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