After a good overnight passage from Grand Cayman, we looked forward to some sleep upon arrival in Cayo Largo but there would be no rest until the Cuba checkin procedures were completed. We grabbed a slip at the marina where the usual players were ready to come aboard.
The doctor arrived to evaluate our state of health and after taking my temperature four times (by zapping my forehead with some sort of laser gizmo) he was clearly displeased. I asked for the value and was relieved to see that it was within normal range - which I explained to him but he shook his head no. Is there a mom around? Any mom with her hand on my forehead could surely assess me more accurately than this device of his. In Spanglish, I assured him that I wasn't sick, that we'd been at sea, I was tired, hungry, it was hot, plus I didn't even have a fever so why were we discussing this? He still wasn't satisfied; could be foreign disease. Is this the part where our wallet is supposed to come out and make the problem go away? If so, he can know we don't play that game. I was about to grab our first aid kit with my reliable thermometer and our medical books to prove my case but he ended up letting the matter go and signed us in. After he left, I took my own reading for good measure (and again the following morning in case his gadget can magically detect future fevers): perfect at 36.5°C. I'd never considered us not getting into the country due a health concern - especially a non-existent fever. My temperature rises just thinking about it!
No hard feelings - he's just doing his job with the equipment that he has I guess. Having noticed that the doctor's work ID was held around his neck by a repurposed zipper and some tape, I later zipped over to the marina office to deliver the plastic cardholder that I had onboard from my workplace. I hope it gets to him though something so new and functional (small as it may seem to us) may irresistibly wind up in someone else's hands.
After the "medical examination", Guarda Frontera's K9 team arrived to have a Springer Spaniel sniff the boat for firearms or drugs. From our cockpit, the Customs' "dog handler" pointed down our companionway ladder and commanded the dog to "GO!" (but in Spanish). He looked at her as if to say "You're kidding me, right?" Can a dog really descend such a steep ladder? She kept pointing and insisting that he "GO!" until he put his front paws on the first step and basically free-fell his way into the main cabin. Once inside, the Guarda agent again ordered him to "GO!" but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do exactly, so he walked around a bit, glancing back at her like "Am I doing it?"
Dave and I were doing our best not to burst out in laughter. We could see that the agent was trying to look professional but she got stuck with this dog, who at that moment was sliding all over our wood floors. When the dog finished sniffing (mostly a symbolic search it seemed), the agent once again pointed to the ladder. "GO!" The dog put his paws on a step to show willingness, or at least comprehension, but we all knew he was going to require assistance. So with exasperation, she picked him up. The moment the dog was in her arms he went rag-doll limp, not helping himself at all as she tried to push him up over her head. She struggled under this mass of dog until his big balls landed in her face. Brushing her cheek. I nearly lost it! I also nearly got a picture but the camera was put down 5 seconds short of the ball brushing.
The visit I anxiously awaited was that of the Agriculture Department to inspect our provisions. I have food stashed throughout this vessel in preparation for the "regime days" in Cuba when we're in areas where there is no food to purchase. I wasn't going to let our Grand Cayman groceries be confiscated - not without a (food) fight! To our surprise, however, no Agro agent came. We simply completed a form indicating that we have quantities of fruit, vegetables and dairy products on board and that was that. We learned from another Canadian boat that a few days prior, the Agro agent had threatened to confiscate all of their food unless they paid him $10, which they did. Another cruising boat experienced the same treatment and reported the Agro agent to Guarda Frontera who denounced his corruption. Perhaps his replacement had not yet been found before our arrival (which totally works for us!)
|Early morning anchored in Cayo Largo (and the beach that we swim to).|
Living the Dream on Island Time
Everyone knows the (mostly false) stereotypical image of 'living the dream' on a sailboat where everything is perfect and life's a beach...well we had that on the south side of the Archipelago de Los Canarreos! We spent easy days exploring remote tropical islands that we had all to ourselves. The wind was in our favour, the temperature was comfortable and the water - exquisite. I even had a repeat experience snorkeling alongside a dolphin family (I can't believe IT HAPPENED AGAIN.) Magic exists!
We got our fishing game on and were successful in catching some delicious dinners! Our mutton snapper was a highlight. Along the way however, we've lost most of our lures to toothy barracudas (which we don't eat). To tackle that problem, we're making new ones out of various doodads we find onboard. So far though, no fish has been tempted by our home-made artisanal lures.
|Dreamy days spent here.|
|Nice cocos, now make us a drink!|
|That's one fine Mutton Snapper.|
|Best Snapper cakes ever!|
|We caught 7 barracuda one day and 4 the next morning. |
That's enough of that - we shut down our fishing ops for awhile.
|Watch your fingers!|
When was the Last Time you Hung on for Dear Life?
On our passage from the South of Isla de la Juvnetud to Cuba's Western tip Cabo de San Antonio, we sailed beautifully wing & wing throughout the day right until midnight when a wind shift required us to furl in the jib. Someway, somehow, in the blink of an eye, when the sail was halfway furled the wind caught it and blew it around the wrong way. Instead of rolling up nicely like it does 99.99% of the time, our sail ended up like an enormous sheet with a knot in the middle. It was very inconveniently stuck and flapping like mad up top; we were worried the sail would tear or the furler could be damaged under the strain.
We worked at unraveling this issue for over an hour in a sea state that wasn't helping the matter. Dave manned the wheel while I stood on the bowsprit rails trying to reach and pull at 'the knot'. When bigger waves bounced our boat, I found myself clutching the furler tightly, legs swinging out from under me, just trying to remain on board. It was no use (and getting dangerous) so we switched to plan B which was to motor to the nearest point of land, wait for daylight in calmer water and try plan A again from a new angle. For the interim, we rigged a noose up the forestay and cinched the sail as best we could to stop the unfurled part from slapping so much. Maria La Gorda (once again our saving bay in a time of need) was 6 hours away.
|Our jib got itself in a knot right around the middle of nowhere.|
|The Problem: Top arrow = the flappy part. Second arrow = where we cinched it with a line.|
Third arrow = the knot. Fourth arrow = where the lines are twisted and messed up tight.
By 6am, we were moored to a diving ball we found near Maria La Gorda and having tea as we waited for sunrise. I can't remember why but it was decided that I would be the one to go up the mast. Once there, I would transfer myself to the forestay and Dave would lower and raise me as required (which the winch) while I worked at untwisting the sail. That was the plan.
And it worked! In under 30 minutes we were able to sort out the tangle, release the sail, inspect it for war wounds and then furl it up as it should be. It was only when my feet were safely back on deck did I realize I'd had a colossal workout! My arms and legs were shaking with fatigue. Who knew dangling from a rope 50 feet above the water while pulling at canvas could be so strenuous. Kids - don't try this at home.
|Is it a bad sign to see Death from my galley window as I prepared to go up the mast?|
(This poor flying fish went a little too high. We later used him as fishing bait, so not a total loss. )
|Workin' it out!|
The water at Maria La Gorda is incredible - no wonder it's a world renowned diving site. Before continuing our passage to Cabo de San Antonio with a properly furled jib, Dave jumped in for a quick snorkel session and told me I'd regret it if I didn't do the same. Wow - he was right! The water was so deep and the clarity so outstanding it was like hovering above a beautiful underwater city. Really breathtaking - and almost worth the troubles of the night just to get that early morning snorkeling experience.
We're at the marina in Cabo de San Antonio; a quick pit stop for fuel - and a bike ride in the jungle since it's right there. The weather looks good for us to make some miles back up Cuba's North coast this week (as I point insistingly at the charts and tell Dave to "GO!")
|Rigged us a seat!|
|Biking through the forest of Cabo de San Antonio were saw lots of wild animals-|
including this piglet who came to smell Dave's toes.
|A Cuban acopio (fishing depot) where men are stationed for weeks at a time.|
|More of this please and thank you!|
"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."
-Into the Wild