FROM THE LOG #23

December 16, 2004 to February 15, 2005
Varadero, Cuba to Port Antonio, Jamaica

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Our tracks in Cuba
During two visits
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

[There are five previous stories about Cuba, from our first visit (2002-03), starting at Log # 8]

On this trip our first landfall in Cuba was at Varadero on the north coast, some 90 miles south of Marathon, Florida. Varadero was a playground for the rich Americans before the revolution, and much of it was owned by the Du Pont family. Other famous hacienda owners include Al Capone. Today Varadero is the main beach resort for mass tourism in Cuba with charter flights arriving from Canada and many European countries. Although it is not the "real Cuba", it is still more genuine than resorts in other countries, such as the Coasts of Spain or Florida.

Mercado Agropecuario, Miramar, Habana
Cigar factory
After a week in Varadero we enjoyed an over night sail along the coast to Havana, 100 nautical miles to the west. We had to dodge 3 long fishing nets that were laid perpendicular to the coastline and reached more than 10 miles out. At Marina Hemingway we again became the subject to the parade of government officials. In Cuba you have to clear in and out of every place were there are officials present. Although they usually are very courteous it can become frustrating, especially if you have a long day trip ahead of you and the guards do not show up on time.
Butcher's shop, Habana
Contrasts, Habana
Havana is an amazing place, and must have been extremely beautiful before all these magnificent buildings started falling apart. The setting is tropical with wonderful Spanish colonial architecture laden with columns and balconies with ornate and intricate facades. After the revolution everything was left to decay until UNESCO placed Habana Viejo on its World Heritage List in 1982. Today there is scaffolding all over the place, where some exteriors apparently are subject to restoration, while interiors are left gutted. Unfortunately it seems that so far decay has been ahead of restoration, and many constructions are probably beyond repair.
Habana facade
Earning a living posing for tourists
Having celebrated the change from 2004 to 2005 we continued sailing westwards along the coast, stopping at Bahia Honda, Cayo Levisa, Punta Alonso Rojas, Ensenada Anita and finally the "marina" at Cabo San Antonio. On this stretch in a more or less westerly direction we benefited of following winds and seas. This is definitely an undiscovered cruising area; for ten days we did not se any other sailing boats and only two local fishing boats.
Sight seeing, Habana Viejo
Propaganda
Cabo San Antonio is the westernmost point of Cuba. To the west from there across the Yucatan Strait is Mexico. Two years ago we crossed the Golf Stream and sailed over to Isla Mujeres. This time we rounded the point  anti clock wise and set course for Isla Juventud. It was a pretty uncomfortable trip against winds and waves, but 140 miles and 30 hours later we dropped the anchor in the crystal clear waters off the white, sandy beach of Caleta Puerto Frances on the south west coast of "The Island of Youth".
Preparing for a Cuban cruise
Isla Juventud on the horizon
A few days later we arrived in Nueva Gerona, the main settlement of Isla de Juventud. This is a truly authentic rural Cuban town, far from the beaten track. The only problem is that you have to tie your yacht to the dirty commercial town dock, next to the ferries that traffic the route between the island and mainland Cuba. Little has changed here since our last visit.
Visiting Club Nautico Internacional de Hemingway
Mercado Agropecuario at Nuova Gerona
Our next principal port was at Cayo Largo, which again is a tourist spot without any indigenous population. However, the beaches and water colours are magnificent. Persistent strong easterly winds kept us longer in this area than anticipated, but after a couple of weeks we were able to take the advantage of a passing cold front. The front disturbed the prevailing wind pattern twice within a week, which made it possible to reach Santiago de Cuba a couple of days before our visa expired. On the way we found some nice anchorages in the outer cays, called Archipelago de las Jardines de la Reina (The Gardens of the Queen).

Pelican landing on solar panelPlaya Sirena, Cayo Largo

A Barracuda again Lobsters galoreColorful fishermen

Jens & HetaUnplugged, let there be bongosAnnika & Tomas

Visiting Rosa & PedroFeliz Valentino

In Santiago we were invited to a Valentines Day pig roast party at the home of Rosa and Pedro. The people were again warm, welcoming, hospitable and anxious to help making our visit in their country as good as possible.

The next day it was time to clear out of Cuba. It was the last day of the validity of our visa, with no option of an extension. After two months of an extraordinary culture, red tape, rhum, revolutionay litterature and more lobsters than potatoes (but no cigars for us) it was time for new views.

Jamaica here we come.

P.s. More photos from this, our second, cruise in Cuba can be browsed as a Slide Show HERE.
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