Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fort Lauderdale

It is hard to see but we are moored right next to the dark blue boat which belongs to our friends Dick and Anita from Kind of Blue, they are from the Netherlands. 

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale after a decent sail from Cuba.  We motored the last 30 miles into port as the wind had died and the sails were slating about although we were still making decent progress due to the Gulf Stream.  Our check in to the country was seamless, we did it all by phone and just had to show up at the Immigration office the next day to show our passports. We found a mooring ball about 3 miles north of the entrance and we are still on it.  We are awaiting some parts prior to our departure to the Bahamas. 
My mother decided she wanted to move so a frantic 24 hours after we landed once I spoke to her and my brother and arranged flights, I flew to Winnipeg to help her, my brother and his wife pack up her place.  She was really happy that I came and we all had some good times while stuffing boxes to the brim with her belongings. 
We sorted as we packed, Mom took what she wanted, Barb and Bob chose what they liked and I took some gems that we put into a storage locker in Winnipeg. My Mom is moving into a smaller place so I gladly took some of her fine furniture off her hands for use when we establish a home once again. 
I was sorry that I could not help out at the other end of the move but the logistics of getting to Calgary and back and where to stay was beyond me. It was great to be able to share the farewell they had at the church for her, a dinner with my cousin and his wife and a goodbye dinner arranged by the family of her good friend Bill McGowan. 
Meanwhile back on the boat, Barry was hopping on and off those rental bikes that some cities have that have stands all over the place, ordering parts and arranging for new chain to be delivered to the boat.  How he got it in the dinghy and on the boat and the old chain off the boat defies the imagination.  He said he was pretty tired afterwards!! 
Fort Lauderdale is one of the places where lots of cruise ships leave from. 
Here we are motoring past one of the monsters when we entered the port. There are lots of deals you can get on the water taxis, if you are in town pre or post cruise.  The beach is just too blocks from where we are moored and stretches for miles in either direction.  The waterfront is crowded with bars, restaurants and shops selling beach paraphernalia. The stores selling boat parts are about 5 km away across the big high bridge so getting there and back by bicycle is a good aerobic workout. 
Cat's-Paw IV is the sailboat on the right and the blue boat on the left is another boat from the Bluewater Cruising Association in Victoria. Neil and Peggy sailed her down the west coast and through the Panama Canal and are heading up to the Chesapeake where they will leave her for the summer. 
The shot is taken from the smaller bridge which is not so difficult to cycle over!!  Last night they had thought they had lost their wallets and in their panic to find them they did not secure their dinghy properly.  Friends had arrived for a visit and they came out to go shore to pick them up and their dinghy was gone. We lent them ours and after getting their friends the two men went on a dinghy hunt.  They went up the ICW and down the ICW and finally toured around the small mooring field.  They found it behind the powerboat on the extreme right of the picture under a dock.  A big cheer went up in the anchorage when they appeared towing it.  Yeah!! That is truly one of a cruisers nightmares losing your dinghy, we are so glad they found it. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Adios to Cuba

              The restaurant at Marina Cabo San Antonio, our last official stop in Cuba. 

We are on our way back to the U.S. having departed on Monday morning, April 11 from the west end of Cuba. The winds are not co-operating and insist on being in our faces so we are having to tack back and forth in the Gulf Stream. The weather is not ideal for making this passage, there is a big low up in Eastern Canada, no doubt whomping Jennifer, Mark and the kids in Nova Scotia with a late season snow storm. As a result, down here we are not getting our usual SE trade winds (which would be much more ideal winds for us, giving us a lovely beam reach) instead these rather annoying NE to ENE winds are making our ride bumpy and much longer than it should be because we have to tack back and forth rather than going in a straight line. 
We finished off our visit to Cuba with a spectacular dive near Maria la Gorda, near the south west corner of the country.  This spot is an international dive site and I can certainly understand why.  About 200 meters from shore there is an awesome wall. We were swimming along in the coral and then all of a sudden the bottom just dropped. Looking over the edge, the coral just went down out of sight. It was spectacular, I had to stop myself from hyperventilating as I experienced some vertigo. The sensation that your could fall into the abyss and just keep going forever took a bit to overcome.  Swimming along the canyons on the wall face, enjoying the unusual coral formations made for a very memorable dive. 
Checking out of the country in Marina Cabo San Antonio on the northwest corner of Cuba went very smoothly.  We waited three nights before making our crossing, making our way slowly up the coast, hoping the winds would turn in our favour. There was no break in sight,with a series of lows along the eastern seaboard causing havoc down here, so we left with the possibility of sailing instead of motoring. We hope to land in Fort Lauderdale. It is 370nm on the route we plotted, it will be interesting to see how much further the tacking will cause us to go. 
There are sand bars all over the place in Cuba and if the light is right, i.e. the sun is high and behind you, there usually no problem seeing the low spots.  Sometimes it is not so easy. 
The boat on the right could not see the low spot, note the cloudy sky. They were lucky and their buddy was able to get them off of it by pulling a halyard ( a line that goes to the top of your mast)  to tip them over so their keel could slide off the sand bar.  Look closely and your can see the halyard running from mast of the boat on the right to the back of the boat on the left. 
Even the locals are not immune to the effects of trying to cross a sand bar at low tide.  After selling us a lovely snapper, these fellows pushed and shoved their boat to deeper water.  We watched the man who is pushing the boat, snorkelling around for an hour with a spear gun and we decided that he could really use Barry's wet suit and so we traded it for the snapper. 
Barry said to tell you that this was his latest catch and if you believe that, there is some swamp land just up the coast that I could sell you. It was delicious by the way. 
It is almost midnight, the waning moon is glimmering off the waves, as we charge along into the night.  I am bundled up with a long sleeved shirt, a hoodie and a wind proof jacket on to ward off the effects of the NE wind and the cooler temperatures it is blowing in.  I stop typing every ten minutes or so and glance at the chart plotter and instruments to make sure we are still going the direction we should be,  (Bob, our windvane is faithfully doing all our steering) and then I do a slow 360 stare into the darkness to make sure we are not going to run into anything any time soon.  It's a great life if you don't weaken!! 

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. 

Maria la Gorda  21*49.3'N  X  084*29.9'W
Anchored in sand in 9m of water. Good holding, protection from the south and east.
No mooring available contrary to what the guide says. Very bouncy in a north wind.
Great spot for diving, equipment available, efficient diving staff. 
Restaurants available, small shop with limited groceries, no fresh food. Wifi supposed to be available, did not work when we were there. 
Anchor caught on coral patch so had to delay departure until daylight.

Cayos de la Lena  21*55.3'N  X  084*49.1'W
Anchored in 4m in sand and grass, Good holding, open to the east
Good spot to wait for a weather window east or west
No services, fishermen come through so keep a light on, sandflies galore 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Cayo Rosario

At Cayo Rosario we were lucky enough to see a whole crocodillo! There are wardens on this key as well and there is a small pond about five minutes walk from their dwelling. The warden threaded a line through a fish head and enticed the crocodile out to snatch at it. He threw it over a branch and then splashed it about in the water until the croc made his appearance, 
The warden and the croc played tug a war for awhile and then he positioned the fish head just at the edge of the pond and the crocodile came up out of the water for his photo op. After he had made his walk down the brownish carpet, we left him to devour the head and went on down the path. 
It was not easy walking, I am not sure you can tell from the pictures but the ground is covered in old coral and was very uneven and jagged to walk on. I thought our warden had something wrong with his foot, when I inquired about it he showed me his rubber boots, the bottom was detached from the sole and he was limping as a result.  The next day we went back to visit and took him Barry's rubber boots that he tromped around Cape Breton in last winter. We figured he needed them more than we did! 
We had a nice visit with them, I had seen an osprey and I took my bird book in to try and identify it. The fellow on the end was very interested in the book and looked at all the pictures, he produced a Cuban bird book and I was able to spot the osprey I had seen in it, it was not in my Peterson's Field Guide of Western North American birds. 
The guys were all busy when we arrived, the gentleman in the greenish shirt was sorting through the rice, removing the bugs, which he later fed to the chickens. The fellow with the machete was sharpening it. 
Shortly after they were absorbed in the delicate task of designing a new gasket for their outboard engine. When we left, after presenting them with Barry's boots and some spare coffee, we were given   three lobster tails as a thank you, a mutually beneficial exchange.
I snorkelled on a wreck on the reef just at the entrance to Cayo Rosario. Barry did not come in as he had cut his thumb while cleaning a fish and was taking good care of it, not wanting a reoccurrence of the ugly infection he had in Indonesia. 
We found the matching pair to the red one we saw on Cayo Campos. I wonder if that wreck on the reef was a result of a lack of one of these. I rather doubt it because that wreck looked like it had been there for quite some time!
Adding a blue flip flop to the driftwood sculpture on the beach. 
We spotted an elusive iguana. We have been seeing their trails on the beaches and the paths we have been hiking around for the past week. It was great to see one, he/she was about 60 to 70 cm long. 

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 Rosario  21*37.6' N  X  081*56.4' W 
We anchored in 5m of water in sand, very good holding
Reef protects anchorage from waves fro trade winds and the breeze keeps the bugs away
Lots of day anchorages  to snorkel and fish and great beach walking

Cayo Cantiles   21*37.3' N  X  081*57.9' W 
We anchored in 3m of water in sand, very good holding
Anchorage open to ocean swell as it comes in the pass, settled weather anchorage only
Visited the warden cabin from here, very helpful and interesting spot

Cayo Largo   21*36.9' N  X  081*34.6' W
We anchored in 3m of water in sand with very good holding
Great protection from sand spit, open to the west
Gasoline and diesel available at the resort, no propane, laundry services, restaurant/bar, small groceries store, limited goods, everything very expensive except restaurant food. 

Just 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