Sunday, 9 April 2017

Arrived Hemingway Marina, Havana




It's Saturday morning the 8th April and I've just had my first hot shower for goodness knows how long having spent a couple of hours checking in with the various authorities and getting the boat moored up here at Hemmingway Marina, Havana.

My previous stop was at the idyllic little island of Cayo Levisa about 60 miles west of here. [I still can't get used to the fact that after months of going west I'm now going East, the sunrises and sunsets seem back to front!]

I arrived there on Thursday morning after a day and night at sea from Cayos De la Lena just inside be Cuba's South West Cape, Cabo Santanio. The highlight of that stop was not the scenery but the delightful local fishermen with whom I exchanged a bottle of rum, two baseball caps and two razors in exchange for 3 fish and a  lagustine. Despite our inability to speak eachother's language we spent a couple of hours "chatting".

The sail from there to Cayo Levisa took about 24 hours and included two hours of record breaking sailing for Arctic Smoke during which her speed did not drop below 7 knots and some anxious moments in some very shallow water in the approach to the Anchorage. It was however very sheltered flat water.

On the way in I was passed by a Catarmaran that turned out to be named Island Girl captained by Dave with his crew Kimberly. Dave very kindly ferried me ashore having spotted I apparently had no dinghy to do the paperwork and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon and evening together and indeed the following morning.

Ideally, I would have spent a few days at Cayo Levisa. A beautiful little island with a small resort complex by far the best kept facility any of us had come across in Cuba. A couple of lazy days on the beach and snorkeling in the crystal      seemed in order. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. The updates from Mick via my Yellow Brick confirmed we had two days of NNE/NE winds on Friday and Saturday before the wind settled in the East and fresh for at least another week. We would either have to move immediately or risk being wind bound for a week or more. We decided to move. First we had to clear out with the authorities which involved tracking the local guys down and then going through the paperwork again. I wasn't ready either and had to rush around getting the boat ready. We had agreed a
1200 noon departure and I wanted to go out together because the passage involved some pretty shallow water and a reef pass and if anything went amiss it would be good to  have company. All went fine until we got to the reef pass where we had to head north into a north easterly wind. It got very, very lumpy and poor old Arctic Smoke could only just make 2k over the ground. After about an hour we got out into deep water and I decide to head off NW on the starboard tack to get away from the coast before tacking east. After about three hours and nearly fifteen miles I decided we had made enough ground to windward to enable us to tack and it was with some relief that I found we were indeed able to lay our desired course.

I settled down on a close reach under two reefs until dusk when the wind eased considerably and with Mick’s forecast information predicting 10 knots I decided to shake out the reefs. For most of the rest of the night we went along pretty comfortably at between 4 and 5 knots albeit in some fairly big seas. The wind increased again around 0300 and we were off again at 6+ knots. The GPS was predicting we’d be off the fairway buoy around 0700 which was pretty good timing because entry to Hemingway in the dark was not advised.

By 0500 the wind was up a further notch and we were on the edge of needing a reef but laziness won out, thankfully without any adverse con whichsequences other than the boat steering a rather erratic course as we approached the Fairway buoy. The buoy is located about half a mile off the cut through the reef which is marked by starboard and port hand stakes. It’s the only way in so if you miss the buoy and get any closer inshore you’re on the reef. Fortunately I located the buoy about a mile out in what were already rather big seas. The next challenge was getting the boat ready to dock. The Pilot book says you need to be ready to dock with Customs immediately on entry and I took that literally which on reflection was pretty dim. Getting the fenders and warps out and in place, Angus off and stowed and the sails down with the boat dancing all over the place was not very pleasant. After getting the fenders out whilst still underway my brain kicked in and we hove too to complete the rest of the chores. That made life manageable if still bouncy. The last job was getting the sails furled because whilst I could have done with some extra propulsion to get into port I was not sure how much room there would be and the thought of careering into a strange port at 6k with possibly no stopping room, was slightly more worrying than the prospect of not being able to make enough way with AS’s 10HP Buhk. The possibility of it conking out was also something I worried about. If it did I would have to get some Genoa out bloody quickly or we’d be on the reef in no time.

So we were hove to a mile down wind of the reef/pass – which at least meant we would not get blown on to the reef whilst sorting out the sails but it did mean that we’d get blown off even further whilst sorting out the sails. I got the engine on and furled the Genoa and then tackled the main. Thankfully even with no sail up, with the tiller lashed to leeward AS continued to lie (relatively) comfortably hove to whilst I got the mainsail down and roughly stowed. However by the time I had sorted all that out we were a mile and half away from the fairway buoy and even flat out AS was barely making 2 k. So nearly an hour later we were close to the buoy and I could see the channel markers leading into the marina. The pilot warned of cross currents between the buoy and the first channel markers. Another yacht was coming out as we were going in it was probably 45 feet longer and very likely packed a far bigger punch that AS’s 10 HP Buhk but I could see it was being tossed all over the place as it came out of the channel, by this time we were passing through the reef and the cross currents were playing merry hell with AS, twisting her one way and then the other. The channel was about x metres wide but felt considerably narrower. As I struggled to keep AS in the centre of the channel and out of the way of the approaching yacht the cross currents continued to play with AS. Thankfully the wind was now abaft the beam and so we were making better progress and within 15 minutes or so we were in the quieter waters of what turns out to be a huge marina and very shortly after that moored up on the Customs dock to go through all the formalities yet again. Despite the office being well equipped with computers everything was done on paper and yet again, the officials diligently asked me the same questions and completed the same forms as at the other ports of entry. The whole process took about an hour which apparently is fast track compared with a few years ago. On completion I was told where to head for in the marina where I also had to check in to and then finally I was visited by the Health Officials – they had slightly different roles and different forms but eventually I was done with them too.

Whilst I was tidying up the boat (a bit) the security guard came over for a chat. Once he had established I was on my own he appeared even more interested and hung around after our pleasantries were over. It turned out he had an ulterior

First he asked me if I wanted a ‘cheek’ for tomorrow. When I made it clear I didn’t understand he used his phone to translate. The translation of ‘cheek’ was ‘small’! I was even more confused until the penny dropped – he was saying ‘Chick’. After I turned him down he came back a few minutes later with an even more confusing translation on his phone. It seemed to include a word that looked very much like “anus”! I got the drift and refused again at which point he laughed and finally walked off.

After that encounter I had my shower and a light lunch and started writing this up whilst keeping a lookout for Dave and Kimberly on Island Girl. They arrived at around 1500 and we were both very glad to see we had all come through the passage safely, particularly the bumpy entrance into Hemmingway.

May go into town with Dave and Kimberly tomorrow.