24 May, 2013

Cayo Largo and Cabo San Antonio

Malua is at 21:54.18N 84:57.50W at Cayos de la Lena near Cabo San Antonio on 22/4/2013
I left Cienfuegos in the late afternoon after checking out with the officials and waiting for the ebb to take me out through the bay entrance. I then set off southwards past the restricted area around the Bay of Pigs.  I was still in the shallow southern Cuban bays inside the reef. I passed a shallow spot at dawn and went out into the real sea with the wind behind me and a good set of waves crashing onto the reef.  I deceived that it was prudent not to take what looked like a narrow entrance into the reef just south of Cayo Largo but to go further west and take the safer wider entrance which is well buoyed.  A long slog to windward in 4 meters of water followed before I entered the channel and the designated anchoring spot.  I dropped the anchor in 3 meters of water but the rochla would not grab on the weedy bottom.  After four attempts I brought out the SQR and set two anchors.  That kept me from drifting into the channel.

The next day I took the dinghy to the Marina Puerasol which is near the airport and a long way from the five major hotels.  I hitched a ride with one of the tour trains bringing people to the marina. While the driver was collecting people at a hotel I ran through the grounds to look at the beach and sea.  The hotel could have been at any shore any where in the world however the beach was white, long and inviting but the surf was up so no one was swimming.  Back on the train and I was back at the marina.  The drive came from Havana on a 20 day turn around.  He lived in a hostel block, rather run down with all the other workers.  It was their change over day so they were waiting at the assembly point to return to Havana having I suspect received more in tips than their basic wage!
Off at sun up to find my way out the shallow area and into the real sea however there was no wind so for two days I motored towards Cabo San Antonio.  It is a very dangerous cape with strong winds and strong currents as they funnel through the Yucatan Strait between Cuba and Mexico however on the day I rounded the cape there was no wind and just a northerly flowing current. A good arrival.

I rounded the cape and set a course for a secure anchorage behind Cayos de la Lenha to find Matador with Stu and Steph on board.  I had heard them on the net for some while so it was good to put a face to the name.  They were waiting for a weather window to sail to Belize while I was waiting for more wind to go north west to Havana.  I put in 150 CUC of diesel at the Marina Los Morros just to be sure I could reach my destination if there was no wind but I wanted some wind to sail.  Be careful what you wish for.
I set off at dawn with no wind to make to 170 nm trip round the western tip of Cuba and along the NW coast towards Havana knowing that there would be only light wind and hopefully not on the nose. All was going well for the first 8 hours then the wind increased with wind into the strong gulf stream funnelling through the Yucatan Strait.  The seas were short, confused and came over the bow of Malua every minute or so.  I was hard on the wind beating into the wind which had now reached more than 20 knots.  While Malua was going well through the water I was making little headway towards my destination.  Back and forth I tacked.  On the second night I set a course on the starboard tack at mid night I tacked back towards the land and to my dismay was following the same course I had taken eight hour earlier.  The current was sending me back where I had come from.  I decided to make short tacks along the coast hoping to stay out of the adverse counter current along the coast.
It worked as I started to see the miles reduce to my destination. At one point the wind increased and I decided I needed to further furl the genoa.  I took a turn around the power winch and pushed the button.  Bang the furling line broke with a loud bang and the genoa unwound itself.  Out came the magic rope and I soon had the genoa re furled and under control however there were a few moments when I thought I would have to drop the sail to get it under control.
I finally arrived outside the entrance of Hemingway Marina at 1800 on the afternoon of the second day, to get very precise instructions on how to enter and secure Malua along side for the authorities to boards.  The entrance has a sea buoy a little off the reef.  The sea which is a good cross sea as one enters soon dies down to just a swell as you go pass between the channel marks and between the reef only a few meters off your quarter.  Turn sharp to port and come alongside a high rough wall.  I was met by the Customs fellow and his sniffer dog.  He was like all Customs fellow, efficient but always asking for something.  Next follow Immigration and Port Control.  All efficient with lots of paperwork.  All done, I was instructed to go up one of the wide channels which is the Marina.  I passed Balvenie and pulled along side just ahead of them.
It was great to see them again. Amanda put on a splendid dinner of her famous roast chicken.  A great evening was had by all and I returned to Malua to a well deserved sleep.
Were those magical moments on Malua?

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