I was travelling in company with Lithtowel Lady who soon put some distance between us as we sailed towards the Canal Boca Grande opening in the reef. If it is calm one can come inside the reef to get to Cayo Breton but on this day the swell was running and I took the long way round well towards the red channel mark. Be careful of the corral heads and shallow spots as one approaches the shallow entrance at Estero Brenton. The tide was running out as I entered, the sand bar is quite clear and I had been assured it would take Malua's draft. I must say when the depth under the keel dropped to less than half a meter I though I was back in the French canals but anyway I got through and steamed up between the mangroves towards the radio mast. Lithtowel Lady had already anchored.
Just as I anchored and was taking a shower a 40 ft fishing boat steamed passed me showing some crayfish to trade. I was out the shower and into the dinghy almost before they had time to anchor. I stepped aboard to find a box of very large crayfish and a further box of female crayfish in berry. When I pointed out the berry one crew member took one and threw it overboard saying it should have been done before. Lithcowel Lady appeared and before we knew it we where each presented with two grilled crayfish tails on a plate with a bowl of hot cray legs in tomato. It was well presented and prepared well before they arrived at the anchorage. We where the targets for the evenings trade. I had brought my usual bag of gifts plus a reel of fishing line. The wanted batteries and razors. The rum was consumed but the cigarettes returned as they indicated they were divers and did not smoke. LL returned to their boat to get some tradeable goods and before you knew it the crew where on LL looking around. I received 8 crayfish most in berry for my offerings while LL got the box of large ones - a better trade.
The captain was getting anxious at the time the crew was spending on board LL so started the engine and moved towards LL. They had to go some distance before it got dark.
When they had gone I read the section in Letter from the Caribbean about their experience with fisherman in the same spot and I realized that this was a well rehearsed routine. Was it a good trade - yes but had I experienced a meeting with the simple fisher folk of Cuba - well no I had entered into a commercial exchange by some very smart people who played on my generosity and good will. Good luck to them but next time I will negotiate far better and will be equally demanding.
I left the next day at the top of the tide and had no difficulty with the depth.
A magical moment on Malua.