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So what is it like to sail in Cuba?

Maggie's avatar By Maggie | 06 Apr 2017
a white sand beach in the Caribbean

The yacht charter base in Cienfuegos is part of a beautiful old colonial residence on the sea. The ornate white building is home to a restaurant and bar ,and next door is a fabulous pool. This area has a distinct French feel and for very good reason. It was originally a French town.

We board our Lagoon 39 catamaran, check in and sort provisions, which are not entirely to first world standards, but plentiful. What is not in season or available we will do without. The delicious smell of pineapples and guavas permeate the catamaran.

We meet with our Skipper and Marinero and first impressions are good so we are ready to set sail, but not before we make an excursion to the town of Trinidad the next day.

Our dedicated driver Mani drives the local taxi, and in one and a half hours we pull up on the cobble streets of the “touristico” town. We walk narrow streets set up with small stalls selling the same tourist delights interspersed with vibrantly coloured paintings. The streets open into squares with old ornate cathedrals and mansions. Restaurants and bars now operate from magnificent Spanish inspired buildings which retain fresco adored internal walls. These original mansions are built around picturesque private internal square. Generous high ceilinged rooms with huge carved doors and large windows open onto these internal squares ensuring optimum air movement.

Away from the old centre, the town consists of small brightly painted modest buildings roofed in old terracotta tiles. Entrance to all the historic buildings is surprisingly free, and local merchants display their familiar handcrafts in dedicated areas within. No one is hassled to buy, and all are proud to show their handcrafts. Women sit and crochet clothes or embroider to pass the time – happy to show how it is done.

Here a band is playing in a bar and locals lead the tourists who want to try the dance routines. Singing and laughter erupts into the street. A simple lunch is enjoyed with a cold beer as we watch the fun.

We leave at 4.00pm to return to the base and prepare for early departure next morning.

Leaving the marina and motoring to the exit of the bay a 300 year old fort signals the presence of the Spanish once again. Our first stop is Cayo Sal, a 54 nautical mile journey and with no wind to assist us we motor to our destination on flat sea. Moored close to our other yacht, we prepare to share a BBQ on board as the Cayo has no beach and is in fact a low coral outcrop with sparse vegetation and one lonely tree. As we are about to light the BBQ, the wind which avoided us all day, springs up and is soon blowing over 25 knots. Re-anchored, we spend a rough night on anchor with incessant high wind.

This is the pattern over the next few days with wind at night and calm during the day. Motoring is the only option on the large heavy cats, but Cayo Largo, our next stop, is very welcoming with a large calm turquoise bay fringed with white sand beaches. A swim and rest before entering the small modern accommodating marina is very welcome.

The only down side to our safe haven is the ‘party night’ in the square, but even the music till 2.30 cannot keep us awake and we are well rested when next morning dawns calm.

This is a ‘leisure’ day so exploring, swimming, shopping, walking and resting are in order.

Read - "Sailing in Cuba - Cayo Largo onwards"