Saturday, April 19, 2008

Where Was I...

Ah yes, dreams coming true, but not turning out as planned.

Our first stop after leaving Marina Hemingway was Bahia Honda. Aside from the shack where the Guarda worked out of, the only other signs of life was a fishing station on pontoons in one of the sheltered inlets. We stayed long enough to cook supper, go for a swim, and get some sleep before heading to Cayo Levisa the next day.

One thing I really enjoy, perhaps too much, are days where the wind allows us to haul up the anchor, sail away, and drop anchor in the next harbour without ever laying hands on the engine key. On this particular trip, I recall the wind dying early afternoon. We drifted, forward, and backward, and in circles, until the wind picked up again a couple of hours later. In the meantime, Road to the Isles and Bacchanal motored on well ahead of us, buying the time to dive on a 19th century shipwreck on a shallow reef, that, until now, had been completely off limits by the Cuban government. I wish I had the foresight in these sort of situations to realize at the time what’s more important, and where the source of the good memories lie.

Cayo Levisa is the site of an all-inclusive resort (nothing else), and is a very well protected anchorage when a 'norther' strikes. If I haven't already explained before, a norther refers to the strong northerly winds that effect Cuba, as well as the surrounding areas, mainly in the winter time. When the prevailing southeasterlies started to clock around to the southwest, you knew a front was on the way. You could usually see the line of clouds, and sometimes lightening as it approached. These winds can potentially blow 50 to 60 kts (MPH) and can last for days, but I think the worst we ever saw was 35 to 40kts for a day or two at a time. The worry at times like that is dragging anchor, which I did more than once.

After Cayo Levisa, we began to run into problems with permission to go ashore. Frustration increased at each port, as all we wanted to do was go explore the country, meet the locals, and be able to stock up on local produce for cooking meals aboard. But they insisted that we only go ashore in ports where we'd be forced to cater to the local restaurants and pay marina fees; places where few or no other amenities, let alone communities, existed. Once arriving in a small port known as Los Arroyos, all 3 boats were low on supplies, so we went ashore in search of a market. The Guarda told us 'no' at first, but after some insisting, he made a phone call to his boss in Havana, and we were then allowed ashore for one hour, and one of the Guarda was to follow us around. Being Monday, the market was closed, so we started asking people on the street if they had any food in their gardens they'd like to sell. One guy was especially helpful, toting his bottle of white rum under one arm, he spoke gibberish as he stumbled into probably a dozen houses and tried, in his language, to say we needed food. They're not allowed to accept money from tourists, so we were careful about paying when it appeared the police weren't looking. After finding some bananas, green tomatoes, and... well, I think that was it... we were escorted back to the boat, exactly one hour later.

In other news...

Effie has been a great source of comic relief since arriving in Cuba. After escaping from the boat one night at Marina Hemingway, she returned the next morning with a deep and nasty gash. Not that that's funny, but the cone we had to put on her head to keep her from licking the purple iodine-based disinfectant from her side made her look a bit special. We could now add the name 'Conehead' to the list of nicknames we have for her, which I was just about to share with you, but few are appropriate for a family audience.

I had suspicions of what else may have happened to her that night, but honestly gave it little thought after a day or two. But now, and we're not ENTIRELY certain, but we think in a few weeks we may have some little Fidel's and Raoul's running around the deck.

Effie seems somewhat devastated at the prospects of being a single mom. She runs around like a bat out of hell in the mornings, slamming herself into things, bringing to mind visions of scrambled eggs. During a recent sail, after napping in the sail above the wheel, she threw herself down, well calculated, landing with her baby maker (aka BELLY! Geeze, some people's interpretations...) right on top of one of the spokes. With belly still growing, I think she’s dismayed at her failed abortion attempts, and the other day she decided to just end it all by stuffing her face in a cut-off water bottle, leading to an eventual suffocation. No, don’t worry, I intercepted. After taking photos.

Our last stop along the north coast was a marina at Los Morros. The land is for the most part uninhabited, and together with our friends from Bachannal, Katie and I rented a car and drove a few hours to Pinar Del Rio, the nearest city, where sufficient supplies for a few days and access to internet could be found. The 'marina' at Los Morros was little more than a long concrete dock, with a restaurant containing 4 tables, and a shower facility that consisted a hole in the wall with a plastic pipe that spewed cold water out the side. An approaching norther would force us to move to a safe anchorage at Cayos de la Lenia by evening. The anchorage, 5 miles away from the marina, was completely inaccessible by land, being in the middle of what I imagine was miles of mangroves. A perfect hideaway from the harrassing Cuban officials for a few days while the storm blew through.