Thursday, March 17, 2016

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.