To Cuba 23rd – 26th March

After a few more days at Ile a’ Vache it was time to move on once more, so after a quick trip ashore to buy bread I made ready to sail and finally bid goodbye to Marc and Jeff the boys who had been my almost constant companions these past few days.
Out of the bay I hoisted sail and ran out down the wide channel between the mainland and the island. Rounding Point l’ Abacou I could set my course to run parallel to the coast and with 2 reefs in the main and staysail set progress with the strongish winds quite rapid and the swell not too troubling. There certainly are some big mountains in Haiti so the scenery was quite spectacular. The wind was not too last though and shortly after sunset it was dropping so contrary to my usual practise I had no reefs in this night instead had all plain sail set and progress was slow. At least I had a full bright moon. I could alter course more northwards now for Cuba, aiming to clear the extensive shoals that extend westwards from Cap Tiburn. A sudden wind increase at 3 in the morning shook me from my torpor and I put the first reef in the main followed shortly by the 2nd. Of course no sooner than the 2nd reef went in the wind dropped again, ah well.
Dawn revealed Navassa Island well off to port. It remained in sight for hours as I drifted and sailed in very light winds and near calms all morning. Eventually however we got a little wind and so it continued throughout our 2nd night with a little short lived rain squall to liven things up.
Dawn revealed just empty seas all around just some cloud to the north. Mid morning and the mountains of Cuba could be seen but as the day wore on the wind dropped again. An assessment of the situation mid afternoon was that at present speed (about 1.5- 2 knots) I would not arrive
before dark and not fancying entering a strange port at night it was on with the engine. So it was that I entered the channel leading to Santiago de Cuba and anchored off the marina at Punta Gorda just before sunset.

Castillo del Morro, approach to Santiago
Castillo del Morro, approach to Santiago

In the morning I dinghied to the dock to pick up the doctor and took her back to the boat. She asked me a few questions and took my temperature and pronounced me free from any “lergies” . They take their health seriously and want to keep Cuba healthy. Then I visited the coast guard and answered their questions, no forms to fill in, all on computer these days. They then inspected the boat, content with letting their sniffer dog , a cute little docile spaniel, have a good snuffle around. Then clearance and visa issued and I was in Cuba.
First thing was to get some money. I was offered a lift into Santiago, about 10 miles by a German who had a car. This was too good an opportunity to miss so I hurriedly grabbed a few things from the boat and into Santiago I went. Kurt dropped me at the Hotel de Santiago. Here I got some convertable pesos and then had a wander around, getting a bit lost but not too badly. It is a big sprawling city but first impression very clean, none of the litter and garbage strewn about that you see in Domincan Republic. Old american cars a plenty, MZ motorbikes which brought back memories of my time as a motorcycle mechanic, horse drawn carts, big trucks which acted as buses. I bought a few veg at a farmers market and eventually took a taxi back.

Car & street Santiago
Car & street Santiago
Plaza Revolution
Plaza Revolution