So that helping with the decision on destination we continued to check weather for Havana. Finally, with the very latest forecast we opted to leave Los Morros on Thursday 30th March, with south of east winds allowing us to travel north and east to Hemingway but once anchored off the marina the winds blew up to 35 knots with nasty waves and Rob and I decided to wait for the following day. Customs were more than happy for us to clear out on the Thursday and return to the peace of the Canal De Los Barcos to leave first light on the Friday. a wise move as we had nothing over 20 knots, southerly winds and a great 25 hour trip throughout the 165 miles. To avoid a counter current we kept within 2 miles of the reef, the land keeping the waves right down. Starting with 2 reefs in the main, we shook them out as the wind dropped and had a lovely sail until the wind died completely and we motored through the night. We passed a few bays that would have been ideal to anchor in but for the fact that the Guarda don’t allow it. Not sure why but the only bay they are remotely happy for cruising boats to enter unless an emergency, is Bahia Honda.
We arrived in flat calm water at the sea buoy just outside Marina Hemingway, got our lines and fenders ready and motored in through the red and green markers. After turning to port there is a long dock onto which the gentle southerly breeze pushed us. Clearance was rapid but several officials boarded the boat to check it out and asked about food. Having been in Cuba for over 6 weeks we could certainly say we didn’t have any left!
They allocated us a berth in Canal 1 (of 4), which is the most northerly section. The canals are long and about 80 feet wide, so we were able to turn ‘Beyzano’ around so we could dock port side to and not have to move the fenders again. Several dockhands helped with our lines and there is 220v electricity and water, all charged. Our marina costs will be 1CUC per foot per night, so roughly 38 pounds a night and we were there just 3 nights, leaving for Florida before dawn on Tuesday.
We explored the marina, found several small shops and restaurants, buses running around the area, Wi-Fi cards for 2 CUC an hour in the bowling alley near the run down old hotel and a nice shower block. There is a swimming pool and roped off area for swimming but the canal water isn’t the cleanest, being enclosed at the end. Rubbish bins are dotted along the docks and it is all well lit.
The Club Nautico is rather swanky but members only unless you belong to the Cruising Association or Ocean Cruising Club and can be invited in. We looked for the OCC Port Officer, Jose, the first day but he was busy with PR duties as a big rally from the USA were in town, over 50 boats all decked out with flags and excited Americans, most of whom had done their first offshore trip and hated it, it seemed from the conversations about the bad journey. They all left the Canals one morning and motored to Havana Harbour to parade around before returning. People are very interested to see all the new visitors and their beautiful boats.
We saw many boats we know in the marina, recognising the boat names rather than the crew. ‘Rosa Fascia’ and ‘Carati’ are both here and I also met Addison Chan who set up the ‘Cuba, Land & Sea’ Facebook page and has written a new cruising guide. The current free online one is not as badly out of date as the Calder book we own (1999) but there are errors in the online one, importantly getting east and west mixed up.
We washed the boat off as she has done some long, salty passages lately, topped up the diesel, petrol and water tanks and bought a little food, mainly rum, biscuits and crisps. I have never been in a country with such a lack of shops and fresh food before and it is quite astonishing and I am craving salad and fruit. If they are serious about encouraging cruisers here, they have to allow us to buy food or we cannot stay long. It is hard to get Internet despite it being important for us to let family know we are still alive and obtain weather. It is laborious to move from port to port and the restrictions on movement mean you cannot explore any inhabited areas freely from the boat. Rob has become increasingly disaffected with Cuba, especially as many people are keen to take as much money from everyone as they can, providing very little for it. I have enjoyed it more, especially some of the wonderful people we’ve met but agree that it could be made far easier to travel by boat here.