Isla de la Juventad - Cuba

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 3 Mar 2013 17:05
In position 21:55.968N, 082:58.994W
We were waved away from the Guardia dock on arrival in La Coloma and were requested to drop anchor 100 metres out and wait. Georges the local Guardia was rowed out to us by a young local lad in a beat up fibreglass dinghy. He declined our invitation to come onboard (we hadn't seen a doctor yet - a necessity for all craft entering Cuban waters) and proceeded to write down our details on a neatly handwritten template form. Even Government officials in Cuba do not always have access to printed forms or even the use of an outboard motor come to that!  He was delighted that we were able to provide copies of our boat documents which probably cut short his workload tenfold. He was a friendly chap but unfortunately being the only representative of Cuba officialdom in La Coloma charged with documenting the arrival of 'alien' craft we were unable to officially clear into the country. It was strange to see boat crews being rowed everywhere. Quiet too! We left the next morning (Friday) as we were rather in the way of the busy fishing fleet.  We also wanted to push onwards to Isla de la Juventad (Isle of Youth) to officially 'enter' the country.
The forecast despite the approaching frontal system was incredibly optimistic with predicted winds of 10 - 15 knots from the northeast backing into the north - just perfect for a good sail! The reality was rather different. Half-way through the 44 mile run south-eastwards we were bouncing off waves at 7 knots with 25 knot winds at between 60 and 90 degrees port side. (Ah ! those computer model forecasts). Torrential rain poured onto the deck soaking everything around us whilst below buckets and towels covered the known leak areas. But at least the cement dust and bird guano from Isla Mujeres has finally been washed away and our decks are pristine white. One unsavoury aspect of the trip was an issue with the starboard holding tank which for some reason whilst we were flushing it through decided to leak into the aft compartment which then drains into the bilge area in the aft cabin. It's hard to put into words just how ghastly the stench was so we won't try. Skip is still avoiding opening up the rear compartment to investigate for quite understandable reasons.
The Gulf of Batabano is extremely shallow and for most of the trip we were in waters not much deeper than 20 feet and at times just 12 feet under the keel. As the wind strength increased into the upper 20's we were very relieved to make the anchorage named Ensenada de los Barcos, (translated as Inlet of the boats) a huge mangrove lined bay at the northwest tip of the island. Here we were safe from the prevailing wind direction and where we could sit out the worst of the second reinforcing front before moving southwards along the west coast of the island.
Today the sun is shining but with a chilly northwest wind. The front is due to clear through today so tomorrow we can get on our way again. As we have not seen another boat (or human) since arriving it would appear that this bay is somewhat inappropriately named!