Cuba – November 2010
Having read and heard so much about sailing around Cuba and so much contradictory experiences it was with a certain trepidation that we touched down in Havana after a long flight from London via Madrid. Anyway Immigration, Customs and other officials couldn’t have been more helpful and in no time at all our party (six of us) was in a large taxi on our way to Marina Hemingway a few miles to the west of Havana.
Arriving in the late evening our taxi was able to drive right up to Boo Too and drop us off with no hassle at all. In fact rather than talk about each arrival and departure point I’ll deal with it now: Each port or marina we went to required the Captain to check in and later on out with the authorities. We found this both an easy and not time consuming process, maybe half an hour at most on each occasion so we were all pleasantly surprised given what we had been led to expect.
Our first day was spent exploring Havana which is a wonderful old city and right out of a time warp. Door closed in 1959 and opened again forty or fifty years later still in 1959. Wonderful! The next two days spent exploring further afield and on Wednesday some of us went by taxi to the old town of Pina de Rio to see the making of the famous Cuban cigars. A very antiquated process and with a little imagination the leaves being rolled on young thighs! No doubt if you are a cigar smoker providing an exquisite taste. Then on to the Vinales Valley which is breathtaking and finally on to Cayo Levisa to join Boo Too which had sailed down while we were site seeing.
Set sail after lunch for Maria la Gorda arriving the following morning. It is around the west end of Cuba and was once a port of entry but no longer. Since one of our team had to fly back on the Sunday and we couldn’t drop him off at Maria la Gorda we departed after lunch for Cayo Largo arriving two days later having taken quite a pounding sailing into a strong NE wind. A wonderful marina manager welcomed us to his little marina and made all arrangements for our crew member to catch the afternoon flight to Havana.
Cayo Largo is delightful and one could spend many days exploring the local area. However we wanted to push on to the archipelago of Jardines de la Reina further east so we left after a couple of nights and headed Trinidad where we needed to get clearance to visit the Jardines de la Reina archipelago. We arrived at Marina Cayo Blanco (Trinidad) early morning on Wednesday 24 November, cleared in and out, took a taxi to see the wonderful old town of Trinidad and then after lunch returned to Boo Too and set sail for Canal Caballones in Jardines de la Reina. A cracking sail, never under 10 knots and anchored at midnight in the entrance of the canal.
The archipelago Jardine de la Reina is a large area, about 40 miles in length and bout 10 miles wide, on its outer edge, south side, the reef just plunges into very deep water and the coral and fish there have to be seen to be believed. Live and good coral one does not often see these days scuba diving and an absolute abundance of fish, making scuba diving a really enjoyable experience. Our first dive there had three shark swimming with us as we descended and later in the dive eight shark accompanied us along with swarms of lion fish (scorpion fish), garoupa of all sizes and lots of them and some rather large moray eels.
In the afternoon we motored to Cayo Chocolate – what a great name! – and spent the night there in very tranquil surroundings. Fishing all the way: caught lots and lost lots. The following morning we sailed to Pasa Piedro Grande, another entrance into the archipelago. That night a BBQ ashore watched by quite large iguana and huge rats (at least beasts from the rat family). In the morning we went snorkelling with spear guns and caught a big garoupa and two smaller ones. The smaller ones we had for lunch. Later in the day we sailed through Canal Caballones (one of two entrances into the archipelago that was deep enough for us – just! – and then on to Cayo Cuervo where we anchored outside the entrance to wait for the morning. Cayo Cuervo is yet another idyllic semi circular group of tiny islands with a couple of beautiful sandy beaches.
Departed Cayo Cuervo in the late afternoon and had another cracking sail to Cienfuegos where we anchored in a little bay outside the entrance at about 3am. The morning brought another balmy warm sunny day and we motored through the narrow entrance into the large bay of Cienfuegos arriving at the marina in time for a late lunch and then exploring the town.
The following day we said a sad farewell to the amazing crew who had made our adventure a truly great experience for us all and took a large taxi for the rather long trek across the Country to Havana arriving in time to catch the flight back to Europe.