Monday, January 27, 2014

Puerto de Vita to Baracoa

Posted by Scot.  Written Jan. 14, 2014.

After waiting a couple of hours for the harbourmaster to show up, we pulled away from the dock at Puerto de Vita at around 1230, and sailed back out into the Bahama Channel.  As we motorsailed east into the wind, we passed the all-inclusive resorts lining the shores at Guardalavaca (I love that name.  Translated directly into English, it means “Guard the cow”).  Anyway, we got a good close-up look at quite a few of the Canadian tourists staying at the resorts, since we sailed right through the fleets of Hobie cats they were sailing off the beaches.  Several of them waved and shouted their surprise as they saw us sail by with our Canadian flag.

Leaving the all-inclusives behind.
As the sun went down, the waves came up a bit, but the wind was just right for us to sail at about 60 degrees off, and we made good time.  Christopher and Alexander repeated their evening watch, sitting at the helm from 7:30 to 9:30, which gave Sara and I a good chance to rest.  It seems when it gets dark, and the motion of the boat is hard to predict, it becomes a bit more nauseating, and both Sara and Christopher suffered from the effect.

The sun sets at sea.
It didn’t stop anyone from falling asleep, though, and shortly after I took over at 9:30, the boat was silent.  Unfortunately, it was about then that the wind shifted right around onto our nose, so I fired up first one engine, then both, and we plowed on through the waves.

When we sailed from the Bahamas down to Cuba, we didn’t see any sign of the typical ship traffic in the Old Bahama Channel.  Sailing along the north coast of Cuba, we made up for it.  We were accompanied all night by freighters and cruise ships sitting about 5 miles out to sea.  It was easy to see their lights, despite the distance, and the AIS proved entertaining, as it showed us their names, sizes, speeds and destinations.
Sara took over at around midnight, and kept watch for most of the rest of the dark hours.  Around 4 a.m., I woke up, and we kept watch together for awhile.  Then Sara lay down for a couple more hours of sleep, and I got to see the sunrise.  As the day lightened, the dramatic shore of northern Cuba was revealed, with mountains rising straight out of the water, covered in palm trees and green jungle.  Apparently when Columbus first landed here, he said it was some of the most beautiful land he had ever seen.  It hasn’t changed much since then.

El Yunque greets us as we approach Baracoa.

Sailing into the small pocket bay at Baracoa was equally impressive.  The dramatic flat-topped El Yunque de Baracoa makes an impressive backdrop.  Baracoa itself is a remarkably beautiful spot, with a real “end of the earth” feel.  The steep mountains all around make it hard to get to, and apparently for a long time it was completely isolated from the rest of Cuba.

El Yunque from inside the bay.

Local fishing boats in Baracao Bay.
A hotel with a view overlooking Baracoa Bay.
Once we arrived, the Guardafrontera called us on the radio, and told us they would need to come out to the boat to check our paperwork.  What they didn’t tell us was that they didn’t have a boat of their own, so after sailing all night, I had the pleasure of dropping our dinghy into the water, pumping it up, and rowing over to the commercial dock to pick him up.  We don’t have our outboard motor on the dinghy right now, since it is easier on our dinghy davits if we sail with it on the big boat.  We didn’t think we would be using the dinghy much, since we were assured at Puerto de Vita that we would not be able to go ashore at any of our stops along the way, until we were at the official government marina in Santiago de Cuba.  To our welcome surprise, though, the Guardafrontera told us we could go ashore, as long as we left one person on the boat for “security”.

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