Casilda – Santiago de Cuba

Sun May 6th

In the morning I got on the bike again to have a look at the Valle de los Ingenios: a valley with some of the earlier sugar production in Cuba. Including some old remains of sugar mills. It was the same ride as the day before until I got to the outskirts of Trinidad and then east into the hills. On top of a steep hill there was a nice look over the valley. Went on to see at least one of the old sugar mills, got on a dirt road (with some sharps rocks sticking up) but it kept getting narrower and at some point I decided to turn around. On the way back I did find the old tower of a former sugar mill. While I was trying to descend safely on the dirt road (can’t afford too much damage to my tires) I had passed it up. Took some pictures and decided I had seen enough. With a nice tailwind I went back to the boat.

The harbor master was not at the marina, and when I asked around it sounded like they did not expect him on a Sunday. It took some convincing to get someone called, I was wanting to leave that afternoon. At first I gave it slim chance (the gentleman I had been talking to was not very forthcoming), but a little while later I was told that they were on their way. And indeed, about 14:00 two officials showed up. I apologized for having them called on their Sunday afternoon, but I was wanting to leave. That was no trouble at all, and within 15 minutes the bill was paid and my cruising permit signed.

Destination is Santiago de Cuba. That is more than 250 miles, so this is going to be the longest run I have done (unless I decide to make a stop at one of the many keys along the way). The first part I stayed behind the keys, some fun sailing from buoy to buoy. Then things were getting a little more complicated (there is a maze of coral reefs and keys here in the bay) and went for the easy way: through the reef and the rest outside.

Far behind me I could see another thunderstorm develop, but that one never came close. Overnight there were plenty of sail changes (the wind made a full clockwise circle), but we are making good head way. As I am typing this (Monday morning 9:30) it is still 177 mile to Santiago de Cuba. With some good winds (can’t complain so far) I could make it there on Wednesday.

Wed May 9th

It is almost noon on Wednesday and progress has been made in a very slow fashion. The winds have been light or non-existing most the time. I had 2 nights with decent wind overnight, but the past night that didn’t happen either. Most time is killed just bopping around at 2-3 knots, of course most of it at the wind. The wind goes around clockwise on a daily basis, but most times it has a lot of east in it (and that is where I am going). Luckily there has been no swell or waves to speak of, so at least the boat motion has not been that bad.

Tuesday morning I came around Cabo Cruz, which had come insight at sunrise. Since then I have been following the coast (though tacking back and forth), which is a beautiful sight. Near Cabo Cruz it was a cliff wall, later a series of steep hills with big mountains in the background. Today there is just the view of the mountains, mostly with clouds above them. Apart from the 2 fishing towns, which I passed yesterday evening, there have been no signs of habitation at all. It is amazing how few boats I have been seeing while sailing around Cuba.

Saw a few flying fish, some pretty close to the boat. They always fly away from the boat, so I assume they use the flying as a way to escape. One time I was the fins above the water of what looked like a marlin to me. Then one night I had a bird as a passenger, he sat on the outboard quietly, just taking an easy ride.

Last night just after dark I started to hear splashes. I would shine my light on the water, but all I could see was the rings of whatever caused the splays. I went to the bow, and than there were 4-5 dolphins riding the bow wave. It was quite a sight, I would light the water with my little flashlight, and could see how they move around (over and under each other) under the clear water. I went and get my camera and took a bunch of pictures, with flash the camera has an even bigger delay (than the usual 2 seconds), so taking a good snapshot was just a matter of luck. They stayed with me for at least a half hour, unfortunately I had to tack (since I was approaching a few small Cuban fishing dinghies) and that is when the disappeared (looking for better entertainment elsewhere?).

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