May 18, 2001
Log: 40 nautical miles Havana to Bahia Honda Cuba
Winds lacking until afternoon at anchor
Warm and sunny, humid
I woke this AM with a female Cuban official rummaging through the drawers in my cabin. She excused herself and continued looking. Customs had boarded us early after we motored to the clearance dock. We must clear in and out of every port and announce our next destination. Upon arrival at Bahia Honda later, the Cuban official in green uniform had boarded us from a launch as we were trying to pick up a mooring. Dropped anchor instead, just off the Guarda dock across from a graveyard of decaying huge ships. It seems hotter and more mosquitoes around in the evening but we had a quiet day at anchor working on putting things away, pondering the demise of the ships and speculating about the guards who life in the tiny outpost on what looks like a deserted part of Cuba. In fact we are heading into the remotest area tomorrow, the western tip. It was a very dark night with only the sounds of the officials music echoing across the still bay.
Log: Bahia Honda through Archipielago de los Colorados Cuba west end
Winds east north east 9 knots
Delivering a trimaran with his father from Florida to Mexico they were caught out in a storm in this very area that left three boats up on the reef that night. One of them was theirs. Without GPS at that time they had only a Loran but no Loran charts as the Cubans did not want survey ships in their waters. A taffrail log was used as all navigation was done by dead reckoning. They were staying close to Cuba so they could spot the 'Nav Light' to set their course for Isle Mujeres Mexico. Steve pointed out how the reef here falls away from the land as the western tip curves around. The 'Nav Light' on the tip was well lit but back then it did not come on until around 11PM, way after dark. In the storm the trimaran hit the unlit Nav Light and was thrown up on the reef. They were able to transmit by radio to a passing cargo ship before the batteries went under water but never knew if the Mayday was received. The boat fell apart leaving them clinging to a half sunken boat in freezing water. They tried to light a propane heater - they had no matches - so Steve tried to break a lighted flash light bulb hoping it would catch fire. This was unsuccessful. Then they waited for 10 to 12 hours curled up on the hull of the sinking ship huddled together to keep warm on a very COLD and very LONG night. Next morning a small Cuban coast guard boat came to their rescue. It was not the best time to be in Cuba. They took all their American money then left them to borrow from a Canadian Embassy worker to get them on a plane back to the states.
I could see on the chart several marks of half sunken ships. Now I have a better idea about what it must have been like without GPS. Rounded Cape San Antonio lighthouse at 5:30AM leaving the Gulf of Mexico and entering the Caribbean Sea.
|May 22, 2001
Log: 165 nautical miles Bahia Honda to Maria Gorda Cuba
Winds east 9 knots
Anchored off shore
After sailing all night the first thing we notice arriving into the bay at Maria Gorda at 10:30 AM was the smell of flowers and the sight of a beautiful spreading poinsettia tree blooming. The contrast from the turquoise water of the bay to the blinding white sands and hundreds of green coconut palms was breathtaking. It was the picture of a perfect paradise. But in fact it is an up and coming dive center. One pink hotel with little bungalow type rooms opening onto the white sandy sloping beach greeted our eyes as we scanned the tiny piece of civilization for the guarda or officials to check us in to our last port of call in Cuba and then get our $10 exit stamp out. We ended up putting the dingy in the water and going in to get them. They were again very pleasant but most of our day was taken up waiting for them to process our papers as the phones and radios were down. We found the hotel charges about $25 to $30 US a night. They had a phone at the thatched roof bar where they made the call and Steve made a phone call to the states for $2.40 a minute. A part on the water maker needed changed and our upcoming guests hopefully can bring it into the Cayman Islands. It is why we are leaving Cuba so quickly but plans are to return in a week. Steve and Bob got a bit of sleep sitting up in the guarda shack waiting for the exit papers. We are grabbing sleep where we can as it is another all nighter to Cayman Is.
Log: NW Caribbean from Maria Gorda Cuba headed to Cayman Islands
Winds 20 knots on the bow
Motoring at 6.3 knots
Seas huge rolling till 5PM then sloppy and confused but flatter
Mal de Mer. I guess we do not have our sea legs yet. Steve and I feeling pretty bad, Steve is below reading and I am confined to the crew bunk amidships. I have taken a pill and can get up to make breakfast of yogurt with honey, soup for lunch and an evening meal of pre-prepared double baked potatoes with cheese and a salad. Rain and wind have kept us below with radar on and thankful for our seafaring crew Bob who finds it all just another day at sea and feels fine. In fact he finds it a perfect time to go topside for a long awaited puff on one of the two famous Cuban cigars he purchased after waiting 41 years to return to Cuba. Normally we do not allow smoking on Ariel but for just one whiff of these grand old stogies is also a pleasure for me, reminding me of my grandfather. Now I am suddenly awaked by Bob with flashlight in hand moving at great speed and in desperation rummaging through the crew cabin where I am asleep. Evidently while enjoying his cigar he flicked the ashes and accidentally flung the cigar down the crew hatch. Besides me, the cabin is full of pillows, the electrical panel that runs the boat and 4 scuba tanks full of oxygen. I wake out of a sleep remembering my grandparents moving to Florida driving across the Sunshine Causeway bridge, when grandpa flings his cigar out the window and it is sucked into the back seat. They can not stop on the bridge and the newspapers with all their worldly possessions are smoldering in the back seat. Fortunately they reach the other side in time and Bob finds the cigar in time. It did not go down the hatch after all but landed on the aft deck just a little further than his gaze. Ahh, a happy ending to a miserable day!
Log: 233 nautical miles from Maria Gorda Cuba to Grand Cayman Island West Indies
Anchored off Georgetown
Partly overcast, humid
Seas with large swell, rolling from side to side at anchor
Arrived at 5:30AM but did not call customs until 8:00AM and a bit of rest from the long 38 hour sail. When Steve did radio the customs sounded a bit angry until we mentioned Ariel is Cayman Island registered. In fact it did not cost us anything to clear in except $26 for fumigation which was nothing more than a man with an aerosol can of insect repellant. We had to bring Ariel into a precarious dock and the customs people were not as nice as we had gotten used to in Cuba. But wondering around town today we found the islanders very helpful and friendly. Many of them are imports from Jamaica. The metal pieces that hold the dinghy up bent in the huge seas last night so a couple locals took Steve off to get some welding done. Bob and I walked around the town enjoying the glass blowers making beautiful pieces, and all the gem shops selling emeralds, diamonds, tanzanite and black coral jewelry. The cars drive on opposite side of the road reminding us this is a British colony. And the multitude of banks that it is also a tax free zone. There are two cruise ships in and hundreds of people in the small town until after 5PM when they pulled out leaving us at a quiet anchorage. The Jolly Roger pirate ship sailed past us at sunset as we had supper in the cockpit. It is nice to be at anchor.
|May 25, 2001
Log: Anchored off Georgetown Cayman Islands
Sunny and hot with a fresh breeze
Bob left today and we will miss him. He is a good friend and great crew. Steve was off the boat most of the day checking on the Internet and picking up the welding for the dinghy that had gotten bent in the high seas. We found the dorades, we forgot to turn on the bow, left a lot of salt encrusted walls below and I spent the day cleaning 3 heads, 2 showers, 5 loads of laundry and making up 5 beds preparing for guests arriving tomorrow. My tired level was somewhere between a 100 mile bike race and climbing Mt. Kilamenjaro. Steve returned to take me out to a nice Thai restaurant but the ½ mile walk almost kills me. Then on to the Internet Café, where for a $1.65 a minute, we collect and sent email. I am revived when I receive the news that my niece is pregnant!
May 26, 2001
Log: Heading 359 Cayman Islands to Cayo Largo Cuba
Wind 10-12 knots
Seas 2 – 4 feet
Today the Schiefer family arrived. Mom, dad, two kids and the grandparents. Never before has Ariel had 6 long term guests aboard. Will she withstand the entourage? Will I withstand the entourage? Steve hooks up stereo speakers in the aft cabin so I will have a sanctuary retreat. Carla is Ariel’s sailmaker. John is an old sailing buddy of Steve’s from the 1970’s. Everyone finds their place and are at home on a boat each having lived aboard their own. We head for the grocery for fresh vegetables and fruit. After a Bar BQ in the cockpit we are off for the southern islands of Cuba. We set up a watch schedule of 2 hours each. We are on a starboard tack, sails flying going 7.7 knots when I take my watch 10 to 12. In the cockpit I see a starry night the waves tossing this quiet ship but below I hear juicy cups rolling across the salon floor, domino’s skittering across the table and a final FLOP on the floor as little 4 year old Hanna rolls out of her top starboard bunk.
May 27, 2001
Log: 138 nautical miles Cayman Islands to Cayo Largo Cuba
Winds 10-12 knots
Seas 2-4 long rolling waves
Sunny, warm day
I wake to the sound of dishing clattering, people talking, kids laughing, Sara Brightman playing on the stereo but I find I do not need my sanctuary. I see John at the helm and I realize we have a helmsman as well as a sail handler, dishwasher, maid and a little entertainment. The ultimate effortless perfection! Then all hell breaks loose! I enter the salon where Carla is on the floor with her head in the ‘dry bilge’ the one were we have stowed our bicycles, all the extra food provisions, charts, new battery boxes, basically all the things we did not want to get wet. But being on a starboard tack Steve noticed the 270 gallons of water Ariel holds in two tanks was about half empty and all in one tank. So he turned on the new watermaker. To get the top tank to fill he opens an air valve where 30 gallons of fresh made water an hour overflowed into the hold basically SINKING THE BOAT. Now in a panic we are all soaking wet sucking the fresh made water out of the bilge with the emergency pump and into the sink. Recycling at it’s best. We tack two times to tilt the boat to retrieve the water. Fortunately I had packed the hold with all the plastic containers on the bottom and nothing was ruined but a box of land maps and guide books which should have been left on land anyway. We arrive in Cayo Largo at 5:30 PM and receive yet another cordial welcome from the officials. Pio, the Cuban PR official, joins us for a drink before dinner at a restaurant formally the home of Robert Vesco the fugitive from America who pilfered millions of dollars and eventually retired here. However he is now under house arrest somewhere here in Cuba for reasons Pio did not want to disclose. Instead he filled us in on facts about the island. That there are 1000 population on the island to be of service to the 1200 rooms for tourists, that Cuba has discovered a new herbal medication to lower cholesterol and that they have saved many children’s lives with a new medication for meningitis. He also informs us that there are more doctors in Cuba per capita than any other nation being one for every 120 people. Propaganda? Perhaps…. but from their attentions to Hanna and Kelly their love of children is definitely genuine.
May 28, 2001
Log: 25.85 nautical miles Cayo Largo to Cayo Sal / Cayo Oro
Motoring into the wind
Sunny, clear, slight breeze at anchor
We are told as we leave Cayo Largo that the line of thunderstorms we hit crossing from Cuba to the Cayman Islands on May 23rd also hit four racing boats headed the other way. They were all in distress with torn sails, one being demasted. Pio makes us a copy of the electronic charts he has of the southern coast of Cuba. They seem well informed and expect us to give Ariel’s complete itinerary of destinations. We visited a turtle farm and had a very educational tour and insight into the nesting habits of the green and loggerhead turtles which inhabit the islands we are headed for. They are also known for being a graveyard of ships sunk on the reefs back in the 1600’s. It is why we are here. Carl the grandfather has a dream of 15 years to fulfill. He has retired from a research, search and salvage business. His research in an archives in Spain indicates that 5 sunken Spanish galleons are located off Cayo Oro. Our 3 ½ hour sail and a dinghy ride ashore brings us to a desolate low lying rocky outcrop of dead coral the children name ‘the devils backbone’. There are land bridges with water shooting out underneath from the windward side and blow holes going off in thunderous rythmic fashion. It is a wet and wild place. A difficult landing leaves Carl the first ashore. We see turtle eggs in the few small areas of sand and white fluffy baby birds with yellow feet. Not the ‘oro’ or gold Carl expected to find but he is satisfied with just being here. We have a peaceful night at anchor off Cayo Sal nearby.
|May 29, 2001
Log: 5.18 nautical miles Cayo Sal / Cayo Ingles
Slight breeze, motoring
Sunny and warm
A last attempt at finding the sunken galleons off Cayo Oro is more successful. The underwater metal detector is fired up and bits of hammered metal are discovered. And a final discovery of a square metal nail is proof that history is correct. We head for Cayo Ingles leaving the bits of the past where they were found. We also leave a friend, the only other boat anchored at Cayo Sal, from England the ‘Francis Ann’. Francis comes aboard to trade books and wish us a pleasant sail. We find Cayo Ingles another small desolate outcrop of dead coral and ice plants 5 miles away. But here thousands of birds of which there are three different kinds are nesting in the underbrush. We are careful not to disturb their speckled eggs. Instead we amuse ourselves by defying the elements standing on a land bridge being bombarded with crashing waves. The steep precipice defuses the onslaught of turbulent water but one rogue wave catches the fearless captain off guard and sends him up in the air then crashing down. Soaking wet, we spend the afternoon snorkeling and collecting conch which alas gives us our evening meal of fresh conch salad. The night is calm with only the squawking of nesting birds and the gentle lap of wave on the hull at anchor in this still undisturbed wild place.
|Wild beautiful deserted beaches and blowholes|
|Archipielagos de los Canarreos - This string of cays 160 kilometers
long lies off the southern coast of Cuba in the Gulf of Batabano.
Virtually untouched and mostly uninhabited these low lying unspoiled
islands, some with pure white sand beaches are haloed by barrier reefs
of outstanding coral formations with over 800 species of colorful fish
and abundant with lobster, is a cruising paradise. But it has also been
reported as having over 200 shipwrecks mostly from the past. The Nueva
Espana treasure fleet foundered in 1563 between Cayo Rosario and Cayo
Largo. Very little surveillance has been undertaken and it is said that
it is very easy to find coral encrusted Spanish doubloons scattered
about. More recent is the Cabezo Sambo, 70 kilometers west of Cayo
Largo. Here a large shallow is strewn with cannons and nautical
machinery while the ships huge hulk is seen well above the water rusting
away. Today with the Cuba Chart Kit #1 as well as the NDI Canadian
electronic copies of Cuban charts and the Nigel Calder Cuba cruising
guide, we found navigation in these areas very enjoyable and safe.
May 30, 2001
Log: 20.26 nautical miles Cayo Ingles / Cayo Largo
Winds SSE on port tack, beam reach, motoring
Seas 4-6 long rolling
Everyone has found their place aboard Ariel. John and Carla are avid sailors having both been involved in Olympic trials for racing. Hanna is found climbing the mast on the halyards or swinging from the bimini, even cranking on the wenches. Kelly is the scribe aboard quietly absorbed in her studies or speaking volumes with her creative artistic hand. She is the granddaughter of the famous Johannes Schiefer the German impressionist. Noon we are back in Cayo Largo. We are busy stuffing the spinnaker sock on the new French docks while John dives on the prop, changing over to the new feathering prop, when in sails the catamaran ‘Manta’. Aboard is the lone sailor Dave Star, a retired policeman since 1994 from Tucson Arizona my hometown. We have a short visit and collect information about our onward journey to Mexico and other Cuban ports where he has been sailing for 6 weeks. 4:30PM we set sail back to Grand Cayman. As we sail out we realize the new prop must run at 2200 RPM’s to get the same speed as the old one. To change the pitch it must be returned…to Germany. This time we have color computerized Internet weather charts printed for us from the Marina office CNN.com/WEATHER.
May 31, 2001
Log: 150 nautical miles Cayo Largo to Georgetown Cayman Islands
Seas 4 – 6 feet
Sunny and warm
Had a beautiful night sailing and a pleasant 23 hours back to the Cayman Islands. Seas where rough at times but the rolling motion was pleasant and Hanna has now found a soft spot on pillows below her berth on the floor. Steve was busy with the computer working endless hours installing and reinstalling programs. Arriving in Georgetown we have the usual clearing in and the $26 fumigation takes place. Our rubber cockroach in the fruit basket is a big hit again as it was in Cuba. We leave the family at the docks to check out the town while Steve and I motor over to a mooring between two cruise ships the Jubilee and the Sensation. It is uncomfortably silent without the din of family noise so we promptly head for shore in the dinghy. Meeting up at the Lobster Pot restaurant we watch the waiter feed the tarpons below the open windows and end the evening with the Triple Special….. grouper, shrimp and lobster while watching a colorful sunset behind Ariel.
|June 1, 2001
Log: 15.42 nautical miles Georgetown to Rum Point North Sound
Wind 7/8 sailing 6 knots
Hot and sunny
First day of hurricane season and the Schiefer’s last full day aboard. Heading out of Georgetown anchorage at 9AM for Rum Point. We pass the 7 mile beach area with beautiful white sand and low rise hotels and condos then round Conch Point and turn into the sound. Getting in between the reef is dubious and all eyes are on deck. In 15 feet of water we anchor at Stingray City. Within minutes the kids are in the water surrounded by dozens of stingrays. Carl is in scuba gear on the bottom taking photos. Everyone is excited and in awe at these magnificent creatures of the sea their gray bodies gliding across the white sand, then up and around us they circle. It is exhilarating and at times frightening. Some are bigger than Hanna but she squeals and swims up and over her mothers back then back among them. Kelly finds one landing on her head as she ascends and another she felt suck on her leg. Late afternoon we sail up to Rum Point and anchor for the night. Our last evening is very special at the Rum Point Club an upscale beachcomber type place with entertainment by the Barefoot Man singing island tunes to a salsa beat.
June 2, 2001
Log: 14.36 Rum Point to Georgetown Grand Cayman
Sailing 6 knots
Sunny with nice breeze
At noon the Schiefer family was off, back to Miami. John said, “one week is plenty, any longer no one will ask us back”. It took Hanna about that long to find the little hatch above my toilet and peaking in she asks, “what are you doing?” But I still had to disagree. They were great guests and always welcome back. This time I take a bus to West Bay to a Laundromat and the cleaning is minimal. There is always one aboard who keeps the boat at even keel. Grandma Mona found my sanctuary, listening to music while scrubbing floors, doing dishes or reading “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh while the troops were away searching for gold doubloons. I carried the VHF radio ashore to keep in touch with her back on Ariel. And now that they have all gone I sit alone in the cockpit and hear that quiet voice once again echo in my head, “Hello, is anyone there?”
Log: At anchor Georgetown Cayman Islands
Wind 10 –15knots
Seas rolling, main up and reefed
Sunny and warm
Today my computer CRASHED! It has been a rocking and rolling day at anchor almost like being at sea. Dishes are sliding back and forth, everything below clanging and creaking. Steve manages to install locking latches on the cockpit seats and fix a leaky hose fitting, while I finish up chores below. I finished up my log and just as we were headed for the Internet Café we stopped to add one more note. ERROR 174 comes up on the screen. Steve tracks it down It is not a virus which I am sure is from the silly attachment my sister sent and which I warned her about or sending anything over 50K. It is just simply the hard drive gave out. It happens, but why me and why now?? I am devastated. Steve finally admit, “as nice as all this technical wizardry is to have, and as much as I enjoy it, sometimes it does get in the way trying to simplify life”.
June 4, 2001
Log: At anchor Georgetown Cayman Islands
Wind 6 – 8 knots
Sunny and warm
It will cost $400 to $1400 to retrieve my log. I should be thankful I did my backup 2 months ago. And I am thankful I have my journal and there is a possibility I can recreate the log from memory. But Steve, although he seems very calm about the crash, has been fast at work all day checking out how to fix this problem. It is what he does best. By evening after many phone calls and inquires, he has found a new used IBM laptop similar to the one I’ve lost. It is at Price Waterhouse Cooper a company here on the island that is selling off their used ones for newer technology. He negotiates a price of $200 since it does not have a power cord. I am amazed that on an island where everything is 20 percent more expensive than in the states, I am back on line.
June 5, 2001
Log: Georgetown Cayman Islands / Cienfuegos Cuba
Wind SE at 11.7 knots
Seas 4 – 6 feet long rolling swells
Sunny, hot and muggy
At 11:15 we are heading 025 north back to Cuba for the third time. We want to go inland to find the real Cuba. This time we are without crew or family. It is difficult hauling up the dinghy on the new davits with just us two. The 30 HP engine is hauled first with the halyard then the dinghy and both are locked into place. We pass an English boat coming in from Honduras with engine trouble. By the time we pass West Bay both sails are up and we are on our way. I sit for 12 hours behind the helm while Steve programs my new laptop. It is lonely up top. I have thoughts of Cuban gunboats or pirates. By the time Steve comes topside for his watch I have devised several plans to foul any attacks. Maybe it is the solitude of being out on an open sea with not one other person or boat in sight or maybe it is a poor choice of books we have chosen to read. The Passage… A US ship alone in Cuban waters, on a collision course with disaster….by David Payer or reassuringly Tim Allen’s…I’m Not Really Here. We do not carry any weapons aboard. It is going to be a long night.
June 6, 2001
Log: Cienfuegos Cuba 177 nautical miles
Wind 20 knots main and mizzen reefed
Seas 3 – 4 feet
Hot and muggy, 2 thundershowers in night
It is a beautiful night with full moon. I am up from 2AM to 4AM on watch. We have the radar on and the GPS programmed. Steve has a makeshift bed on the floor by the navigation station. We make it through the night with only a couple small thunderstorms. 2PM we are into the narrow entrance of the ‘pocket bay’ headed for one of Cuba’s larger cities, Cienfuegos. We pass a small fishing boat and the words “welcome” are reassuring. No gunboats here, just a big sign with Che Guevara’s picture “BUENVIEDOS SOCIALISTA CUBA”. Once into the Marina Jagua we are greeted by boats from France, Italy and Canada who are surprised to see us Americans here. It is again a pleasant experience, cordial officials reluctant to inspect Ariel and do so apologetically. Dogs aboard sniffing for guns, no apologies. Prices are reasonable at 40 cents a foot, electric 22 cents a kilowatt and water 5 cents a gallon but here we are charged $30 US dollars by the Ministry of Health for a paper saying something about Cuba not having any Yellow Fever or Small Pox. By 8 PM we are confused about time from our all night vigil so end up eating breakfast and going to sleep.
June 7, 2001
Log: Dockside Cienfuegos Cuba Marina Jagua
Hot and muggy
We have a heartwarming and eye opening experience in this town. We meet a friend, Sergio, who was trying to elicit our help in the Internet office. He has a baby 4 months old and is fearing for his life. In broken Spanish we decipher that he is only looking for information on how to get his baby, with Lactose intolerance, the substitute milk products he needs. Steve loves going into his favorite search engine www.google.com for a good cause. He has found a pharmaceutical company in Canada, rather than in the USA which has sanctions against importing into Cuba. Sergio takes down the information and expresses overwhelming gratitude.
At the end of Punta Gorda peninsula within walking distance from the Marina Jagua stands an architectural stunner the Palacio del Valle. Originally the home of a trader, now a restaurant. The main dining room drips with ornate carvings, the entire ceiling, columns and cornices smothered in pre-cast carvings of Venetian alabaster. Carmen Iznaga, a niece of acclaimed writer Nicolas Guillen plays a medley of classical pieces on the grand piano. In the evening we have dinner in the Palacio del Valle. Our meal falls far short of the opulence around us. We do notice the Tabasco sauce from the USA before it was snatched from our table for the only other occupied table. Obviously a prized commodity which probably arrived via Canada. Simple products like lettuce and potatoes are on the menu but we were informed not available. Steve orders the lobster which is the specialty but ends up with fish and we both get the ‘canned’ carrots and green beans with a tomato for a salad. I end up ordering beans and rice and get a sideways glance and explanation that it is the workers food. The service was excellent, and it is obvious if they had the means we would have had the best. We are starting to realize what we are experiencing is meant for us ‘the tourist’ and the people have far less.
We return to Ariel, box up our Soy milk powder and a few gifts to
be delivered tomorrow to Sergio and his baby.
June 9, 2001
|LINK to ISLE DE LA JUVENTUD (Isle of Youth)|
June 12, 2001
Log: Siqueanea Isle de la Juventud to La Coloma 58 nautical miles
Wind SE 6 knots
Motoring NNW at 6.7
Muggy and hot
We find our hot long trip motoring up to La Coloma is a waste of time except for the time it gave me to sit in the cockpit with my new used computer typing the log, watching for boats while Steve took advantage of the smooth ride moving electric boxes and the inverter in the starboard cabin. We are trying to reach a port on the southern coast of Cuba where we can leave Ariel to travel inland. This is not the place, we find, after a long hot day. We do find the official nice but stern in ways to direct us out first thing in the morning. We are told it is a port but there is no marina. We are informed that traveling foreign yachts must only go from marina to marina yet they instruct us to go back to Marina Gorda where there is not an actual marina. But it is a designated tourist area. This is not. We are told to tie Ariel to a cement wall across the way in a security guarded area inside the gates of a ship building yard. We find the electric box for connecting up to is most precarious.
|Wires hanging out, burn marks on the inside and another exactly like
it near by that says “Peligroso” or Dangerous. Steve checks it with his
meters and finds it a three way, then proceeds to make a connection. The
feeling here is strained. Like we have intruded into a place we do not
belong. The officials are all in green military like uniforms which has
not been the case in other areas of Cuba. We are starting to see
‘another side’ of Cuba.
June 13, 2001
Log: La Coloma to Maria Gorda75 nautical miles
Winds SSE 15 –20 knots
Heading WSW 7 knots
Seas long, rolling , lumpy 6-8 feet
We woke to find a line of 15 men outside Ariel on the dock. This is a shipyard and we assumed they were just interested in the boat. But our interest, as well as the officials, was in getting on our way. They appeared today in the usual blue and white uniforms, much more friendly looking but did not accept the pencils I offered when I noticed theirs were scarce and in bad shape. Before they were even off the boat Steve started the engine to show our intentions then we high tailed out into a strong wind and high seas. So different than the calm we had yesterday. And it did not let up. Eventually we had to lower the sails and motor into the high waves. The sea was more an olive green and parts of the shoreline imposing with crashing huge waves shooting up over 50 feet high. The land along this southern shore area at the west end is flat and looked to be totally uninhabited some areas with beautiful white sandy beaches stretching for miles. Three hours from Marina Gorda the waves calm down and come from behind. An hour from Marian Gorda we can smell the familiar scent of flowers that we remember from our first time here. It is nice to be back. This time the anchorage is scattered with several other sailing yachts.
June 14, 2001
Log: Anchored off Maria Gorda
Seas slightly rolling
We are a long way from the Valle de Vinales. I had read about this valley and it was one of our reasons for returning to Cuba. La Coloma was so much closer to reach it but here we are at the far end of the Peninsula de Guanahacabibes. There are no buses or transport other than rental car from the dive center hotel which is why Maria Gorda exists. We spend the day getting information and organizing the rental of a new Citron with air conditioning. It is expensive by Cuban standards. $27US for 12 hours but with insurance and diesel which is very expensive here, it will be $75US. We have come a long way and three times to Cuba and now we wonder if it is worth it. I read that this valley is one of the most spectacular in the world. It is 11km long and 5km wide and scattered with mogotes or freestanding rocks, isolated, sheer sloped, round topped cone like mounds some 1000 feet high.. Between the mogotes are small depressions filled with rich red soil perfect for growing tobacco. It is too hard to pass up and we may never be back. We are handed the keys today but leave in the early hours as it will be a 405km round trip. The rest of the day we work aboard, Steve testing the radar and microwave which both seem to have gone out. I am sure we have been zapped in La Coloma or by the big tower near by.
June 15, 2001
Log: Inland to Valle de Vinales 405 kilometers by car
Sunny warm day
June 16, 2001
Log: At anchor in Maria Gorda
We decided to stay an extra day in Cuba. Besides I am not too keen on making the crossing to Mexico without radar or microwave. But by days end Steve had everything working including cleaning the injectors on the engine and hooking up the ‘Alert’ man overboard system and other wiring with the inverters. Humm! I am wondering if my sabotage theory was misdirected. We have a nice exit party with another boat in the anchorage, Lorili and Kenny on “Just Passing Thru”. Steve can not remember the name of the boat and calls them on the VHF, “Something Passing By”. They come aboard for dinner with their black dog named Lighthouse because of the white tip on his tail but leave their bird behind in a cage hanging off the stern. You meet all kinds of people sailing and here we had a fun evening talking about the Rio Dulce in Guatemala where they have come from and where we are headed. But they will be sailing on “wherever the wind doesn’t blow” as they say to reach a place called Boca de Toro near the Costa Rican border in Panama. They are working cruising people. There Lorili hopes to open an Internet café/laundry and Kenny a book store/ whore house. You meet all kinds. Steve will be anxious to check out one of their new ventures……the Internet café of course.
Log: Maria Gorda Cuba to Isle Mujeres Mexico 155.2 nautical miles
Wind 2 knots
SW heading, dark thunderstorms and lightening off our starboard bow
I learned an important lesson today. Never raise your ensign flag upside down. This means you are in distress. I did not realize my mistake nor did anyone else for that matter until I went to take it down as we hauled anchor to leave. But we were in a bit of distress when we discovered the anchor chain was wrapped around a coral head two times. Steve had to dive down to investigate then while in the water direct me at the helm to steer Ariel around to release it. We had gone through the usual check out routine, the officials taking one last look inside Ariel, this time for stowaways. We are not charged the $10 exit stamp because it is Sunday and the stamp is locked up. Leaving Cuba for the last time our heading is SW across the Yucatan Straits to Mexico. 2:15PM we are on our way. Another overnight sail and a bit of apprehension again as our friends say they had a rough trip into wind, rough seas and against currents for three days. The line of thunderstorms off our starboard bow are imposing. At 6:45 the cruise ship Imagination passes across our bow by only two miles. We are skirting the storms and relieved to see a beautiful sunset and clear skies head. We look back toward Cuba and say our last good-bye.