28 Days Cuba and Surrounds
6 februari -26 februari 2018
3 March - 23 march 2018
27 april - 18 may 2018
The ‘Cuba and Surrounds’ expedition starts and finishes in Curacao. After arrival and saying hello, we drive to Piscadera Bay, where the yacht is anchored. On arrival day we shake of the jet-lag and examine the yacht. We make our-self known with sail- and rope handling, the deck layout and the MaxSea navigation software. We translate the weather forecasts in the route-planning and discuss the watch system, the household tasks and the safety procedures. And we will have lots of fun and a welcome dinner at the Pirate Bay Curacao Beach Club and Restaurant. Dinner and the first 2 glasses of Rum are on the house.
The next day we go out for training and learn how to manoeuvre the yacht under sail. Also we start with watch keeping that will continue through the following night and the following days. Knowing the yacht, being familiar with the yacht and the seas, is a number one safety-procedure which cannot be ignored. Changing land for the seas is switching your biorhythm which takes at least 48 hours.
For the night we anchor of the small island Little Curacao.
On day number 3 we leave early morning at dawn for Kingston in Jamaica. This might be a comfortable downwind sail with an expected wind direction from NNE to NE. This passage can take up to 675 NM or about 5 days.
On day number 8 we expect to arrive at the visitors’ dock of the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club and Marina or – when there is no place available – we will anchor outside. We will obey to customs and immigration’s rules and regulations after which we can visit the world famous Kingston Town. Kingston is the capital of Jamaica and has more than 1,000,000 residents. Kingston also gets a great deal of bad press as being extremely dangerous. The truth is, if you avoid those areas that have a bad history, namely inner city neighbourhoods of poverty and desperation, Kingston is like any other big city in the World.
There are many sites worth visiting, but most noteworthy is the Bob Marley Museum. The museum tour is one hour and ends with a brief movie presentation. The museum is the story of Bob Marley’s life but on a larger scale it is the story of Jamaican Reggae.
On day number 11 we leave for the 200 NM or 2 days passage to the port of entry in Cuba: Santiago de Cuba. We have to beat for about 60 NM the easterly winds which might take some time. Upon arrival on the 14th of February we will try to pick up a mooring inside the Marina Internacional. Otherwise we will drop the anchor. The marina has big, clean bathrooms a very well-done bar and a restaurant.
Upon arrival, on day number 13, we will be busy with customs and immigration. Then we are free for the following 3 nights enjoying the typical atmosphere and heart-beat of Cuba in Parque Céspedes, the centre of Santiago de Cuba. The cathedral crowns this park where people play music and chess, meet friends and lovers or simply take a rest under the shade of the trees. Around the park there are stores, banks, hotels, museums, restaurants, paladares, bars and cafes.
Small note: Paladares are the independent, state sanctioned, family run restaurants of Cuba. Since the Cuban government began to open up their country to democratic economic reforms, paladares were one of the first enterprises to arise, for many reasons. Rules are strict. They must seat no more than 12, be family run and cook rustic Cuban food.
Calle Francisco Aguilera is one of the main arteries of the city centre. It crosses the park towards Plaza de Marte.Along the street, you will find a couple of banks, a DHL office, Bacardí Museum, the Town Hall, an ETECSA office for phone calls and internet connection, a post office, a Cubatur travel agency, grocery stores, bakeries, bars, paladares etc. On the opposite end of Aguilera Street near Padre Pico there are several stores and a fresh produce market.
Avenida Victoriano de Garzón is another artery of Santiago. It stretches from Plaza de Marte to Parque Ferreiro. Along this street there is a fresh produce market, a couple of bakeries, various stores (an unusually well stocked grocery store in Cuban pesos, among them), a cinema, a post office, a bank, a Western Union office, a Cubanacan travel agency, restaurants, bars and Coppelia La Arboleda, where Cubans spend the last hours of the afternoon under the shade of the big old trees while they enjoy an immense ration of ice-cream and a generous piece of cake for less than 1 USD! Not far, on Avenida Moncada, the barracks of old Cuartel Moncada, have been transformed into a secondary boarding school and Museo de Historia 26 de Julio, to commemorate the failed attack of Fidel and his men.
Besides the city we will visit Cayo Granma, a charming little cay (island) just in front of the marina. We will spend there a delightful few moments, exploring its colourful narrow streets, have lunch in a paladarand enjoy music and dancing with the locals at the plaza. Another few hours will be spending to visit Castillo del Morro, a few kilometres to the south.
Haiti, Ile a Vache
On day number 16 in the afternoon we leave for a 225 NM passage to Ile a Vache in Haiti, a part of Hispaniola, the ‘old Caribbean’. Its innocence is still present, but might be lost in the next decade due to the Internet which is pervasive along with cell phones. Violence and abject poverty is in the past here, except for the biggest cities such as Port-au-Prince. Here we find violence and crime in certain neighbourhoods. Therefore it is best to avoid certain areas such as Port of Prince and the north side of the north peninsula which is very impoverished.
We expect to anchor on day number 18 close to Port Morgan on Ile a Vache. We stay here for 2 nights, realizing that self-sufficiency is the key to visiting Haiti as there are no marinas or repair centres and provisioning is poor.
The Island of Ile a Vache is safe and charming. The inhabitants are well acquainted with cruising boats and it is as good a cruising destination as any in the Caribbean. Today we still find the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew that whipped the country with 230km-per-hour winds in the first week of October 2016. Happily Ile a Vache looks towards a somewhat prosperous future. The government is planning a major tourist centre on the island with an airport and hotels.
The language of Haiti is Kreyol, however many speak French and some even speak English.
Bonaire and Curacao
In the afternoon on day number 20 we leave for the 600 NM passage across the Caribbean Seas to Piscadera Bay, Curacao. The first 100 NM might be on wind, after which it is a beam reach to our destination. ETA is expected on day number 25. And here we bring our ‘25 Days Cuba and Surrounds‘ expedition to bed.
Note 1: The same trip with same stop-overs is scheduled for 30 March – 23 April 2018, 25 days (3,750 euro).
Note 2: Pending the weather and wind patterns the stop-overs might be limited with 1 day.