Hemingway Marina, Cuba

Mark & Sue Owen
Thu 21 Mar 2013 20:02
23:05.33N 82:29.87W

All the way down the Florida Keys we'd been monitoring the weather for our passage across the Gulf Stream to Cuba. It was looking good for a late Monday afternoon departure from Key West (in order to arrive at our destination in daylight), so we had Monday morning to get all our jobs done which included completing all essential internet jobs, getting a propane bottle filled, as well as a jerry can each of diesel and petrol, and some fresh fruit and veg. We enjoyed an excellent lunch at The Sugar Apple vegan cafe which set us up for the afternoon and early evening.

With all our jobs completed and a final check of the weather forecast, it was time to say au-revoir to the USA. We've thoroughly enjoyed our trip down the East Coast and met some very special people along the way. We shall look back on these months fondly for a very long time to come.

All our research told us not to cross the Gulf Stream when the wind is northerly, as this would result in hideous wind-over-tide conditions and produce a 'washing-machine effect'. Our various forecasts indicated light SE, becoming light S winds with the possibility of isolated thunderstorms. So, on a heading of 203 deg True we envisaged light headwinds. As it happened the swell was such that we had to motorsail the first few miles in order to fill the sails.

It was not long before we had enough wind to sail, even though it was from the North. Our chart plotter indicated when we were approaching the Gulf Stream axis and we also noticed the change in sea water temperature (from 70 deg F in Key West to 78 deg F). The closer we came to the Gulf Stream, the stronger the winds became. Hmm this was not in the plan!

Around daybreak we decided it was time to reduce sail to just a reefed head sail. The handheld GPS and VHF had already been placed in the oven as the skies were periodically lit by lightening. Soon after, we had northerly winds gusting 30 knots. This was definitely not in the plan!

The seas got bigger and Macushla's deck got a thorough wash, but she dug in and got on with it and we felt very safe, albeit damp. Our greatest concern was regarding the entry in to Marina Hemingway, which must not be attempted in a strong northerly wind; similarly another potential Port of Entry, Varadero, was not to be attempted in such conditions either. This was not looking good. An up-to-date weather file showed no northerly wind, so we remained perplexed and anxious, until eventually the wind started to veer and, joy of joys, became south easterly. Hurrah!!! The seas also started to calm and a safe arrival at Marina Hemingway was back on the cards.

As we were making our approach a few hours later, things were fine and we established VHF contact with the marina dockmaster who gave us instructions regarding the entry. Hello Cuba!

On arrival, we had to berth at the Customs Dock where we were joined by a series of officials - 9 in all plus a sniffer dog. This turned out to be a lengthy procedure as forms were completed, the boat inspected, handheld GPS & VHF sealed up, and flares removed from the boat for the duration of our stay in Hemingway. Next, we berthed in the marina and Jose, the friendly dockmaster, came aboard and gave us the heads up about the place over a beer. We think we are going to like this country...