Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bouncing Around, Belize to Guatemala

Heading Up the Rio Dulce

If you've asked yourself, as my forever friend Louana did, "where oh where is Wahoo?" 

Our home in Guatemala
The answer is - right now we are tied to the dock in Tortugal Marina on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. 

The Rio Dulce is a fresh water river that travels trough a soaring gorge from Lago de Izabal down to the Caribbean. Because it's Western confluence with the lake is situated amid mountains the area has become THE hurricane hole of the cruisers in the Northern and Central parts of the Western Caribbean. The twin towns of Fronteras and Renello are on either side of the highest bridge (75 ft) on the Pan American highway. The area around the bridge has become cruiser central. Many cruisers find that they "swallow the hook" once here. It offers marinas and marine services plus assorted bars and restaurants together with hikes and numerous cruisers events. There is also a strong "giving back to Guatemala" feeling that runs through the cruising community which binds us all together. Each morning the local Cruisers' Net keeps us up to date on what's happening "on the River".

Main Street of Fronteras where we can find the freshest fruits and veggies!! Not to mention those plantain chips.

So why are we here in May?? Well that's a result of Belize's weird relationship with the cruising life. Belize allows only a 3 (maybe 4) month Visa for International boats. I could stay a year, Roy indefinitely but Wahoo must sail away. She surely can't go it alone so here we are. Belize takes knowing about her ex-pats very seriously. First we clear in, which involves a visit to Immigration, Customs and Port Authority. A last visit to BAHA (Belize Agricultural & Health Authority) completes our admission provided we pay our dues. Authorities can be found in San Pedro, Belize City, Dangriga and Punta Gorda and rules seem to differ with each place, the officer and whimsy. Initial clearance gives a month in country, with 2 (or 3) extensions.  We must revisit Customs and Immigration each month to get our share of abuse and renew our Visas. After the third month if you're in Placencia it's "Adios" but if you're in San Pedro it's possible to get a 4th month. 
No Reason, Just Policy!

Sadly, it's the small vendors that suffer in lost income as cruisers take their money elsewhere. We've been told that Belize doesn't value cruisers as we don't "put heads in beds". Obviously they choose to ignore the money we spend in other ways. But, there's lots of area to sail between Mexico and the Bay Islands. Even if we leave out the rest of the Western Caribbean that would take us down to Panama. For the crew aboard Wahoo the 300NM that covers Isla Mujeres to the Bay Islands of Honduras will give us plenty of scope for the next few years. Much of it will be spent in Belize but obviously not all of it.

Spotted Eagle Ray

This Grouper came too close & ended on the grill
Of course, our three allotted months in Belize included plenty of time for us to visit San Pedro, Caye Caulker and spend time at Turneffe Atoll for the first time in umpteen years. We also visited several of the middle cayes including one of our favorites, Whippari. What's saiiing without the odd storm or two and we endured ours while at Hatchett Caye. As usual in Belize, storms send us all scurrying back to the cruising "mother of harbors", Placencia, so that Yoli's can offer solace in the form of cold Belikins and lots of camaraderie. On one arrival we were entertained by a visiting manatee that hung around. We tried feeding cabbage and lettuce but it only wanted companionship. We've found Wahoo to be a magnet for wildlife lately, including a Pelican, a Brown Booby, a very Yellow Warbler, several Bahama Swallows that wanted to build a nest in our mast and that visiting Eagle Ray you see above.

With family arrivals starting on June 20 we needed to depart Belize so that we could come back ( how can they miss us if we don't go away). So there we were heading to the Rio at the end of April. While on the river we decided to get some interior work done. Over the years much has been done to keep Wahoo in Bristol fashion but the interior has taken both a beating and a back seat to the more pressing needs of rigging, solar and wind generators, wind indicators, depth sounders, auto pilots and all the other life saving/enhancing items. Finally refinishing our traditional teak and holly cabin sole was deemed necessary and boy does it make dear Wahoo look like a new boat! One of the many joys of an older sailing vessel (Wahoo was born in 1992) is how much more of everything was used in construction compared with the newer boats. From the thickness of the fiberglass hull to the teak cabinetry to the cabin sole all of it was made to be used, refinished and simply last, whether it was experiencing pounding seas or sand encrusted feet.

Volcán de Fuego,  seen from our terrace in Antigua, still showing off after destroying the city many times in the 18th Century

And because no one stays on a boat when the interior is being sanded and varnished we decided to take a little trip. Buses can take you anywhere so we left the summer heat and humidity of Rio Dulce for the cool temperatures of the highlands. Our plan was 4 days in Antigua Guatemala, the old Colonial capital established in 1543. Antigua served as the capital of Guatemala (territory included present day Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) for 300 years enduring several earthquakes and volcanic eruption during this time. Finally the Santa Marta earthquake in 1773 destroyed so much that the capital was moved to Guatemala City in 1776. There were over 30 Catholic monasteries and convents in Antigua in addition to splendid government buildings and homes. Today the remains of these are the reason for visiting this beautiful ancient city.
cloisters of Guatemala Cathedral
amazing beauty when you look up

Casa de Santo Domingo: the beauty of the entrance is a foil for the juxtaposition of the marvels inside. This ancient monastery is now a world class hotel & restaurant set amid the ruins as shown by the crypt above. In addition there are several suburb museums of both modern and ancient Mayan history.

Whether we were viewing churches and ruins, dancing under an Antiguan "second line umbrella" or getting a shoe shine at our favorite Antiguan bar -

You can bet we were having ourselves a good old time!!


We then spent 4 days on Lake Atitlan. At 5,500 feet its not a lake you go down to. Its the deepest and the highest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of 1,120 feet. Deemed the world's most beautiful lake by Aldolus Huxley. Lake Atitlan is the crater of a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago. It's ringed by 3 active volcanoes and several mountains. We climbed to over 8,000 ft before coming to the town of Panajachel. From there we took boats to visit several of the Mayan towns around the lake. In many of the Mayan villages the people hold fast to their culture. It was obvious that dialects and native attire varied between villages less than 5 miles apart. You wander among a mishmash of ancient Mayan village culture and the attempt to invest in the world of tourism. Together with Val and Lloyd, the crew of Puddle Jumper, we had a grand time.

Lake Atitlan, an overview

These are our first views of the lake from a restaurant terrace on a rainy afternoon, up in the clouds.

Approaching San Marco de la Laguna

The boat dock at San Antonio

Guatemalan textiles are created by the Mayan woman. It can take up to 40 days to make the more intricate patterns. These woven for the tourist market are still done by hand but take only 40 hours!!

I chose that one for me and after a couple of text messages with Laura I chose one for her.

Now we're back aboard and so very pleased with the workmanship refinishing the cabin sole, the companion way ladder and handrails, the galley fiddles and the saloon table. We gave the work to Byron, the young dockmaster here at Tortugal Marina and he and his workers did a stupendous job. Only one small section in the v-berth, where the teak and holly floor needs replacing, wasn't completed. That wood has to be ordered from Guatemala City - so completion on our return trip. There's a few more chores to complete like having our anchor and anchor chain re-galvanized. RAM Marine is the ONLY place in the entire Caribbean that can re-galvanize anchor chain. We thought Trinidad did but you need a shaker to do the chain and their's broke umpteen years ago and so they prefer selling you new chain at 4 times  the price. You must check the links carefully, no one wants an anchor chain with a weak link, but if the chain is in good shape  it's much more economical to have it re-galvanized. Now Roy won't have to decide between changing into his oldest and yuckiest shorts or going nude when he raises and lowers the anchor.

Tied to a dock and having to walk the plank (to get aboard)
Another detail was selling the 9.5 ft dinghy we bought after the original Woo-Dat died on our journey to Puerto Rico last year . We decided that we needed one that was an equal replacement to the original 10.5ft Woo-Dat. Until you ride in it you'd never believe the difference one foot can make in comfort and stability. Now we can make it to those wonderful snorkeling spots that are only accessible with a small boat. We'll be heading to Cucumber Beach Marina near Belize City by May 28th to pick up the new one. For all of Belize's ridiculousness about clearing in and Visa extensions they are much better than Guatemala at shipping prices and recognizing duty free items for vessels in transit. A real shout out to Belize Freight for being so good at picking up, transporting, clearing Customs and delivering.

We are looking forward to getting back to Belize and spending more time out on the cayes. We'll have a crowd of family to enjoy come June 20 when John Edward and Laura arrive along with the North Carolina contingent which we're thrilled will include Sandra as well as Dave and Angela plus their two girls, Sarah and Alexis. We'll travel inland together then a day of snorkeling from Wahoo before we divide up for a sailing trip with John Edward and Laura who will be replaced aboard by the North Carolinians for another sailing trip. After that Austin comes for a 2 week stay in which he hopes to return home fully PADI certified for diving.

Right now our plans call for a return to the Rio in August and probably a flight back to New Orleans, via Houston, come middle of that month. But you never know...

Can't help it.
Here's two more picture of Mayan women. They carry Anything on their heads and their babies on their backs!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

"There and Back Again"(our way)

San Pedro Carnival

 A Rendezvous aboard SV Rendezvous
Yay! We're Here!!
Feb 4th, 2017, three years and two days between our departure from Placencia, Belize and our return. Three years of new places and new faces. Now memories to be treasured knowing all the challenges were faced up to and conquered. So many great times and super people. Cruising friends who will warm our hearts forever. Our adventure in the Antilles is over.

But now we’re back and feeling like Belize is our best Christmas and Birthday all rolled into one. All those cayes to visit, the atolls which we hardly touched in the other times we were here, the inland beauty of Mayan temples and rain forest just out there waiting for us. Strange to be so excited about a place we’ve been to so often. Belize is made for exploring, so many nooks and crannies! We are once again avidly reading and plotting our way thru Captain Freya Rauscher’s Pilot Book. Old as it is (3rd edition is from 2007, last printing in 2013) it’s still the best and only guidebook available. A great feeling is knowing there’s no time limit - it all stretches out for as long as we stay interested!

There’s even icing on that cake because we also get to look forward to being back in Guatemala, where we’ll spend hurricane season on the Rio Dulce with trips inland. Plus there will be time in the Bay Islands of Honduras which we’ve never visited. 

El Milagro - the miracle on Isla Mujeres

On Jan 24th we arrived on Isla Mujeres after an easy passage across the Yucatan Channel. Found a berth at El Milagro Marina, and were happy to use their agent service to get cleared in. Mexico easily wins the “who has the most convoluted clearance procedures” award. Certainly the amount of paperwork generated is inches higher than anywhere else. So it was wonderful to have each agency meet with us and our agent under the palapa at a tile covered table in El Milagro’s courtyard hearing the sound of a trickling fountain rather than running ourselves silly. Someone said it took them 3 days. Luckily our cruising permit is still good or that would have involved a trop to Cancun also.

El Milagro is a wonderful marina and small resort on Isla Mujere’s West coast. It was where we arrived for our first visit back in 2012 and it has only grown more beautiful and convenient since then. But the “miracle” was meeting Joe and Maribeth on La Peregrina. They were waiting for us to come in having heard me on the SSB with Chris Parker discussing our crossing; then heard us on the VHF arranging a berth. La Peregrina’s crew have been blog followers for years!! We’re an inspiration they say, WOW!!! Originally from Nashville they lived in New Orleans for awhile and ran into Capt Andy Galliano who first introduced them to our blog when this all first started. How’s that for serendipity. Several days and nights of drinks and laughter ensued.

Cheryl & JD, our friends from Lafitte
We left Isla Mujeres with a backward smile and sailed to Cozumel in time to meet up with Cheryl and JD Dempster, long time and dear friends from Lafitte. They were enjoying a Carnival cruise and it worked out perfectly for a little get together. The next morning, Feb 1 we started the trek along the Mexican coast that eventually would bring us to Belize. This is among our longest passages at 185 NM and never a good sail. Each time we make this passage, and this is our fifth, there's been problems. No matter how hard we try to pick the perfect weather window something occurs. The trades and seas coupled with the Yucatan current make this passage uncomfortable. This time, despite the forecast, wind and seas were raging as we approached Belize and the reef opening into San Pedro. 8 ft E waves were crashing across the opening and 25kt NE winds made it so rough that Roy hand steered as Otto, our auto pilot, kept giving up in despair. it was obvious we needed to sail on. 42NM later ( a total of 227 NM if you’re counting and believe me we were) we came through the reef at English Cay and used the wide ship channel to safely get behind Belize’s Barrier Reef. We breathed a heavy sigh of relief as we dropped the hook behind Middle Long Cay. Our intention of spending a couple of weeks in San Pedro would happen another time. Tomorrow it’s on to surprise friends waiting on us in Placencia and finally get to Yoli's, the Best Cruiser Bar in the Caribbean. We know. I think we've been to them all!
At Yoli's

Ya just never know who you'll meet again
that's Mary and Ralph from SV Restless Heart,
last seen in Dominica

After dropping the hook at Middle long Caye it was time for celebratory martinis and big, big grins! The next day we enjoyed a lovely sail with just our jib flying. We were doing about 6kts in 22 -25 kt NE wind with nothing but a light wind driven wrinkle on the water. That’s the difference the reef makes, same wind as yesterday but without the 6-8ft seas. We were heading for Garbutt Cay about 22 NM away. We plan to overnight there and get into Placencia the next day. At this point anything longer than 30NM feels too long to us.  

At Tackle Box Bar with the crew of Wanderlust & Rendezvous

PS: Its now been six weeks since our arrival and I guess we just couldn’t sit still for long. A couple of weeks enjoying Placencia and we were off with Rendezvous and Wanderlust to sail North to San Pedro. Off course there were stops along the way as none of us had a reason to hurry so Lagoon Caye, Garbutt Caye, Blue field Range and Caye Caulker had us for a night or two each with snorkeling and Happy Hours aboard each other’s boat. We sailed through Port-o-Stuck and eventually dropped anchor right in front of Ramon’s. Sipping Belikans at Hurricanes and Tackle Box. Had we ever left? 

Sailing Belize

Cruisers’ Notes
If you come in this way the anchorage at English Cay, while beautiful, offers very little protection. Instead Follow the Eastern ship channel in and turn left at the second green buoy after English Cay.
You can come across 12 Feet Bank in good depths to anchor in 15 ft of water with good holding behind Middle Long Cay, a mangrove cay.  Anchor near 17.16.240N 88.05.49W look for a sandy patch. Its suggested that you put a deck light on instead of your mast light. No use advertising.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cuba 2017 - Confusing,Conflicted, Cumbersome but So Very Congenial

Hopefully not our last "green flash"

Had a Passenger
We left Montego Bay January 4th and took advantage of the mild trades resulting from a stalled cold front in the Gulf of Mexico. A good way to wash away the taste of the nasty trip in 2014 which brought us to Jamaica from Cuba in 15 ft seas and 40 kt winds. This time the 150NM trip was in light Easterlies & seas of less than 2-3'.

1st Bucanero - definitely in Cuba
As this was our 3rd time in Cuba we were mainly interested in getting as many miles under our keel as a dislike for nasty weather and overnight passages  allowed. Our plan was to stay in the Southern cayes (cayos) and enjoy swimming and snorkeling in Cuba’s clear waters. We arrived in the Jardine de la Reina on the SE coast at Cayo Anclitas. A quiet anchorage we’d used in 2014. Then a good rest and a weather check with Chris Parker that said our plans were trash!. We’d need to move quickly to a more secure location as a nasty cold front was about 30 hours away bringing gale force winds and lingering for a week. The front was approaching from the West and we were sailing West but our current condition of light winds and seas should continue for the next 24 hours. Off we went to continue our Westward movement to Cayo Largo Marina on Cayo Largo, another 150 NM away. 

Drug Inspector & His Handler

A near perfect downwind sail brought us to safety in 26 hours. We had just enough time to get Wahoo tied up before the front arrived. As usual we got to enjoy Cuba’s clearance procedures. Especially the springer spaniel that comes aboard to check for drugs. The doctor took our temperature, the Agricultural guys used a magnifying glass to check our fruits and vegetables for bugs or other infestations. Heads were shaken over our eggs, cheese and meats as you aren’t supposed to to bring in meat, dairy and produce any longer,  but considering there are no provisions at Cayo Largo a few presents and some cervesas cleared the way for us to keep everything.

Cayo Largo gift shop
Afternoon lull at the restaurant
Cayo Largo is not the Cuba of exquisite old Spanish architecture and classic American cars. Its bright white sand beaches and sparkling blue clear waters have been a resort for Europeans and Canadians for years. At least 3 sailing charter companies are based here plus innumerable day charters that service the high rise hotels nearby. The weather was driving all the charters and private cruising boats, like Wahoo, to find shelter either at the docks or among the safe anchorages nearby. There were French, Italians, Canadians, Austrians and even Russians. A polyglot of languages could be heard all around us. Among the crowd we found two couples who befriended us and were befriended by us. All three boats will meet up on the Rio Dulce for next hurricane season. Jill and Pete on Regina Oceani  are from the US, Pete is writing an article for Bluewater Sailing as well as doing research in collaboration with Nigel Calder, who wrote the bible for cruising Cuba in 1999. Vizu is owned by Mike and Vicki, hail from Montreal and have sailed around the world. Mike’s anchor design is now the very famous Rocna Anchor.

Could be a marina anywhere - But it's in Cuba

Before moving on I’ll bring you up to date on changes we saw since President Obama relaxed regulations. You can’t just come to Cuba. US Citizens need to present proof that they are going for one of the 12 approved reasons. There is a whole series of hoops you must jump through. You still must bring in whatever money you will spend as credit cards and banking services are not set up for US citizens. We brought in EUROs to avoid the 15% tax on US dollars. About 1 Euro = 1CUC.

Clearance was more relaxed and we were not required to buy the $3/day health insurance that US citizens had to buy in the past. But it’s possible that just got missed in the hectic mess of the approaching storm and many boats to clear. Customs is now $75 US per person instead of $50 (payable only in CUCs). Plus there's another fee for the boat total for us was $215. But the marina rate had gone down by .10 per foot. it was a net savings for us. Communications has eased a little. AT&T, in Oct of 2016 , announced you could “roam” in Cuba though prices are exorbitant. Cuba is not part of AT&Ts International plan. You must pay full roaming fees but it allowed us to get by without a Sat phone and that’s a big savings. Though it would also mean that we could only communicate when there’s phone service. Once we left Cayo Largo it was nil until we got to the mainland. However, internet access is now 2CUCs per hour instead of $10 (where you can get it) and in Cayo Largo it was wifi which meant we didn’t have to go into a hotel and use their old clunky PC. 

Not having anything to do with the US is the water issue. Potable water is not available on Cayo Largo, or possibly anywhere else we will visit. As Wahoo doesn’t have a water maker it means that the 180 gals of water we carry must maintain us for our entire stay. (we actually have our water use down to about 3 gals for each of us per day - careful, careful, careful!!)0. Fruits and vegetables are mostly out of season and aren’t available in the Cayos anyway so again what we carry must keep us from getting scurvy until we get to Mexico. 

Eventually the weather got back to its more usual diurnal pattern. But since all the winds are still high we were seeing E-ENE winds in the high teens into low 20s early morning with increases to mid-20s gusting 30 afternoons and nights. Seas outside the reefs were running 5-7 ft from the E-SE.

Concrete Fishing boat = Gov owned, crew on 10 day rotation
On Wednesday, Jan 11th, we left the dock to anchor nearby. Its a cumbersome system. We had to be at the fuel dock for 7:30am but couldn’t get a Despacho to leave until we had bought the fuel. Also couldn’t pay for the marina and the fuel until we were ready to sail away. Finally done with payment and paperwork we set sail on Jan 12th. for the 30NM sail to Canal Rosario. The downwind sail saw us in 30 kt winds and 6-7 ft following seas under a cloudy drizzling sky. We were happy to set the hook in the calm waters of Canal Rosario where we could anchor for a couple of nights. Canal Rosario is one of the few reef passes through the 3 archipelagos that separate the Caribbean Sea from Cuba’s various Southern “Golfo’s”.  

We anchored near S/V Regina Oceani, one of the boats we’d met in Cayo Largo, had fun trading with local fisherman for lobster and a couple of Coral Crabs. On our 2nd night the 4 of us had a crab and lobster feast. A good trade, pint bottles of rum, a long unused bottle of bourbon plus my “presents” of simple medical supplies, deodorant, fishing hooks and candy along with some toothpaste filled the freezer with 18 lobster tails plus the crabs.

Two days later on the 14th we were on our way to Cayo Campos, one of our favorite stops in 2014. We sailed along with Regina Oceani for one more anchorage together before we would separate as they were hurrying to Mexico so they could fly home for the birth of their first grandchild. Our plan was to continue island hopping our way through Cuba.

Cayo Campos is a Biological preserve because of the monkeys that were brought here for medical experiments. The experiments are long over but the government still maintains rangers who oversee their care and feeding. This time as beautiful as the water was it was still too chilly for swimming and snorkeling. Once again we were invited ashore to help feed the monkeys and do a little trading. Our visit ended with a meal for us, Pete & Jill of grilled lobster and fish with rice and beans cooked by the rangers. Our tummies are full and our freezer is overflowing, we’re up to 28 lobster tails.
Cayo Campos Ranger Station

We’re resigned to the fact that our choosing to make this trip in January, when every week brings a cold front, showed poor planning on our part. Long sleeves and sleeping under a blanket is more the norm than bathing suits and snorkel gear. In 2014 we were two months later and it was soooo different. Even though we were sailing into the trades the diurnal wind pattern held lighter winds and the temperatures were higher. 

Two days only at Cayo Campos and then we needed to leave for Pasa de Quitasol which took us through the reefs North of Isla Juventud. We had spent a week in Neuva Gerona, the capital of Isla Juventud, and celebrated Roy’s 70th birthday here in 2014. This time we only stayed overnight in remote Estero Simon on the NE cost of the island. While at anchor Roy started trying to trace a leak we’ve discovered with all of this downwind sailing.  The following seas seem to be pushing water in through the rudder post.

Guarda in La Coloma
Due to windy, chilly weather we decided to exchange our reef visits and snorkeling plans for an inland exclusion. So we sailed 50NM Northwest to La Coloma, a fishing port on the main island. Our pilot books said a visit to Pinar del Rio, the tobacco growing part of Cuba, can be arranged at La Coloma.  When we arrived confusion was definitely the order of the moment. Various instructions were given to us, Anchor there, No Anchor over there, Come dockside… Roy just motored in a tight circle until eventually a Guarda motorboat with a failing engine and some officials came alongside. Our Despacho was looked at rightway, wrongway and upside down. There was much shaking of heads, smiles of appolgy and talking over a scratchy hand held VHF. The upshot was that they were very sorry but we couldn’t stay. Certainly couldn’t go ashore. It was 5pm and we’d already had a long day but they told us we’d be fine in Maria La Gorda, 65 NM away. Definitely another overnight passage was the in order. 

So off we went and endured one of the worst passages in a long while. E winds in the low to mid 20s were not so bad as we were on a downwind run going West but the 4-5 ft seas were short, steep and on our beam. Plus we were bucking a 1 knot current. No sleep for either of us that night.

We’d been to Maria La Gorda in 2014. It’s the normal first stop after clearing customs at Los Morros on Cuba’s Western side. This is a dive resort with some of the most spectacular coral in the Caribbean. It’s also the only place with a possibility of potable water. 

We arrived in Maria La Gorda by dawn and knew from our last visit about the mooring balls. So we picked one up and tried to get a little sleep before presenting our Despacho to the Guarda. Around 1pm we stumbled to the dinghy very tired and bleary eyed but ready to go ashore.  We were thinking Pinar del Rio is only 50 miles away perhaps the resort could arrange a taxi of us.

Before we could even land we were told we had to leave! “So sorry” but transient boats are no longer allowed at Maria La Gorda - New rule!! Since last week!! Obviously no one has told Cayo Largo or La Coloma!! We had to move on to Los Morros. The Porto Captain was very apologetic. He even made an exception and let us stay until 4pm! He also took Roy ashore to buy an internet card. Possibly we could pick up Maria La Gorda’s wifi on Wahoo, if not it would be good at Los Morros, only 10CUCs for 5 hours. 

Los Morros dock
Two choices: chuck it all, go against International Law and leave without Clearance to sail 140 NM to Isla Mujeres, crossing the Yucatan Channel with its northward setting 3 knot current and all the shipping that traverses that channel into and out of the Gulf of Mexico. Difficult in any but calm winds. Our other choice, head to Los Morros, only 35 NM away but also a difficult passage if the weather isn’t calm. You go around 3 Puntas (points of land) with confused seas and the current very possibly against you. In addition approaching Los Morros at night is impossible as its surrounded by shallows and reefs. So we’d have to stretch 35 NM to fill 14 hours in order to get there in daylight (yep, yet another overnight sail). Our biggest issue besides being exhausted was weather - we had no idea. Would we see a continuation of the previous night which would make either choice a poor one or would the predicted mild winds and seas finally appear. The internet card wasn’t giving us a good enough connection. Our best source was the man himself, so we called Chris Parker. He carefully laid out both scenarios. Calm wind and seas approaching Los Morros, or higher  winds and seas but doable for a Channel crossing. Finally our deciding factor was how tired we were. We opted for a sloooooow 35 NM. 

It turned out to be a quiet and beautiful, starry night as we coasted with only a reefed jib trying to stay under 3 knots. Easily one of the most beautiful night sails we’ve every had. Plus there’s now potable water at Los Morros. You just never know!!

Arrived at a friendly Los Morros (our 3rd visit here) and slept most of the day and night away. No internet at all at Los Morros. We’ll just pass the card on to a Belgian boat that’s here. However,  we could trade rum and a few CUCs for fifteen 3 to 4 lb lobsters. Plus maybe we could use the last of our CUCs to buy Havana Club rum (if they open the tienda). Oh, the problems we have. 

Los Morros, with its N facing dock is no place to weather the NW and N 
winds that come with a cold front and one was coming fast. Criolla, the lobster boat we’ve been palling around with, will lead us to Cayo de la Lena. This is a cluster of mangrove cayos 4miles East. We were expecting to anchor but instead they quickly had us tied up to the fishing platform that’s there. These are dotted around the south coast manned by 4 guys who facilitate transferring the lobster caught nearby to the "collection boats" that take them to La Coloma for transporting to Havana and export to Europe. 

Fishing Platform & Criolla
The wind was blowing 30+Kts  but there was a birthday so I baked a cake. We found more booze to give away and soon a party was underway. This is quite the experience, not something the regular tourist will ever experience. The Cuban government frowns on fraternization (so I'm posting no pictures of the guys) between the local population and tourist but this whole Western edge of Cuba, Peninsula de Guanahacabibes, is so remote and, as my Lafitte friends know, fisherman tend to go there own way. It's not only our 3rd visit to Los Morros but the place we’ve spent the most time. The gifts flew back and forth as is the Cuban way. We arrived and they gave us lobsters, we baked a cake and they brought us fresh veggies and gave us lunch, I fried conch fritters and they fried plaintain chips. Next day I made lunch, they made supper... Mainly they offered camaraderie and help as they took care that Wahoo remained safe. Can’t say how many times they worked with us to relocate and retie us as the winds backed and blew. Spending two nights on a Cuban fishing platform is not something to ever forget.
We left our mark in Los Morros - NOYC burgie