Jumping to conclusions.

Sarah Grace goes to sea
Chris Yerbury and Sophy White
Fri 27 Apr 2007 22:54
Now, don't you think Mark and Iain would make a lovely couple?  Think clean
cut, ex navy, jovial Londoner and stocky, heavily bearded Scotsman in a
baseball cap. They knocked on the door of a B+B in Vinales (west Cuba) while
the rest of us were just out of sight in the car and asked if there was a
double room available. The owner suddenly looked very uncomfortable and
inspite of  minimal facility with english, soon led them to understand that
there was no way they could stay unless they could show a marriage
certificate. The penny dropped- he assumed they were gay and was having none
of that sort of thing under his roof.  Amidst convulsions of laughter,
Louise and Karen (their wives) were summoned and all of us, along with the
owner, were in stitches as the true picture emerged. The leg pulling has
continued ever since.
 We were on a two day trip inland to see some of the countryside. The
journey there had been prolonged when we were flagged down by 3 people with
oil covered hands beside a dead car. Inspite of already having 5 in a small
hatchback, we gave the only one who could speak english a lift-he also
happened to be the largest. He assured us it was only 5ks to the town but we
were soon taking him into the tobacco growing area beyond. Where ever there
was likely to be a police check, one of the two front seat passengers(an
illegal practice in Cuba) had to squeeze in with the other 3 in the back to
avoid being hauled over. He took us to the tobacco estate he worked in and
after briefing a mechanic, showed us round and explained the whole cigar
making process to us,from planting to rolling the dried fermented leaves in
to cigars. After trying some of the produce we bought a few at what he
assured us was a rock bottom price- after all we had driven him 40 minutes
home in his hour of need. Sure enough the same cigars were for sale at the
same price in the dollar store in the marina.
 Vinales really is a beautiful and geographically very unusual area. The
limestone has been tunneled through with subterranean water channels to the
extent that large areas have collapsed leaving 200-300' vertical sided rock
'islands' amid rolling farmland- the latter being the lowered areas
following prehistoric collapses.The back drop to this amazing landscape is a
ridge of tree covered hills. We went for a long walk through this beautiful
scenery as vultures wheeled around the cliff faces. A local farmer who spoke
not a word of english, gave us home grown coffee in his very simple home,
and then showed off his solar panels and batteries that each house in the
valley and received as aid from France. The only thing they seemed to power
was a single bulb and a television. He then set off as our self appointed
guide and after leading us across a few fields pointed vaguely up in to the
hills the way to a natural plunge pool full of medicinal mountain water.
Just as the path started to rise, he demanded an exorbitant amount of money
and having been given too much, was off back home with a skip in his step
leaving us to climb the hillside alone. Needless to say, after some long
while of very hot uphill progress, we never did find the pool but the
stunning views alone were worth the effort.
  Yesterday after a 3 hour clear-out ordeal and then helping an enginless
yacht off a mudbank, we finally left Cuba for Key West into what was
forecast to be a light east to south east breeze. This turned out  to be a
good 20-25knts of wind  forward of the beam over a very lumpy Gulf Stream.
Sarah Grace was charging into the waves with the GPS frequently touching 8
knots. It soon became apparent that inspite of the delayed departure, we
would be arriving in the dark at those speeds. So with alot of sail reefed,
we slowed down to about 6.5knts and dawn was just providing sufficient light
as we approached the reef off Key West. The 90 mile trip took about 13hours,
inevitably followed by a big fry up and two large mugs of tea( to make up
for my supper that escaped me somewhere around the Tropic of Cancer in the
small hours).
  We have checked in at Key West with out problems even though we have come
from enemy territory, and now it is siesta time after the bumpy night at