The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 4: Great Hospitality, Awful Beaurocracy
Tuesday evening, November 30, 1999
After two nice days at the dock at Marina Hemingway, we were ready to move on and begin experiencing the solitude and clear waters of the offshore cayos (cays or keys) of Cuba. And though we were ready to leave the marina early in the morning, we had to once again to brave the gauntlet of bureaucrats for check out. After 3 hours, having been inspected, stamped, spindled and searched, we were, at last, given a friendly sendoff.
Now, it seemed, we had only marginally enough hours of daylight left to get to the next safe harbor and that was not the one of choice which was 15 miles further west. Heide had finished with the government officials about 40 minutes before Francesca, and being a bit less fast, had already proceeded out of the harbor and westward. Francesca would catch up to her in a couple of hours.
By now, mid-day, the wind was up and the seas were running pretty rough. Initially, our course put us smack into the seas and a time or two we buried the bow with spray sent well over the top of the bimini. But after a few miles we made a turn to the west and had a mostly following sea and a more or less comfortable ride. Cruising within a few miles of the Cuban coast we were fortunate to pick up a current counter to the Gulf Stream which added an extra knot or two to our progress. With this windfall, we easily made it to Bahia Hondo, 45 miles west of Marina Hemingway, around 4:30 PM.
Bahia Honda is a natural bay shaped kind of like a balloon with the neck being a good all weather entrance from the ocean. It is also a graveyard of ships with carcasses large and small strewn haphazardly all `round. On the western side of the harbor, a large crane is in use disassembling larger ships for recycling. Otherwise, and aside from the welcoming Coast Guard gunboat, Heide, Francesca and eventually the sailboat “Sundancer” were the only other vessels present.
Not unexpectedly, the Frontera Guarda (Cuban military), came out to meet us and we were boarded by an official for check-in. Another hour of paperwork (where do they store all this stuff) and we were left to make our way to the anchorage of our choice at Ensenada Maria Teresa, a small bay off of the big bay. Here, in good protection from the NE wind and with the western range of mountains of Cuba looming about 5 miles to the south, we settled down at anchor for a pleasant evening.
Tomorrow, we hope to get an early start for Cayo Paraiso, a small island inside of the barrier reef about 20 miles to the west. Oh yes, did I mention that we will have to check out with the Guarda Frontera in the morning?
For most of the rest of cruise on the Cuban coast, we will be on the inside of the barrier reef. That, together with the many Cayos (small islands) will afford us good protection from the weather for the next week or so.
Joan, Ben & Maggie