By Tony Bigras - Vancouver - British Columbia


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Again we struggle with the thin water and when we try to approach the lee beach to anchor, it is too thin. We spend the night chucking about in 7' or water and 2 1/2' waves. That settles the plan. We will move towards the barrier reefs and deeper water. Next stop Cayo Matias. We head out at first light and cross into deep water outside the reefs. As we approach Matias in mid afternoon I am a bit anxious. I have a hand copied GPS coordinate for the reef entrance but, you can't trust those things. The sun is high and over our shoulder, the water colours are textbook, greens, blues, yellows and browns over the reef.

The gap is about 100 yards. We sail right on through and into the lagoon. There is a wrecked sailboat on shore. We sail towards it till the water is 4' then motor in close for this photo.

We spend a lazy afternoon and rest up for the jump tomorrow. Fat Mary is 125 miles but it looks like there is a little bay on the bottom of the isle of pines about 40 miles from here. We might nip in there.

We head out at first light and clear the end of the barrier reef. The wind is on our stern or quarter. Mid afternoon I approach close in to the bay at isle of pines. It is not a friendly coast. There are endless uncharted rocks extending a quarter mile from shore. The swell is our friend and points them out for us. The little bay which looks sweet on my charts has a barrier reef right across it. We won't be getting a good nights sleep in there. We press on. But we are moving well and Red is letting me doze from time to time between backwinds and gybes.
Dawn comes soon enough as we race past Cabo Corrientas. We dash up to the 'marina' at Fat Mary and are told to tie along side a dive boat at the pier by the Port Captain. We covered the 125 miles to Cabo Corrientas in 24 hours. A new 24 hour run record for us at an average speed of 5.2kts.

The PC comes aboard for a look around and goes below but does just a cursory inspection. We go back to his office/home and while the TV behind his makeshift desk runs a soap opera. We do the paperwork. His Sniffy lies outside the door enjoying the shade.

There is a dive shop, a hotel, two restaurants, which are only open part of the day, a gift shop, and a bar. Nothing of note in the gift shop, so I retire to the bar. Beer here is $1.50. They have food. You can have a grilled cheese sandwich or a grilled ham sandwich or a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The grapevine had told me you could get decent bread out the back door of the restaurant if you asked. That proves to be the case and the other yacht in the bay makes that arrangement. Quite odd to go into the restaurant and talk hush hush to the waiter to arrange your bread pickup time.

April 30 2009

We check out with the PC in Maria la Gorda and sail off. On the recommendation of 'Carlos' at la gorda, I plan to stop in Marina Morro. Lovely broad reach to run. Modest well behaved seas and only 35 miles to our next location Marina Morro. We are there in 5 1/2 hours. Zoom zoom zoom. We pass two wrecked keel boats near the lighthouse 5 miles from the marina. The lighthouse hails us 'catamaran catamaran, canadian catamaran'. Are we headed to the marina? Perhaps, but if the wind is good for Hemingway we will carry on. We sail in the lee of the shore in 8 to 10 feet of green water. There is something up ahead, lawn chairs on the beach, a few huts, a couple of big antenna towers. It is the little hotel about 2 miles from the marina. I tack close to the beach perhaps 50 feet from shore, still about 6 feet deep. I am tempted to hit the beach. Carlos from Maria la Gorda says the marina is nice. I get a call from the hotel, 'Catamaran Catamaran' 'Are you looking for the marina?" No just having a sail I say.

I get around the point and the wind is snotty. A little motor sailing. I enter between red and green and get a hail on VHF from the only boat at the quay. A big sloop 'Saudade'. He suggest to tie up behind him. I douse the sails and mosey on in. There are big black rubber tubes hanging from chain along the quay. I get my fenders and lines on and motor in. The wind is blowing off the quay and I realize, after I cut the motor, I need a little more. I start it and go to turn the motor to swing us in. for some reason it does not turn.

As I briefly ponder that I hit a rubber bumper at a good clip and bang my head on something. I shake it off and stop the motor and throw the lines to shore. Don't know what I was thinking. Boat is fine, I am more embarrassed than anything.

'Saudade' has been stuck there for 6 days with a broken lower shroud (rod rigging ). The marina is oh so odd. They have gas and diesel but no 2 cycle oil. There are showers and banos, but no laundry. The little store just has cigars. There is a bar slash restaurant where you can get mahi-mahi (Not) or chicken with rice tomatoes and cucumbers. That's it. There are 4 staff who watch TV unless you need something. They lock up the bathrooms at night and open them if you knock on the lounge doors. They have a generator that runs all the time burring 60 gallons of diesel a day. Even if they fit in the 4 boats that could tie to the pier and everybody ate ashore and bought cigars every day, they would not cover the cost of the diesel. The pier has surge and salt spray blows over it with just 20kts of NE. A place without any purpose it would seem. I think I will shift to the little anchorage 3 miles east tomorrow.

If Carlos was here I would ask him what was so good about it. There is a pier with these big rubber things which of course make my fenders black and in the evening when the tide drops a foot 'Miss Cindy's' toe rail gets a similar treatment. They charge me $10 per night, which is about standard fare for a real marina. The staff are pretty friendly for sure, but why are they here. Why is this place here. The PC and Immigration arrive on a bus 45 minutes later.

I have a shower and bring some brewskies back to 'Saudade'. The water goes off a few hours later and does not come back on before I leave next day. 'Saudade' broke a lower shroud coming over from the Isle of Youth (pines). She is a 70's Admirals Cup winner. Some Cubans from a oceanographic vessel tried to frog up something, but no joy. I tell them I will help them get jury rigged and they will be fixed up before I go. Jolanda and Jan know a bit about 'Miss Cindy'. They saw her in Mazatlan in December. Jolanda tells me she wrote an article about her that was published in the Netherlands and I am famous there.

A night of food and wine and conversation and music and rum. I bring out some crackers from Mexico and Doug's smoked salmon from Alaska that he gave me in Hualtuco. It is very nice. Thanks Doug.

A couple hours earlier Jan had helped fix 'Miss Cindy's' tiller head by drilling it out for a new 5/16" bolt which he provided. We also worked on a plan for his stay problem which involves going up the mast which will be done tomorrow when everyone is sober.

I have been working hard on 'Miss Cindy's diet. Been giving away stuff and watching the waterline rise up.

At Marina Morro I have been hard a work too. One of the fellows asked if I had any spare rope. He got a 2 kilo anchor, 20 feet of chain and a length of poly pro. I also got to give some stuff to the crew of 'Saudade' who particularly like the few eggs I could spare. Jan plays guitar and I heard from him and Jolanda that one of the crew at the marina played quite well, but did not own a guitar. I have one aboard that I have been trying to learn with but that has not turned out to well, so now I think it has a home. Next day I ask him about his guitar playing as we go to the pump for gas.

They have gas but no 2 cycle oil but Jan has given me enough for one of our Mexican gas cans. When we talk about guitar his eyes which are already pretty bright and animated light up even more. I tell him I have one aboard and would like to give it to him. He seems pretty happy with it.

Jan and I go to work on the mast. I sew together the two 6' pieces of webbing I pulled from the bow net and he goes up the mast and with several turns makes a strop around the spreader base to a big block he had spare. We use a spare dynema halyard and get four parts on that then to one of the 18 winches on the old race boat. Seems to do the trick. (Jan later improves it with a reaching strut).

I had seen the PC earlier in the day and he was aware I wanted to leave at 1400, but after several phone calls from the other staff showed up around 1500. While I was waiting for him, the local AGI inspector and doctor showed up to ask 20 questions. Swine flue in Mexico gives them a chance to do what they have trained to do. I get to answer the same questions I got asked in Cayo Largo. When the PC shows up he processes me quickly and I ask him some questions. Does he expect much to change in Cuba in the next few years? He looks at me with puzzlement. What do I mean? Well Castro will die? Raoul. The US embargo will go away and lots of American tourists will come? We already have tourists. So you don't expect any changes? Why would I want changes?

I say goodbye to the good ship 'Saudade' and say I will see them in Havana. Push off for a nice late afternoon sail to the little islands. I nick in behind one so I am out of sight of the marina and anchor in 4' by some mangroves.

The next couple of days are sailed inside the reefs, fairly pleasant but all on the nose as we are headed East. I anchor off a nice island for the night. It rains hard that afternoon.

The next day I carry on towards an anchorage near Santa Lucia.
Along the way I come across these three men in a boat. They hold up some big lobsters they want to sell me. I decline but give them some PangaPaks and they trot out the list of things they would like. First up some 1/8" cord for their spear gun lines. Don't have any but I give them some line shorts I have. Next rum. Sorry guys. A hat? I give them 3 flag bandanas I have from the PangaPak stuff. Rum? Sorry guys. Water? This makes no sense to me as free potable water is widely available in Cuba.

I give them 4 litres of Mexican bottled water to lighten us by 10 lbs. Rum? Sorry guys. They want to give me a couple of lobsters, thanks but no. Say our goodbyes and sail on.

The water changes from a pretty blue to a green. It is still clear and the same depth, all I can figure is the sand has gone from white to yellow. As I sail past the big lighthouse, I notice some floats on the water. They are connected to snorkel fishermen. We are 2 miles from shore. I suck the air out of a PangaPak and toss one of them it. He as a look through his goggles and gives me a thumbs up. Santa Lucia is noted for it's sulphuric acid plants and the scorched red plumes on the hills to the West testify to that. I anchor a little further East by a little island.

Just before sunset a 12' wood boat with a couple of fishermen and a little dog comes along side. They ask where we are from, who Cindy is etc. They have just come in from their afternoon fishing. They go out a couple hours in the morning and some more in the late afternoon. It is a 12' rowboat made of 1/2" planks. It has what looks like a big slab of concrete covering the whole floor. I ask. It is foam in a heavy plastic liner. Later another identical boat comes along side. Some committee thought it would be a good idea to put flotation in all these boats they made. Should have put it under the foredeck and side decks as it would not want to turn upside down when swamped.

I ask my 20 questions about change. Same puzzled look. Fidel? Raoul. Raoul is 76 he will be gone soon too? (In Cuba they don't say Fidel, they just motion a beard with their hand under their chin.) The fisherman says, Another person - beard gesture. American tourists? Tourists don't come here.

I offer them some rum and suggest he pour out the couple of inches of water in a old pop bottle and I will pour some in there. There is a bit of confusion. Ahhhhh. It is not water but home brew rum, Ron Cubano! He offers me some and I partake. Yeasty, strong, but clearly rum. We have a swig of Havana Club Especial to compare and chat some more. There is only one fish in the boat, pretty small too. There is also a sack that moves a bit from time to time. He shows me. It is a giant rodent. 'Tastes very good'. The dog caught it on an island.

We talk about change and how things are in Cuba. He is very happy, plenty of food, likes fishing, no pressure to catch a quota. I realize as I am talking to him that they are 60 year old guys waiting to retire so that they don't have to worry about the cost of housing, food, health care etc, and so they can go out fishing every day and share the catch with their friends. This guy retired long ago.

Another identical boat comes along side and we pass the rum around and chat some more. It has a young guy and an old guy. The young guy chats and the old guy keeps working a hand line between swigs of rum. In half an hour he has boated three small fish. They invite me to come to their village a couple of miles away in the morning. I tell them it will depend on the wind. If it is unfavourable for Easting I will come on over. They row off into the dark and I can hear them over the water for quite a while.

To be conintued...


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