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.
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.
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