Cruising the South Coast of Cuba – East to West

This was originally posted on our Sea Trek site. This was originally published in Soundings Magazine, and many of our readers ask that we republish it. So here it is and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making the trip. Revisiting Cuba is high on our cruising plans.

We weighed anchor and got underway from Punta Manzanillo in the Dominican Republic at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It was Easter Sunday and we knew that the entire island of Hispaniola would be celebrating today. We would sort of be celebrating ourselves, but in a different way and for a different reason. Today was the beginning of a cruising adventure that began as an idea five years prior and was just now before us.

Leaving the Florida Keys, making a quick trip through the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and now the DR, we were as ready as we were going to be. We had provisioned and prepared the boat while spending a wonderful time in Luperon. A day sail to Manzanillo and a good night’s sleep found us both excited and anxious. We had heard mixed reports about visiting Cuba. Everything from how terrible it was to reports that it is one of the most wonderful cruising grounds left in the Atlantic. Soon we would know.
It was a very uneventful motorsail north of the coast of Haiti and across the Windward Passage. Finally, at around 11:00 a.m. on Monday morning, we entered Cuban waters. Our minds were full of conflicting thoughts. We had been told about the fantastic fishing and lobstering to be found in these waters. We had also heard the rumors of Cuban gunboats and Communist authorities. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were very excited that we had finally arrived. The next decision was where to make our first landfall. Santiago de Cuba was the port of entry for the southeast coast, but that would be well over a hundred miles away. We did have a concern as to how we would be received if we just showed up in a Cuban harbor without first clearing into the country.

We made the decision to put into Baitiquiri, a small port just a little more than 30 miles from Punta Caleta, the easternmost tip of Cuba. The southeast coast is very steep and you can almost sail with one foot on the beautiful mountainous coast. We thought we might not reach Baitiquiri before nightfall, but arrived at the harbor entrance around 5:30 p.m. As we approached Baitiquiri, the depth sounder didn’t come off soundings until we were about two boat lengths from the marked channel entrance. Upon our approach, we noted what seemed to be a statue on the rocks to the right of the narrow entrance. As we got closer, we realized it was actually a man sitting perfectly still just watching us come in. Once we entered the narrow, 50-foot-wide entrance, he finally waved and smiled at us. The entrance channel was deep and well-marked.

Once inside, the first thing we saw was a Cuban Patrol boat tied to the seawall with a least a half dozen of what appeared to be young boys aboard. We later found out that they were the crew. Our anxiety melted when they all cheerfully waved and dove off the boat for an afternoon swim. We dropped anchor in the center of the well-protected harbor near the patrol boat. Almost as soon as the anchor was down, a small rowboat with two men in green uniforms rowed out to us. This would be the pattern for the rest of the trip. The head official would ask permission to come aboard and what was usually a very young Guarda Frontera soldier would hold position just off the boat. Both were very polite, friendly and always smiling.

The head official settled into the cockpit and pulled out a small notebook. In each port, the officials used different things to take notes. Some had notepads. Most just used whatever scraps of paper they could find. Sometimes we provided them with paper. He asked us several questions such as where we departed from, what the dimensions of the boat were (always in meters) and asked to see our passports. Since my wife speaks passable Spanish, it all went well. After perhaps 10 minutes, the official warmly welcomed us to Cuba and wished us a good visit. He did tell us that we would not be able to leave the boat to go ashore for even a swim until we had reached Santiago and cleared in. Again, we later found this was the case even after we were cleared into the country. This was also the beginning of one of the more frustrating experiences we would encounter.

The harbor itself was very well-protected. It is surrounded on all sides by tall hills and mountains. The water depths average 10 to 12 feet throughout. The Guarda Frontera outpost stands on a hill overlooking the harbor and approach, complete with a watchtower topped by a huge spotlight. As with almost all harbors we encountered in Cuba, there was a variety of wrecks and abandoned buildings all around the harbor. Most here were the remnants of a salt pan operation. Only a few very ancient fishing boats and wooden shacks that were now local housing finished what would otherwise be a wonderful place to explore. But today, that was not to be.

At 6:45 a.m. the next morning, we raised anchor, waived goodbye to our Guarda Frontera friends, and headed for Santiago de Cuba. Once again, the boat was off soundings as soon as we cleared the harbor entrance. Since we had very light winds that morning, we found ourselves motorsailing along the coast. We discovered that if we stayed close in, there were no navigational hazards, but we would have a counter current of up to one and a half knots against us. If we were two to three miles offshore, we had a one to one and a half knot current with us. This proved to be very helpful as we moved along this section of the coast. After perhaps two hours, we sighted a pod of what we believed to be pilot whales traveling along in our same direction. They stayed about 200 feet off our port side for some time. One things we would take note of all along the entire south coast was the fact that even in the lightest winds, the swells would be rather large. The fact that they were widely spaced kept them manageable and not uncomfortable.

We were concerned regarding entering the waters at the Guantanamo Naval Base, which we had to pass on the way to Santiago. We knew that if we entered their waters, we had a good chance of being stopped and inspected. We set the coordinates in our GPS to be outside their range and plotted a course well off. We had heard that the Cuban authorities would be problematic if we made any contact there. Ironically, we were not as concerned with the Cuban authorities as we were with our own. This would be the first of many contradictions we would encounter along the way.

Ten hours after raising anchor at Baitiquiri, we were entering the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. The harbor entrance is easy to find. At the eastern side is a tall, steep hill with Castle el Morro and a lighthouse, both of which are very prominent. The entrance and the inner channel are well-buoyed. This is a large commercial port, and pleasure vessels are only allowed into the harbor as far as Punta Gorda Marina. As we came in the marked channel, we were amazed to find a large island on the west side of the harbor. This was covered with private homes and is only accessible by boat. It is known as Cayo Granma. As we entered the harbor, we contracted Punta Gorda Marina on VHF Channel 16. It was pleasant to find that the marina personnel spoke excellent English. Since it was nearing sunset, they directed us to a spot just off their docks, very near another cruising boat, and instructed us to drop anchor. They also informed us to stand by to receive the first of many officials to begin the clearing in process. Within minutes, an ancient vessel, that we figured was a holdover from the Soviets, approached us. It was turbine driven and propelled itself using a jet drive like the modern jet skis use today. The major exception being it was 40 feet long and powered by that very large turbine engine. It kicked up a lot of turbulence everywhere it went and made us a little nervous as by now it was quite dark. Its captain turned out to be very skilled.

The first aboard were the agricultural inspectors to examine our food and to look for bugs. With them came the health inspectors to check the crew. Again, we had heard rumors of confiscation of fresh meats, chicken and eggs. After filling out this forms, looking through our fridge and vegetable bin, the agricultural inspector instructed us to consume all of our foodstuffs aboard the boat and to not take anything to ashore. Even our garbage had to be taken to a designated area (a certain trash can on the dock). Each official had a different form or forms to fill out and leave with us. Next came the Capitania or Port Captain. His questions were extensive. Most concerned the dimensions of the boat and crew info. He also wanted all of our flares, flare guns and portable GPSs. He instructed us to keep these in “bond” as long as we were in port. Next, he asked us for a plastic bag and some tape. We obliged with a grocery bag and some Scotch tape. He put all of the items he had asked for in the grocery bag and wrapped the tape around it. He then explained that only the Port Captain could “unseal” them and handed them back to us. Later, after finding a flare we missed, he tore a hole in the bag, stuck the flare in and returned it to me without the hole sealed. These were the “bonded” items.

Next would come the first of two search teams. It consisted of two gentlemen from the Guarda Frontera. Each official was extremely polite and friendly. They told us they would be searching for contraband, drugs and pornography. We explained that we had none, but they could search wherever they liked. The search seemed to be very random and we had the impression it mostly concerned curiosity about items we had on board. They were fascinated with things like our son’s toys and our Pocketmail email device, which they thought was a phone. One of our officials sat on the settee the entire time looking through our musical cassette tapes telling us who his favorite artists were and which of our tape selections he liked the best. (He indicated his favorite was Barry Manilow, which we do not own.) When they got to our video tapes, they were totally amazed. We had hundreds, taking up an entire locker. It was at that moment we realized how these people have been deprived of all of the things we take for granted.

The “search” went smoothly. We were asked to accompany each of the officials as they went about their work. Any time a drawer was searched, all the contents would be removed, then replaced exactly as they found them. They seemed to each find a specific area on the boat and concentrate on that area, not even bothering with adjacent storage that in some cases could hold a small family. This process took about two and a half hours. By now, it was 10:30 p.m., and we were beginning to feel the effects of our long day. As the last official left us for the night, he informed us that the rest of the check-in procedure would take place at 8:00 a.m. the next day, since they were also busy with a freighter that had arrived about the same time we did.

At precisely 8:00 a.m. the next morning, we were asked to dinghy the Capitania’s next search team to the boat. This time they brought their drug and weapons specialist, Danny. Danny is one of the friendliest and cutest officials we met. He was a happy, young, all black Cocker Spaniel. His trainer brought him aboard and they immediately went below. His trainer carried a small cloth pouch which Danny saw as a cue to stay each time his trainer used it to try to persuade him to search or "busca." He opened some drawers low down in the cabin and tried to get Danny to sniff, but Danny just wanted to run up and down in the cabin and find someone to play with him. As soon as he decided no one would play, he went out into the cockpit, sat down and refused to come back into the cabin. So much for vicious drug dogs. The rest of the “search” went the same as the previous evening. The officials were friendly, courteous and more curious than suspicious. Once this was completed and more paperwork filled out, we were officially welcomed to Cuba, told we may now go ashore, and could take a berth at the marina if we wished. The marina charges for dockage were $0.40 per foot and the charge for anchoring was $0.25 per foot.

As U.S. citizens most can not travel legally to Cuba. It is also against the law to spend money in Cuba. We would have to pay whether we docked or anchored. In the past, our Venezuelan friends that we met in Luperon could offer to “host” us during our stay. This was not the case for us since we were here working as journalists. It is a sad state that the governments of these two countries can't find common ground to resolve these decades old differences..

We were asked to tie to the dock med-moor style. This always presented a problem for us since we had a dinghy and a solar panel hanging off the davits, and climbing on and off was difficult. We wound up putting a plank from our aft cap rail to the dock. The staff at the marina was very helpful and extremely accommodating despite all of the information to the contrary in the cruising guides. As a matter of fact, we found a great deal of information in the cruising guides outdated and incorrect, mostly because the cruising situation is constantly changing. We recommend buying your cruising guides based on the navigational information and detail of chartlets rather than shoreside advise. The guide we used left a great deal to be desired. In hindsight, other guides with more detailed charts would have been much more useful.

The marina was new. Once again, the info we had really didn’t apply. Once we were secured to the dock, our first exploration of this beautiful country was to begin. We found the marina manager, Jorge (keep in mind that all “managers” were Cuban officials), and the dock hand Ariel invaluable in directing us to the right places for things to see and do as well as arrange transportation as needed. The best transportation deal was the public buses – always full and always on time. It was the primary mode of transportation for the locals. On our first ride into town, the lady collecting fares charged our friends one dollar for each of us to ride the bus. She explained that the sign stating the fare was one peso was equal to one dollar. After we were in the city that afternoon and our friends exchanged dollars for pesos (20 pesos to the dollar at that time), they paid one peso for each of us on the return trip (equal to $0.05) without question. Diligence is needed.

We were adopted by a young girl in a restaurant in Santiago selling her wares. She had beautiful carvings and figurines designed to bring the owner good luck. Our sponsors purchased one for themselves as well as us. A stamp on the bottom indicated that she was selling these with the government’s blessing and would have to pay tax on them. She threw in a small charm pendant, also a wood carving, for free. They resembled the faces at Easter Island. Our newly found friend walked us to the nearest bus stop. Another older woman befriended us at the stop and told us that she could be fined 1,000 pesos for being seen speaking to us. She rode with us back to the marina to make sure we got off at the right place in the dark, and then quietly asked for some money. Our friend slipped her a few pesos in passing.

A ride in the harbor on one of the many ferries was an interesting experience in people watching. They watched us as much or more than we did them, however. The once stately homes, now in horrible disrepair, lined the harbor. In their day, they must have been quite a sight to behold. Much of Santiago was that same state of neglect, not realizing the amount of refurbishment as other parts of Cuba. In startling contrast, there was never a speck of trash to be seen in the gutters or on the sidewalks. This continued throughout the country. A surprising occurrence was the number of women who came up to the women off our boats and asked them for soap. This occurred at El Morro, the fort atop the entrance. This beautiful fort and neighboring restaurant were not to be missed. In between, lining the road, were artisans hawking their wares. Many wood carvings were also being sold from one of the large rooms in the fort. Starting at $5 to $10, they were incredibly affordable, not to mention gorgeous and creative.

One could get just about anything they needed at the marina if they were willing to wait. Diesel was delivered, but only a small amount, so what was available had to be divided between the boats attempting to depart. The 55-gallon drums were rolled down to the dock and the fuel was siphoned, via poor Ariel's mouth and a hose, gravity fed to the boats. Our friends had ordered some meat, but that was not be be. A gentleman, Pedro, who lived across the street from the marina, found some potatoes, bananas and mangoes for our friends. Two dollars purchased what would turn out to be a two-week supply for both boats. Pedro also invited us into his home to meet his wife, who offered to do laundry. He was to be the first of many people that asked us for small fish hooks.

Unfortunately, the stories about the cement factory raining dirt on to the boats at night was true. We attempted to wash the rusty spots off the deck to no avail. There also remained a nasty black scum line around the hull from the polluted harbor, which required much attention later. (To our relief, we found that an inexpensive product, Rustaid, would take the spots off the deck and avoid a costly paint job. Some Fantastic and elbow grease worked on the waterline.)

We were anxious to move on and see more of the curious country, locked in time back in the '50s. A daysail took us to Chivirico, a small harbor with a narrow entrance trough a reef. This harbor would be very protected for winds from any direction. A young Guarda Frontera boy came out and took some information from us. He made no mention of not going to shore. Then another fellow came out and welcomed us, but advised we could not go to shore. We sat wistfully gazing at the children swimming near shore and at a large pig wandering around his master's property.

We were off again the next morning to spend the day getting to Marea del Portillo. We had heard mixed reviews over the single side band regarding whether folks were allowed to go to shore here. The two very young Ricky Martin look alikes that rowed over to us advised us that we could not, however a German fellow anchored there was allowed to as he needed to purchase diesel. When Susan commented to the Guarda Frontera that they had a beautiful country, they responded, "it only looks that way from here." Very frustrated that we could not go to shore, we were at least allowed to row to our friend's boat for dinner and watch the sunset cause the mountains behind our boat to turn the color of spun gold.

Our next day's sail took us around Cabo Cruz to Niquero. We would have stopped at the town of Cabo Cruz, but were told we could not go ashore there either and would have to wait until Manzanillo. Once anchored in Niquero, while the Guarda Frontera sat on our friend's boat checking them in, we had a visit from a dozen boys who swam the half mile out from shore to visit us. They were very curious about where we were from, whether or not we owned the boat and if we had any candy we could give them. It was just about at that moment that the Guarda Frontera came over and made them leave. The boys appeared unconcerned about the ramifications of yelling at the man, but swam back to shore nonetheless after Susan had taken a photograph of their smiling faces waving at the camera. She was very frustrated and almost tearful at the reaction of the Guarda Frontera and made sure to tell them that the boys did not bother us, but he indicated they were not allowed within 300 feet of a foreign vessel. Our friends made a brief trip over to share part of the amberjack they had caught that day which brightened Susan's spirits.

We were able to make Manzanillo by late the following afternoon. The cut through the Balandras Cays gave us quite a test of engine power as we attempted to punch through the contrary wave/wind combination. We eventually got through after making less than a knot for over a half hour. We anchored off the small boat fishing fleet and were greeted by a large contingent of officials. They were brought out to the boat by our friend's dinghy as they did not have boat of their own. After again ensuring we had nothing unsavory on the boats, these friendly folks left us and welcomed us to come to shore. The only catch was that we were not allowed to bring our trash to shore. They told us we could not and had no ideas about what to do with it.

Manzanillo, unlike Santiago, had undergone some restoration. It was sporadic at best, but apparent. Horse drawn carriage was the way to get around town for a peso per person. At these prices, we tried not to feel too guilty that we were being treated by our friends. The town square area was one of the most attractive parts of town and worth a stroll. Sumarpo, the agency that deals with provisioning for ships, arranges to have meats and such delivered to boats here. Our friends purchased chicken at $0.50 per pound, and beef and pork at about $1 to $1.50 per pound. We tried it and the chicken was exceptionally good. The pork and beef were flavorful, although a bit tough. Some men in the harbor were casting nets and dumping their catch into floating baskets in front of them. We discovered that they were catching shrimp, which turned out to be quite plentiful and tasty. Because they were not allowed to sell them to our friend, they had to leave them in the water in a bag near shore, which our friend picked up as they entered their dinghy. They exchanged cigarettes and pesos while "shaking hands."

Desiring to be away from civilization and wanting to roam freely, we decided to head to the out islands in the Golfo de Guacanayabo and Golfo de Ana Maria as we threaded our way to Cienfuegos. Some folks chose to travel along the outer cays known as Los Jardines de la Reina or "the Gardens of the Queen." We chose the inner route, traveling in relatively shallow water and saw no other human beings for days on end.

After being checked out of Manzanillo by the Guarda Frontera who made sure we had not stowed anyone on board, we set sail for Cayo Media Luna (Half Moon Key). We kept going closer in looking for more shallow water in which to anchor and finally gave up and anchored in 26 feet about a half mile from shore. We were afraid to go any closer for fear of being devoured by bugs at night. There was no beach ashore and nothing that looked worth exploring, so we headed out the next morning for Cayo Guincho. We were able to anchor much closer to shore in 10 to 12 feet of water. As we arrived early in the day, we were able to explore and hunt. Two to three very large lobsters were an almost instant reward. Within 20 minutes of entering the water, our friends found these large creatures and shared one of them with us. (Not much incentive to look when you are being given three pound lobsters!) We had a cookout on the beach with chicken and lobster, and incidentally, burned the trash that we could not throw away in Manzanillo. We did see a few small fishing boats in the early afternoon, but they just wanted to make sure we were okay, as this is well off the beaten path. We would have stayed longer, but unfortunately had a schedule.

Our next day's sail took us to Cayo Algodon Grande. This is a very protected lagoon entered by running along the inside of the reef until you clear a shoal to starboard, then you can anchor in 10 to 13 feet. Again, our fearless lobster hunting friends found the biggest lobster yet in the rocks on the outside of the lagoon. We saw no other people this day either, except our two boats, anchored in peaceful, quiet solitude.

We decided to exit the outlying cays at Cayo Breton. There was an unusual freestanding dock approximately one mile from shore. In the evening, six or seven fishing boats came in and either tied there or anchored nearby. They waved as they passed us in the sunset, but seemed to sense we were enjoying being alone. As the winds were calm, we had a pleasant night anchored in the lee of the cay and waited to jump into deeper water until the morning.

Cayo Blanco was our next destination, just south of Casilda. This little gem of an island has one structure ashore, a small bar and restaurant operated by the National Marina. After carefully skirting the reef and coming to anchor in 12 feet of sand, we took off quickly to explore this lovely place. One the sea side of the cay, there was a lovely reef in 25 to 30 feet of water. The profusion of color and fish was breathtaking! At no place in the Bahamas had we seen such beautiful and healthy coral. Once again, the hunt was on and we quickly scored part of dinner, a one and a half pound lobster. We were not lucky enough to find another, but were offered fish that one of the two men working at the restaurant caught because he was bored. He cleaned the snapper and grunts right there next to our dinghy. He and his companion said their week at work was heaven and the alternating week they spend back on the mainland was hell. We had to press on to Cienfuegos, but could have stayed for days exploring the surrounding coral heads and spending time with our new friends ashore.

Cienfuegos is reached by an entrance guarded by a lighthouse on one side and the Guarda Frontera on the other. A large sign greets you on the way in saying, "Welcome to Socialist Cuba." After passing a small island, you continue across the large harbor to the Marina. A very friendly crew will greet you here and the Guarda Frontera and Capitania will visit you looking for the offer of a cold beer. A mile or so stroll to the left of the marina entrance will take you to the heart of Cienfuegos. If you are feeling lazy, you can hitch a ride with one of the horse-drawn carriages. Here, they are not supposed to give rides to tourists, apparently because the government cannot enforce how much money they will receive. One gentleman gave us a ride anyway, at the risk of being fined. Cienfuegos was undergoing restoration at a much great rate than Manzanillo. We felt like we moved forward about 10 years each time we moved farther west to another city. The proliferation of 1950s vintage cars was very apparent in Cienfuegos. It was not unusual to see four or five of them lining a street. We saw our first fast food restaurant here, again, run by the government. There were a number of department type stores in the city, all selling identical wares. Many kiosks lined the streets, again with identical merchandise. The locals saw Susan's blond hair and the round of "jabon?" (soap?) started again. This time, she was prepared and handed out the collection of hotel soaps and shampoos to mothers carrying young children.

The tiles floors in the buildings were so pretty that Susan got up the courage to ask for one when we saw some men taking up the tile in a building and putting them in a cart outside. He didn't seem to understand why anyone would want a tile for a souvenir, but was glad to oblige. He wanted nothing in return. Our friends treated us to dinner in a restaurant near the marina. For $5 U.S., we had paella. For $4, lobster. The prices were so unbelievably cheap, we felt guilty. It was at this point in our trip that the American government decided to take Elian Gonzales from his relatives in Miami and let him stay with his father in Virginia pending the outcome of the hearings. Our friends at the marina and Guarda Frontera were so happy that they stopped by to chat about their new friend, the USA.

It was time for us to move on, so after passing a huge ship on our way out of the entrance channel, we departed for the outer cays between Cienfuegos and Isla Juventud. An uneventful trip past the Zona Prohibida of the Bay of Pigs brought us by late afternoon to Cayo Guana del Este. We found poor holding there and moved a bit farther to Cayo Trabuco. This is basically a rock with no protection, and the surge around it was not bearable for an entire night. Fortunately, there was enough daylight to move a few miles farther to Cayo de Dios. This anchorage was much more protected from the prevailing wind/wave direction, but we felt it wise not to anchor too close to shore as this was obviously a nesting ground for thousands of birds. They seemed none too happy that we were there, so we did not go to shore to upset them further.

Cayo Largo was our next stop. This is primarily a resort and they did not seem overly excited to see us nor were they very helpful as we transited the area between the reef and the channel. There were two entrance channels here and it was quite confusing, especially in a downpour. Be sure to enter in good light. We were fortunate not to have any mishaps, but it is easy to see how they could occur. The marina is alright, but it would have been easier to just anchor off the beach right near the final approach entrance to the marina. There is not much ashore there, the attraction being the diving and snorkeling nearby.

A quick trip the next day brought us to Cayo Matais, just a few miles east of Isla Juventud. We opted to anchor in the lee of the cay. Another boat anchored just behind the reef and from a distance, it looked like they were stuck on a reef. Another solitary, peaceful anchorage. Because we were getting near the time our 30-day visa would expire, we pressed on to the western side of Isla Juventud the next evening and anchored in Bahia Siguanea. This anchorage was exposed to the prevailing winds, but as luck would have it, it was a fairly calm night. Cayo Real is a beautiful anchorage some 40 miles from Isla Juventud, which you will share with some local fishermen. There is an interesting cut between the cays and many miles of beach to explore. The lobstering is good here as well.

Another day's jaunt west will bring you to Maria La Gorda, where folks check in and out of Cuba. There were no moorings available when we were there, nor did anyone respond on VHF. You simply get into shore as close as you dare to get away from the coral heads and drop the hook. We went to shore to the Guarda Frontera shack on the beach. They were friendly and efficient. After some brief formalities, we were able to come to shore as we desired. There was nothing there except a dive resort and a very expensive restaurant. Most officials have to come a long distance to get here so do not be in a hurry to check in or out. We requested to have everyone at the boat at 8:00 a.m. in order to arrive back in south Florida by sunset two and a half days later. They came at 10:00 a.m. After looking through the boat to make sure we had not tucked someone in the bilge, we were free to go. The water here is as clear as we have seen anywhere. In the morning before the breeze picked up, when the water was like glass, you could see straight to the bottom and count the many fish swimming around the coral heads.

We would have stayed much longer in Cuba if not for pressing health concerns. Once you get used to strangers coming onto your boat and looking through your personal belongings, it is a fascinating trip, not to be missed. It is recommended to stock up with beer as you will frequently be asked for one by the officials. We are glad we got to see this untarnished country before the embargo is lifted and the throngs of tourists line every beach and boats fill every anchorage. In the month we were there, we only saw five other sailboats while underway and we traveled the entire south coast, a distance of over 700 miles. We were treated courteously at every port and hope to return to this island gem as soon as possible. It is truly an undiscovered treasure deserving much more time than we had allotted.


  1. Congratulations.
    It is a beautiful report stating clearly that we are, in both sides, manipulated by governments, media and fake reports.
    It is the same in here, Brazil, from where I am sending this post.
    I am in Trawler Forum under the name of Portuguese
    Hope to read more from you!

  2. Thanks, but it was never meant to be a political statement. More a testament to the warmth and friendliness of the Cuban people. Chuck

  3. Great post, we just returned from cruising on the North Coast and shared many similar experiences. What time of year did you make the trip?? OBTW Cuban beer is excellent and widely available these days!


  4. Since we have not yet done the north coast, that is our next goal. And yes I did really like Cristal Beer. The Marina Manager at Santiago offered us a case to take with us when we left. The availability of Havana Club Rum, the real thing, was another big plus. Fortunately we were able to find both in Mexico also. Good luck and stay safe on your cruises. Chuck and Susan

  5. Chuck, Susan, I've done the north coast and it's nice, but not as nice as what I hear the south is. Of course, you have Havana, which is amazing, and the Golfo de Guahanacabibes, which is great sailing. We'll talk all about it when you're ready to head over there.


  6. Hallo Chuck and Susan, im on my way reading this blog of yours and find it very interesting an much fun. One question i have to ask is how do you violate the Us law by paying the mooring fee?

    Pardon my english, im from Sweden :O)
    Blog on, Tomas

  7. Tomas, At the time we were in Cuba, we were sponsored by our friends on the vessel we were traveling with, which was from Venezuela. This was perfectly allowable under the law then. We were also traveling as journalists commissioned to write the article for Soundings Magazine, which would have allowed us to travel to Cuba and spend money. But we wanted to do the article from the perspective of the average cruiser. Under the current laws governing travel to Cuba, as a cruiser we can not even go to Cuba so forget spending money. At the time of our visit laws and regulations were much different. We do explain all of this in the article. Thanks for reading the blog. Chuck

  8. Wonderful article, enjoyed every minute of reading it. It in a way brought me back to my childhood/early teen years. By this, I refer to the picture of the fish around the coral. The super clear water is exactly how I can remember Panama City waters in the bay's even. Not only their but all of NW Fla as my family was spread from PC area to FWB to Crestview my home town. I left the are once I joined up in the Army and have been back only a few times (most of my family has either moved on or have passed) When I would visit my grandparents in Parker I could see the changes in the waters each time I would visit and my Pop and I would go out fishing. 1990 is the last time I was there when my grandmother passed and I was sickened at how the bay was. Granted it was still somewhat clear, but it was as the picture in this post, at one time.

  9. Thanks for flagging up your Cuba blog posts on the Cuba FB group. The description of the inspection process is fascinating! Cheers - Ellen


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