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17th Feb Cuba

Well we’re now 15 miles short of Canal Caballones which will take us to the Jardines De La Reina, I like to think of them as Yemaya’s gardens. We’ve had a bit of a rolly night in comparison to normal and a change of routine with the holidaymakers doing watches and I think most have mostly enjoyed it. We had up to 33 knots overnight and ended up with 2 reefs in the main running downwind with the wind from the SE. We now have full sail up and a poled out genoa and doing about 7+ knots. ETA at the entrance is 1430 ish. We’re not sure where to go once inside, we have a couple of options but many of the recommended anchorages are too shallow for us with 2.4 m draught. We think we’ll improvise an anchorage just inside the line of Cayos once we’re in nice sheltered waters so we can stop in time for a swim and settle down after a relatively different night.

Yesterday. Amazing. We left the lagoon of the brightly coloured trousers at about 0700 and without wind spent nearly 2 hours motoring to Cayo Blanco off Pilon. The anchorage was beautiful as was the island and we were welcomed to the island by security from one of the local hotels that uses it as a day out for guests. And I do mean welcomed, they helped us taking kit ashore, showed us their friend out snorkelling for dinner, showed us their kitchen and dining room - a large thatched open sided building and when we asked about feeding us they weren’t sure they had anything but when we suggested bringing food from the boat that was; ‘Yes. No problem’. Graham and I returned to the boat in the dinghy (we’d blown up the small one and used it to take bits and pieces ashore dry with most of us swimming) and set to making a potato salad and putting together some sausages and a pepper for the non pork eating Sue, along with beer and so on and in the meantime a small local fishing boat appeared with the ‘authorities’ aboard, a lovely quiet, unassuming chap who took our details and we let him keep a pen as he didn’t have his own. (Thanks Quaile).

Graham chatted to the fisherman, a philosophy lecturer from Santiago University, who’d had to give it up to fish to have a chance of supporting his family, and had good english. Once they had gone we went back to the paradisaical island and snorkelled, read, lounged about and so on whilst the locals prepared us some lunch on their cookers and chilled the beer. We were also invited to assist in the landing of the catch from mr snorkeller and saw him bring a moray eel and barracuda ashore after a good couple of hours fishing with an air harpoon. After an hour or so we all sat down at a teblein in the shade, a light breeze wafting through, some Sanderlings and other birds on hand to entertain us and had a great lunch a lot of which was actually provided by them - we had mergez sausages, potato salad provided by us and bread, rice, fish, fried spam, plantains, mango provided by the locals. One had reasonable English and joined us occasionally at our persuasion, showing us pictures of his daughter and other interesting photographs. It appears that they spend 3 days on the island as security before working at the hotel interspersed with time off. We had a long relaxing lunch before some more leisurely snorkelling with a local on hand to guide us to a wreck and better source of sightseeing fish. He also wiped the inside and outside of our masks with a green weedy thing he found on the seabed which stopped them from misting up. The wreck was of a small steel boat, maybe 70-100 ft long in bits but interesting none the less. 

It was difficult to tear ourselves away but with some gratitudes and hugs and handshakes we managed it and wended our way back to Yemaya. Having not really allowed people time to sort themselves out, we weighed anchor with a reefed main and were then hailed from the water by the fisherman swimming out to us. We rounded back up into wind and dropped the main, and went to see what important thing we’d left behind but it was that he’d caught a manta ray and wanted us to have the wings which we duly plucked from him with the boat hook, it’s possible a dollar or two came into it as well. Colin then had a hard hours work skinning and filleting them in a lively sea as we were close hauled coming out of the lagoon with 20 knots pushing us on and Jennifer cooking dinner down below. 

We’re now 10 miles from our waypoint outside the Cayos and hoping for a leisurely afternoon again, I’ve a couple of jobs on the boat I’d like to get done and after nearly 24 hours in the ocean swell people are looking forward to some peaceful waters.


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