am sad there are not fresh veggies for supper and the town's school missed out on some new school supplies. Oh well, we amused ourselves by watching the antics of the local populace.  A powered fishing boat came by, they have very old hand cranked diesel engines in their boats, somewhat similar to the boat below, but most of them have a cabin with a wooden roof built that offers some protection from the wind and waves. 
He was pulling a single fisherman in a dory which is an open fishing boat that they row around with great long wooden oars. There was a problem with the engine, so they threw out the anchor, then a second fisherman jumped in the engineless boat and proceeded to try and tow the larger boat to port by man power alone.  Things were not going well, then the third fisherman still aboard the bigger boat fiddled with the transmission and the powered vessel took off dragging the hapless smaller boat, what fun.  They managed to get disentangled and all made it ashore safely.
This is another method of fishing, he is just in an inner tube and he has on flippers to propel himself around the anchorage.  We saw three of four different fellows out and they all stayed in the protected area not far from the wharf. 
Then the fellow who sternly told us we were not allowed ashore decided that he needed to dig a trench for boats to come up to the Gaurda post.  A biggish tractor ground it's way through the shallows and a harrow on the back was dragged around a bit.  Then the predictable happened and it got stuck!  It looked pretty funny at a 30 degree angle, with it's huge back tire spinning in the mud. Well, bricks and pieces of cement were hauled out to it to try and give it some purchase, a large slab of wood was dragged out, at least an hour was spent working away at this. Finally anothe tractor showed up and after a bit of maneuvering it managed to pull the first one out.  I am not sure whether the goal of the exercise was ever accomplished but we enjoyed the spectacle. 

Sailing Info.

We are using the "Cruisng Guide to Cuba" written by Capt. Cheryl Barr,  Volume 1, Varadero to Trinidad, published by Yacht Pilot in Nova Scotia.  It has lots of great information, with way points to help you transit narrow passes and lots of information on what is available in the small towns covered by the book, as well as the flora and fauna in the area.  We have heard the Nigel Calder's book is very good as well. 

Cayo Innes de Soto    22*47.8' N X 083*46.9' W
Anchored in 4m of water, good holding in clay and mud. 
Protection form north and east, open to the west. 
No services

Punta Alonso De Rojas   22*36.9' N X 084*07.6' W
Anchored in 4m of water, good holding once anchor set, it took three tries to set, lots of grass
Protection from north and east and south east, open to the west
Fishermen stopped by and we bought lobster and fish, no services

Cayo Rapado Grande  22*29.4' N X 084*19.7' W
Anchored in 3.5m of water up in the mangroves, anchor caught first try, good holding
Great protection only open to the west
No services
All way points from cruising guide are spot on. Very helpful. 

Ensenada de Anita   22*11.9' N X 084*25.3' W
Anchored in 3.5m of water, very good holding
Good protection from east and south, open to the southwest, protected but not well from north
No services, you need to have good light and use eyeball navigation to get in this anchorage

La Fe   22*02.3' N X 084*16.7' W
Anchored in 4m. of water, good holding 
Good all around protection
Services not available. We were not allowed to go ashore, they let us anchor for the night. 

Cruising around Cuba

We finally managed to leave the dock at Marina Hemingway! We were there for over five weeks but after being on the go since we left Sydney, NS, late in June, I needed a rest and to stay put in one place for more than a couple of days. It was easy living at the Marina with lots of local places to explore, great people on the docks and we travelled inland by vehicle, taking two great road trips. We are experts at taking the local buses into Old Havana, it cost us 10 cents each to get downtown. We loved that price but we had to be prepared to get really squished at times. Our passports came back as promised, two weeks after we requested new ones, they are good for 10 years, YEAH!! 
Bahia Honda was the first stop on our trip to the west end of Cuba. We had a lovely 35nm sail with the wind on our aft quarter, it was fantastic to be back out on the water. There is a boat scrap yard at Bahia Honda and we were not allowed to go ashore. We dropped our anchor outside the Gaurda Frontera hut as required and waited, in vain, for them to come out and stamp our travel papers. We patiently waited until 0830 hours the next morning and when no one appeared to be interested in us we hauled anchor and sailed away to the next spot.
This is the beach in on the north side of Cayo (Key) Levisa, about 65nm west of Marina Hemingway.  It is a tourist destination with a restaurant, bar and lot of huts to rent. Day trippers arrive by boat everyday about 0900 and leave at 1700, after spending the day lying on the beach, while others take advantage of the all inclusive resort that offers fishing, diving, snorkelling, and salsa and Spanish lessons.  We went ashore yesterday and walked down to the end of the island.
We thought the sign was a left over from before the last hurricane went through, but sure enough the little structure in the background had a lonely bar tender in it and we kept him company and tried out our atrocious Spanish on him.  With the help of Barry's handy dandy phrase book and between sips of a mohito we figured out he lived in a nearby village, he was born there, his wife, his parents, his grandparents and his five year old daughter live there.  He works seven days in and seven days out, and while on the island he lives in the staff accomodation at the hotel and the town he lives in has seven schools. Not bad!! 
Yesterday I dove the boat and had a look at the bottom.  Sitting in a not so clean environment for five weeks allowed lots to barnacles to grow on the shaft and the prop and well as on the sand scoured keel. I managed to get most of the barnacles off but one of the zincs needed changing and there was no way I could manage that while I held my breath. Barry is now fighting a sinus cold so he was not keen to give it a go, so today I rented a scuba tank and BCD and managed to put the new zinc on and get the bottom of the boat relatively clean of scum, YIPPEE! That was a big boat chore out of the way. We went in to the restaurant and had a celebratory all you can eat buffet lunch.  
We will head further west in a couple of days to another Cayo, much like this one, except free of any development. It feels great to be able to go swimming off the boat and maybe we will go and hunt for a good snorkelling spot tomorrow. Hope all is well with all our friends and family back in Canada and elsewhere. Internet access is non existent here. 

Sailing Info.
We are using the "Cruisng Guide to Cuba" written by Capt. Cheryl Barr,  Volume 1, Varadero to Trinidad, published by Yacht Pilot in Nova Scotia.  It has lots of great information, with way points to help you transit narrow passes and lots of information on what is available in the small towns covered by the book, as well as the flora and fauna in the area.  We have heard the Nigel Calder's book is very good as well. 

Bahia Honda    23*00.0' N X 083*09.7' W
Anchored in about 5m. of water, in front of the Gaurda Frontera hut, very good holding in mud. 
Very gentle swell rocked us to sleep.
You are not allowed to go ashore here, a protected anchorage can be had further in the anchorage. 
No Gaurda Frontera here at the moment, 

Cayo Levisa    22*53' N X 083*32' W
Anchored in 5m. with good holding in light sea grass. 
We put out 35m. of chain and the anchor dug in and held. 
Good protection from the north and west but open from the south and southeast. 
Good services available ashore, restaurant, bar, diving and the dive shop was willing to rent us gear for a very nominal price. No internet available when we were here. 
Gaurda Frontera signs you in and out.  Way Points in the book were spot on.