Cayo Largo is a tourist location on the south side of Cuba offering punters catamarans to charter, diving and day trips to the cays. Due to a continuous army of winter cold fronts from the northwest we were trapped there for six days – two in the marina and four on anchor. From the hotel reception we bought a five hour internet card for CUC$10, which is not bad value as we are restricted by time not download gigabytes. From the anchorage I had enough internet to update my blog, check emails, read the news and download must needed weather grib files.
The marina has nothing much to offer – short narrow floating docks, one toilet (that doesn’t flush and has no seat); shower cubicles which have no light so it was suggested we use them during daylight hours. The showers consist of a hole in the wall which cold water gushes out of a rusty pipe. The water has a sulphur smell that is supposedly potable but would probably taste quite nasty. Diesel can be bought for $1.20 per litre – more than the $1.00 per litre we paid at Siguanea. A small bar sells affordable beers for CUC$1.00 – the same price as you’d pay for warm beer from the chandlery so it’s worth sitting there each afternoon rather than lugging beer back to the boat. The fare at the bar is similarly priced and they make a decent pizza for around CUC$3 or a half chicken and chips for the same price. Like Marina Hemingway, the chandlery sells no boats items; Cuban rum, canned foods and perhaps some cheese and ham in the fridge is all that is on offer. On a good day you can buy massive stiff loaves of bread and if you’re really lucky, fresh eggs or fruit. One day Kevin managed to buy two pineapples and gave us one. Yum!
To the south is Playa Sirena, a day resort for tourists. There is a bar (one thing that’s always available in Cuba is rum!) and a clean white beach on the south side which makes a nice walk.
Unfortunately for us the impeller on our outboard disintegrated and now we can’t use our outboard (of all the spare parts and crap we have on board we don’t have a spare outboard impeller – bugger!). No chance of finding one, and no chance of having one sent in to Cuba. Fortunately though when we can’t row, Sweet Sensation and Spray help us out with rides to and from the dock.
In order to clear out we had to visit the dock master, Pierre, who then gave us our completed despacho. The distance to Cienfuegos is only 77nm from Cayo Largo but we had to cross the Golfo de Cazones, which is quite challenging in the wrong wind. We’d been watching the weather where the wind was supposed to shift from NE, ENE, SE, S, SW and finally end up around WNW. It did just that.
We timed it so that we were motoring out of Cayo Largo at 10am heading into southerly seas and wind around 15knots. By the time we’d reached open waters, we could turn to sail on a course of 84deg with the wind at 120degrees off starboard. A few squalls passed over us throughout the morning bringing plenty of rain and wind. One 40knot squall came in from the northwest bringing buckets of fat rain just as we veered northeast around Cayo Sal on our new 60deg heading towards Cienfuegos. At this point the depths dropped from over 1000m to around 8m in no time and the southerly seas had us surfing on some occasions.
Once darkness came, the almost full moon was bright enough to light up the cloudy sky. Ahead of us was Sweet Sensation about one mile ahead, plus a couple of catamarans which we’d seen at Cayo Largo also making the run. At around 10.30pm we entered the bay of Cienfuegos. The entrance to Cienfuegos is straightforward and on the port side is a huge sign “Bienvenidos Socialista” – welcome to Socialism!