I spent a few days anchored at Punta Gorda, took a ferry into Santiago a few times to wander around ,see the sights and listen to the music. i also cycled out to Castilla del Morro and called in at a little beach for a swim. I also went for a walk to a prominant limestone bluff inland by tiny paths through the bush and on top buzzards soaring just feet above my head. The Norwegians lads, Olaf and Knut had arrived too, but they are off eastwards and northwards. I am still westward bound. I was ready to leave but strong northerly winds were forecast for Cabo Cruz so I delayed a day or two before leaving. Next stop down the coast was Chivorico, a tight entry between the reefs into a lovely little lagoon. On again to Marea del Portillo and easier entry into a big lagoon this. My first eve there and the 30+ knot northerly arrived as dark fell, the anchor dragged so I put out the Bruce as a second anchor. In the midst of this the Guarda arrived in a little rowing fishing boat, they were having quite a struggle in the wind and I was surprised to see them on on a night like this. Ashore was a little fishing village, this was rural untouched Cuba, lovely. I got some peppers tomatoes and cucumbers from a plot farmer,he wanted some fishhooks so I gave him some.
A short hop took me to Ensenada Tiburcio, I didn’t like this entry, it started off easily enough well marked with bouys but thereafter it was unmarked between a shoaling shore and unmarked reefs.
The anchorage at Cabo Cruz is reached around a long breaking reef but at least well marked and is some way from the town and the lighthouse.
Ashore I met with a lovely Dutch couple of “Bandos”. We had seen each others boats in various place but never meet before.
The next stretch was the Gulf of Guacanayabo and Gulf of Anna Maria and the Jardines de la Reina. This is a labyrinth of hundreds of uninhabited cays, reefs and shoals. There are just a few fishermen but otherwise I would be on my own, few cruisers come this way, it is wilderness unspoilt. The pilot guide recommends a good bow watch to look out for shoals and coral, being on my own meant I would have to do without, this led to a degree of apprehension about this stage.
To the next anchorage was too far to make in daylight so I left just before dark aiming to arrive at the entrance to the Canal de Cabenza del Este, which leads into the inshore passage behind the reefs by daylight. Here I would enter into the gulf of Guacanayabo.
It turned out to be a wild night, the wind got up and barely dropped below 30 knots all night, I was down to the third reef in the main and a reef in the staysail and of course I arrived at my waypoint for the canal whist still dark so decided to hove to for a while till dawn. With the wind out of the NE it was quite a battle to head NE through the canal, bashing into a nasty short chop and finally to Cayo Granada to drop the hook.
The following days I transited the Canal de Rancho Vieja and Canal del Pingue leading into the gulf of Anna Maria. The word canal gives the wrong impression, there are no banks as such you are sailing through what looks like open waters with the occasional reef and cay visible and some marker posts to guide you, but stray of track and you will be aground on the shoals! A series of anchorages at Cayo Chocolate, Cayo Manual Gomez, Cayo Ingles, where I passed to the outside again then Cayo Breton , Cayo Macho de Afuera and finally arriving at Casilda. It had been a very intense experience, the peace, the silence were outstanding at times but it had been hard work, concentration needed at all times.