By sea to Varadero
Having toured some of eastern Cuba by car it was time to move on towards Havana. A voyage of 330 miles (3 days) would see us in Varadero, the largest tourist destination in Cuba and some 60 or so miles by road to Havana which is served by an excellent bus service. But first the voyage which was free of sailing dramas but contained many exciting moments in the fishing department.
Before leaving Puerto da Vita we had to clear with the local customs officers, harbourmaster and immigration. This is mandatory whenever arriving and leaving visited Cuban ports and relatively pain-free. We pulled up the boarding passerelle, cast off the dock lines, waved farewell to our friends and we were off for our longest passage since leaving the Bahamas last year when we sailed to Beaufort. We had steady fresh breezes to blow us along the coast and we set the 3 fishing lines.
The cruising books state that Cuba is rich in fish life although our friends had traversed the same waters a few weeks before and caught absolutely nothing. We were a day out of 'Vita' when the electric reel screamed out at an alarming rate. We were trailing our home made 'killer lure' which was 'chasing' 2 small pink plastic squid lures producing lots of splashing and bubbles in the process, perfect for attracting tasty predators. Once we had halted the outward progress of our line from the reel we began to slowly recover some of the 120 lb breaking strain nylon until we could see what we had on the hook. It was the largest Mahi/Dorado/Dolphin Fish we had ever hooked. A male about 5 ft long was being pulled along by our boat speed and not too pleased about things. Our electric reel lives on the port side aft. The fish was swimming well to starboard and the line was sawing backwards and forwards across the tubes of our new dinghy! The 'Admiral' immediately gave instructions to cease such activities to avoid any damage but Phil managed to get the line off the dinghy and unfortunately across his leg where a nylon heat burn quickly appeared before control was reasserted and the large fish came closer to the rear steps. This was a very powerful creature that was not ready to be hauled on board or gaffed for that matter, a fact proven when Phil swung at the Mahi with the gaff. The fish suddenly erupted from the water, thrashing mightily at which point it spat out the hook and lure before swimming down into the depths to continue its life below the surface. We looked at each other in amazement but were not particularly annoyed by the loss as it had proved the better competitor and deserved its second chance (or are we going soft!).
We lost four other huge fish on the voyage, all Mahi, and at one time two fish hit two independant lures simulteneously causing mayhem for the short time they were on the hook, however both fish jumped and sumersaulted in spectacular fashion managing yet again to elude capture.So we arrived in Varadero 'fish-less' but it had been good sport out there!