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Date: 21 Jan 2012 23:16:00
Title: Cabo San Antonio

21:52.00N 84:58.00W

Saturday 21st January 2012

Distance run: 170 nmiles

After an hour and a half at the customs dock retrieving our box of flares
and completing yet more paperwork, we made our way out of Marina Hemingway
yesterday at 0830. The channel into the marina was calm, but the sad view
of Jean-Pierre's boat 'Noa' partially visible above the reef was a salutory
warning that taken in the wrong conditions, this channel is very dangerous.
We had first met Jean-Pierre in Herrington Harbour in the summer and he gave
us lots of information about cruising the south Coast of cuba, having
previously been here for three seasons. We saw him again as we entered the
Marina Hemingway channel at the end of December as he was on his way out.
By the next morning his boat was a wreck - he had problems with his fluxgate
compass about 50 miles along the coast and decided to come back to get it
fixed. By that time, however, a stiff northerly was blowing and by the time
he arrived back at the entrance channel it was 0300 and pitch dark. He
cannot explain how it happened, but the boat ended up on the reef.
Jean-Pierre, thankfully, was able to get safely to shore at the marina, and
was now staying with friends here and trying to contact his insurance
company.

So it was not by chance that the channel was calm when we left. We had to
motor for a couple of hours until the wind started to pick up, and then we
had a good run west along the north-west coast of the island in a good
easterly. We had identified a few places we might stop if we wanted, but in
the event we were sailing well and making good time, so we kept going. By
1300 today we had covered the 150 nautical miles to the western tip of Cuba,
and were approaching Cabo San Antonio, the first of three capes. As the
Gulf Stream whooshes through this 125-mile gap between Cuba and the Yucatan
Peninsula of Mexico, we were expecting lumpy confused seas and perhaps a
strong adverse current, but it turned out to be fairly calm with maybe a
knot of current against us for a short while. We stayed close in -
three-quarters of a mile off the shore - to stay out of the Gulf Stream as
far as possible and this seemed to work.

As we began to round the Cape, the wind headed us as it veered to the south
east and the sea became decidedly lumpy. It seemed the easy bit was over
and we were now about to begin the windward leg of our passage back to the
Eastern Caribbean. With at least a thousand miles between the western end
of the Greater Antilles and the top of the Lesser Antilles, we have some way
to go. Deep joy!




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