April 2013 - Cuba to Jamaica

1 April 2013   Cienfuegos, Cuba
We spent the day on-board and got on with a few jobs.  Glenys spent most of the day planning our route when we leave here.  The Grand Plan is to clear out of Cienfuegos to go to Jamaica, but we’ll spend a week or two slowly working our way east through the outlying cays, before heading south to Montego Bay.  We hope that if we keep away from any towns, we won’t have any contact with the authorities and will stay out of trouble.

I recharged the damn fridges (again) because both were fully depleted of refrigerant and running constantly.  It only takes an hour to do the job, but I have to do it every two weeks now and it’s becoming tedious – I must try to make a determined effort to find the leaks.

Street Chess, Cienfuegos, Cuba

I then spent a few hours blocking off the 4 inch hole in the deck left behind when the vent in the front heads was smashed to pieces on the passage here.  I found a piece of ½” thick polymer sheet that I've been carrying around for eighteen months and cut out a six inch circle.  After drilling six holes to match the existing screw holes in the deck and chamfering the edges, I stuck it down with some silicone sealant.  It looks such a good job that I don’t think that I’ll bother replacing the vent.

2 April 2013   Cienfuegos, Cuba
We walked into town and wandered around the shopping area, going to the market again and lugging two heavy bags of groceries back to the marina - it’s quite a long walk in the beating sun.  We called in at the marina store and bought some drinks – rum, coke & beer.  They've not got much else in the shop – lots of empty shelves.

It was very calm and hot in the afternoon, so we lounged about reading and chilling out.  The water in the harbour is very murky – I suspect that the local sewers empty into the bay, so we can’t go swimming.  We've about exhausted the possibilities of Cienfuegos, so it’s time to move on.

3 April 2013   Cienfuegos, Cuba
I downloaded a GRIB file and there’s a cold front forecast to pass over on the 5th April, which may give us a bit of rain, so we've decided to wait until the 6th to leave here.  We’ll be sailing south-east for 45 miles to get to the cays, so the expected north-east winds should be good for us.  I hope so, I feel a bit nervous after the pounding that we took getting here from Cayo Largo.

We went for a walk in the morning and discovered a small sculpture park just outside the marina, which was interesting – lots of big metal and concrete structures depicting a wide range of subjects.  The marina store has run out of orange juice, so we strolled down to the local dollar shop and bought six litres of orange juice.  

Back at the marina, we took the boat alongside the fuel dock to fill up with diesel and fill up our water tanks with water.  Glenys took the opportunity to hose down the decks, but again the water pressure was pathetic.  I'm constantly surprised how long it takes to do things on a boat – we spent two hours getting fuel and water.

Boys on home-made boat, Cienfuegos, Cuba

The wind really picked up in the afternoon.  There’s a sea breeze that picks up every afternoon and blows from the south, but it’s normally only ten knots.  I guess that the general direction of the wind out at sea is southerly and the sea breeze has amplified it.  Anyway, it was blowing 25 knots from the south for a few hours.

We went to “Siga Siga” for a few beers, where we met Martin and Franes from “Don Quillote”.  Claire was a little too generous with the rum in the Cuba Libres that she served us and we stayed far too long, so we were very worse for wear when we poured ourselves into our dinghy at half past ten...

4 April 2013   Cienfuegos, Cuba
Despite the huge amount of alcohol in our bloodstreams, we still had a restless night.  One of the problems in being near a built up area is that there are hotels and night clubs.   The Cubans seem to have a propensity to play very loud music after eleven o'clock which is very irritating.  I was up at midnight closing hatches and turning on the electric fans above our bed to drown out the thump, thump of the nearby night club.

We were both feeling very dull this morning, so we chilled out for the morning.  I took some great photos of a couple of boys paddling by on a home-built boat that seemed to be made from expended polystyrene blocks lashed together.  They had a home-made paddle and looked to be heading home after fishing.  The inventiveness (and desperation) of the Cuban people never ceases to amaze me.

It was oppressively humid and hot – a cold front is definitely approaching. We couldn't even be bothered to go out for a walk in the afternoon and lounged around reading.

5 April 2013   Cienfuegos, Cuba
The weather forecast said that the cold front will go through later today, so that crystallised our thoughts and we’ll leave tomorrow - it's 45 miles and we're a bit apprehensive about the weather around here, so we want to leave as early as possible.

Municipal Market, Cienfuegos, Cuba

We talked to various officials about how we could make sure that we could leave at seven o'clock.  The Guarda Fonteras wouldn't clear us out today and the immigration officer said that he wouldn't be here at six o'clock in the morning, so we arranged to do the clearance with immigration and customs in the afternoon.

We walked into town to do final shopping and access the Internet in the telephone company offices.  As I was reading my email, a local guy came up and wanted us to help him get access to his email.  We were very suspicious because we know that the Cuban authorities are very strict on who can access the Internet and you never know who's watching.  

However, he seemed so desperate that I relented and let him log on using my Internet card, which had 25 minutes left on it that I didn't need.  The guy didn't seem to know how to access Yahoo Mail, so I got him to the login page, but then after five minutes of trying he couldn't log in because his credentials weren't recognised.  He seemed to be getting more and more anxious, so I called it a day, logged him out and gave him the Internet card as we walked away. Very odd - I still don't know if he was genuine or a con artist...

We wandered to the market and bought some provisions.  Glenys bought some loaves of bread - it was a little stale, but you have to buy it when you can get it.  A little later, we spotted some small soft rolls and bought those as well, so we've now got enough bread to feed a family of ten for three days...

Back at the marina, we paid our bill, which upset me again - I really don't see why we should have to pay to anchor...  Armed with our receipt, we could then clear out with Immigration and Customs, so all we have to do tomorrow is to see the Guarda Fronteras first thing in the morning - I told the officer that I'd be over at six o'clock.

The cold front hit us at five o'clock   The wind veered from south to north-west and we had heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.  We had various squalls pass though during the evening, so we cowered below and watched a film. 

6 April 2013   Cienfuegos to Ensenada Jobabo, Cuba
We were up at quarter past six.  It was still very dark and we thought that the fuel dock was clear, so we put out the fenders and pulled up the anchor. However, there was another yacht on the fuel dock, so we had to go back and anchor again - bummer.

I dropped the dinghy in the water and zipped over to the dock - by this time it was already seven o'clock.  A different customs officer grabbed hold of me and it took fifteen minutes to persuade him that I'd already cleared out.  He couldn't find the paperwork that I'd signed yesterday, but eventually gave up.

The Guarda Fronteras was a nice bloke, but very pedantic.  It took 20 minutes for him to find and fill in the three forms, then another 15 minutes for me to take him out to Alba for a boat search.  It was after eight o'clock before we pulled up our anchor.

It was interesting leaving the harbour because a huge tanker was coming into the Harbour, so we were avoiding that as well as keeping a close watch on a ferry that was overtaking us.  Once safely out to sea, we had a boisterous reach on port tack in the north-east winds which peaked with gusts of 28 knots in the late morning.  Just after lunch, the wind died completely and then veered around to the south as a 12 knot sea breeze kicked in, so we had a pleasant beat on starboard tack for the rest of the afternoon.

Reef and Mountains, Trinidad, Cuba

We entered the fringing reef through the Canal De Las Mulatas near Trinidad, and motored across to the Pasa Jobabo. It was nice to see the mountains in the distance on this stretch of the coast - its been a long time since we've seen hills. 

Pasa Jobabo was a little stressful because there were no buoys marking the channel between the shallows, but we managed by using the colour of the water as a guide and anchored in Ensenada Jobabo, which is very well protected anchorage surrounded by mangroves.

7 April 2013   Ensenada Jobabo to Cayo Magua, Cuba
We had a late start and didn't leave the anchorage until half past ten.  We motored over to Cayo Blanco De Casilda and anchored in a patch of sand next to what we thought would be reef.  However, after jumping in to go snorkelling, we found that it was all sea grass patches and sand.  All was not lost because we spotted a large group of eight Lionfish and I snared a nice 4 pound lobster.

A small fishing boat was chugging around the area dragging a free diver behind on a rope.  The free diver was keeping a watch out and then releasing the rope to dive down and catch things.  They came by after we'd finished snorkelling and offered us some lobster which we politely declined.  It was interesting to see that they had also been spearing Lionfish, which are supposed to be good to eat, although I don't fancy the dodgy task of cleaning off their poisonous spines for such a small fish.

After lunch, we started to sail towards Cayo Zaza De Fuera, but the wind had veered to the south-east, which was directly where we wanted to go.  We tacked out to sea for a mile, but when we tacked back towards the reef, it was obvious that it was going to take hours to get to Cayo Zaza De Fuera, so we cut our losses, came back inside the reef and anchored behind Cayo Magua.  This anchorage is not mentioned in either of the cruising guides that we have, but is a lovely anchorage with six metres depth just off a small beach and well protected from all directions apart from west winds.