Cuba’s Southern coast – our Anchorages

We draw 3ft and used the Nigel Calder Cuba guide to go through passages and find anchorages. In Cuba every anchorage you stop at you have to check in with the Guarda Frontera, who will typically row out to your boat.

See our blog postings of Cuba for highlights of the Cayos and things we did in Cuba.

Check in – Santiago De Cuba – docked at Marina you could anchor off
Chivrico – 19.58.16N 76.24.1W
Marea Del Portillo – 19.54.8N 77.11.1W (not allowed to go ashore?)
Cayo Ancilitas – West End – 20.48.4N 78.57.03W
Cayo Ancilitas – Palapa Tortuga – 20.49.77N 78.55.7W
Cayo Cuervo – 21.04.4N 78.57.8W
Cayo Ingles – 21.03.07N 79.17.5W
Cayo Zazade Fuera – 21.27.5N 79.34.7W
Cayos Machos De Fuera – 21.35.9N79.46.6W
Cayo Blanco – 21.38.4N 79.53.5W
Marina Trinidad – 21.44.203N 79.59.7W – we docked at Marina you could anchor off
Cayo Guano del Este – 21.39.95N 81.02.5W
Cayo La Trinchoro – 21.39.2N 81.07.8W
Cayo Largo Ballentos – 21.35.2N 81.35.2W
Cayo Largo – 21.36.86N 81.34.5W
Cayo Rico – 21.37.2N 81.39.5W
Estopita – 21.33.8N 81.45.7W
Cayo Cantilles – 21.37.2N 81.57.8W
Cayo Rosario – 21.37.2N 81.55.9W (went for protection from NE winds)
Cayo Avalos – 21.32.75N 82.10.4W
Cayo Campos – 21.33.66N 82.20.54W
Through Canal De la Cruz (follow sticks)
Isla Juventud -Nueva Gerona – 21.53.2N 82.48.1W – Docked – need reason to stop here!
Isla Juventud – Ensenada De Barco – 21.55.7N 82.57.8 W
Cayo Siju – 21.56.9N 83.31.6W
Cayo Real 21.58.0N 83.37.1W
Maria Gorda – 21.49.2N 84.29.9W ( free mooring lines) – great diving
Check Out – Los Morros – 21.54.1N 84.54.5W

Cuba’s Southern Coast

Cuba is approx 600 miles long so we were in for a long journey, hence the large blog. Grab a drink and we hope you enjoy our trip thru Cuba. See also Habana and Santiago de Cuba on separate blogs.
P1080650

We had lots of amazing sunsets

We had lots of amazing sunsets

The south eastern coast of Cuba is approx 200 miles long and has huge cliff faces and towering mountain ranges with small towns hidden behind reefs and mangroves, but very few places to stop by boat along the coast.

SE mountain range is very steep & rocky

SE mountain range is very steep & rocky

South Eastern Coast
Our sail from Santiago de Cuba (see separate blog) took us along the coastline firstly to Chivrico a small fishing town. The Santiago port captain told us that there was no Guarda Frontera here and that we could anchor but were not to go ashore. On arrival the people in the lagoon waved out and were very friendly but soon after 3 army officers arrived and sat watching us from various positions around the lagoon. Ok we’ll stay on our boats! Wonder why we couldn’t go ashore?

Chivrico - a great anchorage in a lagoon behind the reef

Chivrico – a great anchorage in a lagoon behind the reef

Marea Del Portillo also on the coast was a small village where the locals are either farmers, fishermen or work for one of the 2 local hotels catering to Canadian, German and Spanish tourists. As we walked the streets to see the small town and hotel complex, 2km down the road we were passed by horse and carts working and transporting people about the area. We had many offers of fruit and vege along the way and so traded so we had fresh food to go on to the Cays. Even had a couple of men row out to the boat at 8pm with more fruit for trade. Money is not wanted rather clothing, soap, cigarettes or rum. There is a lot of poverty in these rural towns so you can’t blame these people for trying to trade what little they have for something a little better.

In the rural areas the soil is ploughed with an Oxen team

In the rural areas the soil is ploughed with an Oxen team

P1080119

Jardines de La Reina ( Queens Gardens)
As you round the corner at Cabo Cruz you then enter the Jardines de La Reina, which is approx 150 miles long, 50 miles south of the mainland and made up of hundreds of mangrove and small cays.

A small Cay surrounded by reefs

A small Cay surrounded by reefs with the mainland in the background

We entered at Cayo Anclitas to do some exploring of the area. The Palapa Tortuga floating hotel; a Joint Venture with Italy sits up the mangroves near the Lagoon and caters to tourists for diving and fishing expeditions. It’s been in operation for 20yrs so obviously a success. The staff were awesome as they were on shift change and allowed us to come aboard for a few drinks and meet the local crocodiles, which come out from the mangroves for dinner. Eeek. We’re not swimming here!

Palapa Tortuga

Palapa Tortuga

 

Do you want to swim when these guys are floating around in the mangroves?

Do you want to swim when these guys are floating around in the mangroves?

 

Shrimp boats

 

 local fishermen who traded with us, 4 men sleep in this small boat

local fishermen who traded with us, 4 men sleep in this small boat

We thought Jardine de la Reina was a  marine reserve where commercial fishermen were restricted. Obviously not, as a fleet of huge shrimp boats and the mother ship come into a Cay to clean out their nets.

 

 

 

The local fishermen, who had fresh shrimp and lobster were also keen to trade with us. Rum for lobster seemed to be a popular request.

 

 

Of course all the way along the coast and between the Cayos Brett tried his luck fishing. The lines definitely caught their fair share of barracuda and then finally, he caught a small blackfin tuna so we enjoyed sashimi over a beautiful sunset.

Tuna sashimi

Tuna sashimi

The sunsets down here are great and yes lots of green flashes.

The sunsets down here are great and yes lots of green flashes.

The Cays in the Jardines are pretty isolated which is nice as there are some sandy beaches to enjoy with no one about. As we got closer to the mainland there were a couple of Cays that had restaurants and bars where charter fleets from Trinidad would bring their guests to visit the “remote” island, so the tourists were told.

On Cayo Blancos beach

Enjoying Cayo Blancos beach, waiting for the tourists to leave so we had the restaurant to ourselves

Birthday celebration
At the various Cayos in the Jardines de La Reina the boys went hunting for lobster and the day before my birthday did not disappoint, bringing back lots for Jen to work her magic. We had heard that the lobster are walking along the ground and easy pickings but not something we witnessed. If only!

boys looking very happy

boys looking very happy

Jen once again outdid herself cooking up a great birthday feast for us. While celebrating my birthday on Our Rose a pigeon decided to join us and settled in for the party in Jens cilantro pots, staying 2 nights. He knows a good thing when he sees it.

"Cilantro" who dropped in for my birthday dinner

“Cilantro” who dropped in for my birthday dinner

P1080166

P1080152

Trinidad de Cuba
We docked at the end of the dock at Marlin Marina Trinidad on a Saturday so of course had to go into town to see Casa de Música an outdoor amphitheater area where there is music and salsa dancing. Great place to people watch. Trinidad is a popular tourist destination with old cobblestone streets, lots of private homes ( Casa particulars) to stay at and private restaurants (paladars).

Boats docked at Marina Casilda

Seismic Wave & Our Rose docked at Marina Casilda, Trinidad

Casa de Música has a good mix of tourists and locals out enjoying the music

Casa de Música has a good mix of tourists and locals out enjoying the music

Traveling inland from Trinidad
Once you get away from the towns it’s like you have been transported back in time. Very few Cuban people have cars so rely on the public transport system, which always seems busy with people waiting on the side of the roads. Transportation can be anything…..

A canopy for shade is not typical but I'm sure appreciated as its hot here

A canopy for shade is not typical but I’m sure appreciated as its hot here

In a truck, a little tight for our liking

In a truck, a little tight for our liking

Very typical in the countryside

Very typical in the countryside

Old cars are everywhere

Old cars are everywhere

We drove thru plenty of agricultural towns where we saw horse / Ox and carts out working. The Ox looks a lot more healthy and sturdy to be going up some of these hills vs the horse that’s for sure.
P1080244P1080248

El Nicho is a waterfall up in the mountains approx 2 hrs from Trinidad, where we walked 1.5km up trails into the mountains, went for a swim in the natural pools and saw some amazing views at the top.

natural pools at bottom of falls

natural pools at bottom of falls

El Nicho falls so lush all about

El Nicho falls so lush all about

stairs on hike cut out of the side of the hill

stairs on hike cut out of the side of the hill

 

The natural pools above the falls even had lifeguards there

The natural pools above the falls even had lifeguards there

The views at the top overlooking the valley where we started

The views at the top overlooking the valley where we started

Spotted a hummingbird nesting on our walk

Spotted a hummingbird nesting on our walk

A very simple outdoor kitchen at the private restaurant below the El Nicho falls where they went into their vege garden to get some of the the food we had.
P1080241

Yes the meat and fruit hanging in the kitchen

Yes the meat and fruit hanging in the kitchen

There are a lot of signs on buildings in towns and on the main roads thru out Cuba promoting the revolution and of course the faces that supported the cause in Cuba. A reminder to everyone in Cuba obviously.
P1080101P1080369

Patrotism or die

Patrotism or die

We made a 4 hr road trip to Habana from Trinidad as it was easy with having secure marina access and we had found a great driver in Trinidad, Rafel (ph 534-19410) who took us everywhere, even Habana. See Habana blog.

Vince was so surprised that we stopped by his hotel to celebrate his birthday.
Vince was so surprised that we stopped by his hotel to celebrate his birthday.

 

There are a number of all inclusive hotels near the Trinidad marina. Every day people came down to the docks to go out fishing or on the catamarans to the cays close. We met Vince a Canadian and his sons who had been fishing and learnt that Vince was having his birthday by himself the following week, so we all stopped in to the CostaSur hotel to surprise him.

 

the staff brought a birthday cake down for Vince to enjoy with us

The staff brought a birthday cake down to the beach for Vince to enjoy, with us

Great natural pool at the beach at CostaSur Hotel that Brett couldn't resist going in

Great natural pool at the beach at CostaSur Hotel that Brett couldn’t resist going in

Cayos thru to Isla de la Juventude;160nm
From Trinidad we headed to Cayos de Dios, a series of rocky islands on the way to Cayo Largo, with reefs all about so were great to go exploring in the crystal clear waters around each of the Cays.

dolphins riding our bow wave in the very clear blue waters on our way to Cayos de Dios

dolphins riding our bow wave in the very clear blue waters on our way to Cayos de Dios

Rocket ship lighthouse on Cayo Guano del Este stands impressively begging you to go ashore to see it and meet the staff who work there

Rocket ship lighthouse on Cayo Guano del Este stands impressively begging you to go ashore to see it and meet the staff who work there

from the top of the lighthouse looking out to the reef we had snorkeled

from the top of the lighthouse looking out to the reef we had snorkeled

Huge anchor we found while snorkeling near the lighthouse

Huge anchor we found while snorkeling near the lighthouse

Some of the lobster caught snorkeling on the reefs; 6.3 & 3.5 lbs

Some of the lobster caught snorkeling on the reefs; 6.3 & 3.5 lbs

Cayo Largo is a main stopping point for most boats on the south coast as its a Port of entry. Up till now we had not really seen very many boats sailing in the waters but once you got here this changed; including charterers. The cays in the area all have white sandy beaches and crystal clear water so are nice.

P1080491A
P1080497

Cayo Largo is a tourist only island with a number of all inclusive hotels for all the tourists. We wandered around the small township based near the marina and airport and were surprised to find a medical clinic, bank, rum and cigar store, turtle farm and disco-tech of all things. Flights from Canada come here for all you Canucks.

 loved the Cigar store at Cayo Largo, which had all sorts of other goodies in it.

loved the Cigar store at Cayo Largo, which had all sorts of other goodies in it.

There are lots of cays close by and the marina has alot of boats to get people to the reefs and Cays. Playa Sirena off Cayo Largo, we enjoyed a great buffet lunch at the restaurant and relaxed under the palapas on the beach.

They even had dolphins at Playa Sirena

They even had dolphins at Playa Sirena

Cayo Rico also has a restaurant where people are brought by catamaran from Largo to enjoy the beach and have lunch. The local Jutías wait for food.
P1080499

A Jutías, the size of a cat. We saw many of these on various Cays in Cuba

A Jutías, the size of a cat. We saw many of these on various Cays in Cuba

Further down the chain of Cays we arrived at Cayo Cantilles to see the African monkeys but alas only saw 1 from a distance high in the tree. Orry one of the four staff from the station took us to the lagoon so we could see the pink flamingos. The men here work on a rotation of 30 days on and 30 days off and they feed the African monkeys that were put on the island for research and clean the rubbish off the local beaches. No wonder the beaches in Cuba are so clean. We ended up with a pile of lobster after trading some cans of food, Spanish DVDs and rope.

station head quarters

station head quarters for 4 men

some of the flamingos we saw

some of the flamingos we saw

Lobster traded for all sorts

Lobster traded for all sorts

Jen & Richard were heading to The Caymans after Cayo Cantilles so we enjoyed our last night together playing cards over a few rums and perhaps had a few too many. Had been a blast yet again.
P1080552

of course we had to celebrate an early birthday for Richard

of course we had to celebrate an early birthday for Richard

balancing on the screecher bow sprit after a lot of rum

balancing on the screecher bow sprit after a lot of rum

Brett & I continued on to Cayo Campos in search of Monkeys and monkeys we saw. The staff from the Biological Research Centre call the monkeys and they suddenly appear out of the trees along the beach running towards the station house, for food of course. These guys were not shy that’s for sure.

We were told that these are Vietnamese Monkeys

We were told that these are Vietnamese Monkeys

P1080605

We had a great anchorage just off the station headquarters

We had a great anchorage just off the station headquarters

Ever seen a starfish up close? Spotted on our walk on the beach at Campos

Ever seen a starfish up close? Spotted on our walk on the beach at Campos

Isla de la Juventude
We decided to transit the north coast of the island thru a very narrow channel, with sticks identifying the channel, with the hope of going to Nueva Gerona the main town on the island. We knew that the marina was on the south coast but heard that they allowed foreign boats to dock on the ferry dock. We called in to the Capitanía when coming up the river and got the response of “no possible, no possible”. Hmmm oh well let’s go see if its full. It was empty and after docking and meeting with the Guarda frontera we were reminded that this was not a marina and asked why we had stopped here. You need a reason! Basically we were given 24hrs to do our business. Nice clean town with very friendly locals and lots to see.

Calle 39th the main walkway thru town was so clean with marble stones

Calle 39th the main walkway thru town was so clean with marble stones

Church in town surrounded by marble chairs everywhere, as marble is produced on the island

Church in town surrounded by marble chairs everywhere, as marble is produced on the island

Playing the drums behind the Music school

Playing the drums behind the Music school

Public transport - a Camel

Public transport – a Camel

the boys favorite for dinner, Ice cream was only .15c a bargain

the boys favorite for dinner, Ice cream was only .15c a bargain

We stumbled on an outdoor evening concert that had a great turnout and was interesting to watch

We stumbled on an outdoor evening concert that had a great turnout and was interesting to watch

Even managed to take a taxi to Prison Modelo in Chacón where Fidel & Raul Castro amongst others were taken in 1953, as political prisoners after being arrested in Santiago de Cuba after the unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks (see Santiago de Cuba blog). It was really interesting going thru the prison and seeing the hospital where the political prisoners were kept with photos explaining the history. The prison cells in the main prison were small and housed 2 men and had a toilet, not somewhere we would want to be.

the main prison had 4 buildings holding approx 1000 prisoners per building

the main prison had 4 buildings holding approx 1000 prisoners per building

guards entered the central tower thru underground tunnels

guards entered the central tower thru underground tunnels

Oops!

Oops!

We were escorted by four very playful dolphins for 6 miles playing in the green waters leading to Cayos de San Felipe. We entered a small channel again marked with sticks thru to the south side of Cayo Sijú, which was so beautiful. We thought we had found our little piece of heaven when suddenly 3 men rowed up beside us and invited us to the Casa.

Our buddies leading the way

Our buddies leading the way

Lazaro, Roberto and Hutijo rowed out to see us at Cayo Sijú

Lazaro, Roberto and Hutijo rowed out to see us at Cayo Sijú

The Casa was really nice compared to the other Cayos we had been to

The Casa was really nice compared to the other Cayos we had been to

Cayo Siju is a National Park for Turtles so we walked along the beach where they nest and sat on the deck speaking in Spanglish overlooking the nice views. These guys work a rotation of 10 days on and 10 days off, perfect and do not see very many sailing boats at all. Not surprising as there’s no record of the station in any books we have seen. They were so hospitable.

Lazaro climbing the coconut tree for fresh coco for us

Lazaro climbing the coconut tree for fresh coco for us

Roberto with Ron and coco, yum

Roberto with Ron and coco, yum

Iguanas - The other residents here and trust me there were ALOT more!

Iguanas – The other residents here and trust me there were ALOT more!

We walked away with 5 fish, after unfortunately refusing lobster as we can't have it in our freezer for entering Mexico or we'll be fined

We walked away with 5 fish, after unfortunately refusing lobster as we can’t have it in our freezer for entering Mexico or we’ll be fined

The people of Cuba
We met so many great Cubans, who have a great attitude to life. Tranquillo (Relax) is there motto. Everyone we met was so friendly and generous.

Pedro & Rosa from Santiago de Cuba put on a lovely dinner for us at the local bar

Pedro & Rosa from Santiago de Cuba put on a lovely dinner for us at the local bar

Orlando the Trinidad marina security guard would come down to fish beside our boats and entertain us

Orlando the Trinidad marina security guard would come down to fish beside our boats and entertain us

 

These guys work for the Trinidad marina taking tourists fishing every day and joked with us every day

These guys work for the Trinidad marina taking tourists fishing every day and joked with us every day

The staff at Cayo Cantilles who gave us lots and lots of lobster

The staff at Cayo Cantilles who gave us lots and lots of lobster

In summary
Cuba is an interesting place with very friendly people with an amazing attitude to life but you can see that life here is very tough for them. There is a mixed attitude about what America will bring and what changes will come if the doors are opened. Will be interesting to watch Cuba.

Well we have arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and finally have internet again. No 1 job is to find Brett a chiropractor and sort his back out.

Habana, Cuba

Our 4 hour road trip to Habana from Trinidad did not disappoint. The drive was interesting through large agricultural areas of fruit, cane and cattle. Habana is quite a cultural change from the smaller communities of Cuba that we have been to. Busy streets full of people, construction/restoration everywhere but unfortunately rubbish all about. The rest of Cuba has been amazingly clean compared to other islands in the Caribbean, with the exception of Habana. They are trying to change the appearance but it’s going to take some time. It took us a good day to relax into the cultural change and hustle of city life here. Like any big city you need to keep your eyes open and be aware of what’s happening around you or you could run into problems, especially at night.

One of the many busy streets in Vieja - Calle Obispo

One of the many busy streets in Vieja – Calle Obispo

IMG_0978AThe Casa Particular (private home) in Habana where we stayed was reasonably priced at approx US$30/ night and included our own bathroom. It was close to Habana Vieja, with a lot more character inside than a tourist hotel. Nice to support the people of Cuba. David & Lidia have 3 bldgs so lots of rooms for rent contact: diazdavidlidia@yahoo.es or 537-07-879-7934.

The pet crocodiles in the entry at the main Casa were interesting and yes we were told they bite

The pet crocodiles in the entry at the main Casa were interesting and yes we were told they bite

Coming in off the busy street to a quiet courtyard was so relaxing as the sounds of the city just disappeared

Coming in off the busy street to a quiet courtyard was so relaxing as the sounds of the city just disappeared

The red double decker hop on hop off buses seem to be in every city and were great here to get a lay of the land and see some of the top spots. At approx US$5 each, a bargain, compared to other city tours we have been on. Around Vieja and Centro Habana it was easy wandering the streets aimlessly during the day or sitting and just people watching. We hit most of the main tourist spots.

one of the many Plazas with vendors selling books on the heros of the revolution

one of the many Plazas with vendors selling books on the heros of the revolution

Plaza de la Revolución is the base of the Cuban govt where many political rallies have been held

Plaza de la Revolución is the base of the Cuban govt where many political rallies have been held

Murals on buildings around Plaza de la Revolución:

P1080261P1080258

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View to Castillo del Morro from Malecón

View to Castillo del Morro from Malecón

The view to Habana from the Christ statue near Fort de San Carlos.

The view to Habana from the Christ statue near Fort de San Carlos.

Fort de San Carlos would be great as a hotel but was overpriced to enter at approx US$6 each.

Fort de San Carlos would be great as a hotel but was overpriced to enter at approx US$6 each.

A pharmacy on Calle Obispo. The pharmacy was mostly a display as they had very few items to actually sell - like many of the government run shops

A pharmacy on Calle Obispo. The pharmacy was mostly a display as they had very few items to actually sell – like many of the government run shops

We found lots of great places to eat and drink. Los Nardos restaurant opposite Capitolio Nacional ( well worth standing in the line up), Sloppy Joes, the rooftop at Hotel Ingleterra and restaurants along Calle Obispo are some places we found good. The Taberna microbrew down near the piers on San Pedro had a great system for delivering beer.

Sloppy Joes on Right

Sloppy Joes on Right

P1080299

At the Taberna microbrew

 

The people are so friendly but you can see that life is tough for them here. It is nothing to hear that they work a number of jobs for very little money. In the parks around town you see the social scene happening including different events to entertain and educate the children. No sitting around watching TV here for them.

Transportation in Habana city did not disappoint; they are everywhere and come in lots of different types:

Bikes are used to transport all sorts of things; yes even wedding cakes

Bikes are used to transport all sorts of things; yes even wedding cakes

Trolleys move a lot of things, this looked like hard work!

Trolleys move a lot of things, this looked like hard work!

IMG_3305

The very old worn buildings even fit with this car

P1080277

Old cars lined up in Centro Park

Old cars lined up in Centro Park

Of course we had to get a tour in one of the many old convertible cars sitting in Parque Central, which was a real treat. Approx US$35/hr.

The 1953 Buick we hired for an evening tour

The 1953 Buick we hired for an evening tour

There’s lots of restoration going on all around Habana, which is going to take many many years to complete. The buildings look worn out and in some cases are very broken. Those that have been restored are impressive but there’s ALOT to fix. Looks like everything’s done by hand too so who knows how long it will take. Vadado district is a more residential area with some very big homes that have been restored and look amazing, you can see the potential.

Centro Habana - a little paint would help as the architecture is amazing

Centro Habana – a little paint would help as the architecture is amazing

Vedado had some great homes, more of a residential area

Vedado had some great homes, more of a residential area

While in Habana we could not miss going to the Tropicana, a show. Wow! So many flashy outfits. Not quite Las Vegas, especially the food, but a good night out.
P1080324

Brett’s birthday was spent in Habana where we wandered the streets of Centro Habana firstly to Callejón de Hamel, where an artist Salvador has created weird pieces of art on buildings and in yards on this street. Hotel Nacional, which overlooks the Malacón and is considered to be Habana’s finest hotel (expropriated from Hilton) with some amazing views, comfy chairs and well deserved cold beers after walking in the heat.

Entrance to Callejón de Hamel

Entrance to Callejón de Hamel

P1080361

Artwork inside

Hotel Nacional, there are bunkers from the late 1800s underground along the front of the hotel

Hotel Nacional, there are bunkers from the late 1800s underground along the front of the hotel

Relaxing in the comfy chairs at the hotel

Relaxing in the comfy chairs at the hotel

The highlight of Bretts birthday was going to a baseball game, which had an amazing atmosphere with the crowds really supporting and cheering for their teams. Its loud as they all blow horns and when there was a grand slam they all went crazy. As tourists you sit in a separate section right behind home base for approx US$3 each. Bargain. For a Cuban it would be less than US$0.25. We finished up out for dinner in El Barrio Chino; China town where there are no Chinese people but Cuba felt they needed one like any other big city. Good meal out.
Industriales Stadium

4 days was plenty of time in the big city, we were ready to get back to some fresh air on the sea.

Old world Cuba; Santiago de Cuba

Brett & I were excited about returning to Cuba to see if it had changed in the 15 years since we were last here. Will be interesting seeing it from the sea side and taking inland trips by car to small towns in Cuba, something we couldn’t do then. With America starting to open the doors to Cuba we wondered how different it would be even in another 15 years.

The passage from the Bahamas took us south thru the Windward passage between Cuba and Haiti to Cuba’s southern coast and clearing Customs and Immigration at Santiago de Cuba; past the restricted Guantanamo Bay. The coastline all the way to Santiago de Cuba was very rocky and mountainous with a few small towns. There were fishermen all along the coast who row out to their fishing areas sometimes many miles away. The only light they have at night turns on when they see our boats navigation lights.

P1080021

Our first glimpse of Puerto Santiago de Cuba is a small tourist town, Ciudad del Mar, high on the hilltop and the impressive Castillo Del Morro, guarding the entranceway to the port. Approx 1 mile up the river was the marina and another 3-4 miles up was the port and city of Santiago, the second largest city in Cuba with a population close to 1 million.

Entrance to Santiago

Entrance to Santiago

 

Castillo del Morro

Castillo del Morro

 

huge freighters, cruise ships make their way up to the port past the marina

huge freighters, cruise ships make their way up to the port past the marina

The marina was definitely a lot busier than we thought it would be with 16 boats either docked or anchored close to the marina. Our Rose had to raft up to us at the marina to clear in as there was no room at the pier for them. At $18US a night each we stayed rafted up so it was easy to go and do things on land.

Rafted up.

Rafted up.

The whole clearing in process with Customs and Immigration in Santiago de Cuba was very confusing and took many hours to complete. On entry we were put in quarantine, not that we knew that at the time, anchored on the other side of the bay till the medical doctor came by boat to question us on our state of health. The fire drill then began with instructions to move over to the marina where more officials would board the boat or just never turn up. The best was the Sanitation and fumigation officers who walked around with a spray can but decided the boat was very clean so sat and had colas and muffins with us. Customs and the drug sniffing Labrador, King, did not end up coming to our boat, there were other boats that needed their attention. We were presented with 30 day tourist visas and told we could now go on land.

King and the customs officer

King and the customs officer

The marina staff were all friendly and liked to sit and talk; us learning Spanish and them English. We had some big action one day when 2 boats dragged in the anchorage off the marina, with some strong winds. The marina staff asked Brett & Richard to help with the rescue of one of the boats as there was some difficulty getting it to re-anchor. This definitely helped us build a close relationship with the staff.
P1080093

There are many local people standing around near the marina gates. Why? I guess when the new gringos arrive in town they hope to get some of their business. Cubans have become very entrepreneurial in setting up businesses and getting work from tourists and other Cubans, something that has only been allowed openly in the last 5 years or so. Yes the doors are opening for these people and they say life is improving, but slowly. People are paid monthly and very little; between $10US & $50US and depending on their jobs receive rations for main staples like rice, flour etc; according to the people we met.

Pedro who lives opposite the marina organized a day trip to the city to exchange money, visit the international hospital for a chiropractor visit, wander the streets of the city and then back to his house for dinner with his family. Pedro and Rosa put on an incredible meal and were very generous people. A night of good food & dancing.

Russian cars are very common. 4 of us crammed into this 25 year old marvel of engineering

Russian cars are very common. 4 of us crammed into this 25 year old marvel of engineering

The streets of Santiago are so clean and yes busy

The streets of Santiago are so clean and yes busy

stalls set up to sell all sorts of trinkets

stalls set up to sell all sorts of trinkets

performer in one of the many squares

performer in one of the many squares

While Cuba’s medical system is advanced they do not have chiropractors. The whole process we went thru to learn this was very interesting but ended up being a complete waste of time on getting Brett’s back sorted.
Here’s Brett going to the public hospital by ambulance with his own nurse after his first consultation of many to come. Why by ambulance because that’s just the process. We followed in the Muskovich.

P1080034

Michael Angelo, a soft spoken Cuban took us on a tour of the city of Santiago de Cuba, which is busy with a great vibe and a lot of history in the many plazas and parks around. Lots of Cubans about working and limin’.

A view of Santiago from a roof top. Didn't feel this crowded when you were in the streets.

A view of Santiago from a roof top. Didn’t feel this crowded when you were in the streets.

 

Casa de la Música had a great atmosphere

Casa de la Música had a great atmosphere

Plaza de la revolution Antonio Maceo – Josie Marti on his horse asking Cubans to join him in the fight against the Spanish. Like their Russian amigos the Cuban’s like big public statues.
P1080078

Moncada Barracks was a military barracks and in 1953 Fidel Castro attacked the barracks, proof being the bullet holes near the front doors. This was the start of Castro’s Revolution. The building now has become a boarding school for young children and has an area set aside as a museum to learn about the start of the revolution.
P1080085

There are many stalls selling food on the side of the road in Santiago. I’m glad we don’t need any meat.

Meat, ham, onions and peppers for sale

Meat, ham, onions and peppers for sale

The butcher perhaps

The butcher perhaps

We saw so many different ways of getting around Santiago and surrounding areas. So awesome.

this old American car looked more comfy than our small Muskovich

this old American car looked more comfy than our small Muskovich

horse & cart, yes even in town

horse & cart, yes even in town

motorcycle and side car. I would have loved to be in the side car.

motorcycle and side car. I would have loved to be in the side car.

Motor-taxi with customer who had live chickens as passengers too

Motor-taxi with customer who had live chickens as passengers too

P1080077

The Auto-bus/trucks for locals; squished in like Cuban sardines.

In Cuba most of the restaurants are govt. owned and typically more expensive. After our city tour Michael Angelo and his wife who have a private restaurant above their home invited us to the restaurant for a seafood dinner. He ended up setting up a table in his living room as a storm came through and it was too windy up in the roof top restaurant. We had fish, lobster, shrimp and octopus with salad and rice, dessert and of course rum & wine and it was $70US for 4 people.
P1080094

Castillo del Morro, at the entrance to the port had been built in the late 1500’s as a defense against pirates. You could see why when you stood high on the hillside. By 1775 the fear of attack had diminished and a part of the fort was converted into a prison for political prisoners, including a torture chamber. It was used again in 1898 as a fortress during the Spanish-American war. It is in remarkable condition with many different levels each with amazing views out to the coast and up towards the city.
P1080098

We made a trip to El Cobre, 18 kilometers away to see their Basilica; Patron Saint of Cuba where people from all over the world bring offerings to ask or thank her for protection. The drive to El Cobre was like we had moved back in time with a lot of horse and carts, people working the land on the side of the road by hand and the old American cars driving by.
P1080056P1080050

offerings and letters are written by people to thank for healing the body

offerings and letters are written by people to thank for healing the body

Cayo Granma is a Cay opposite the marina where we wandered the narrow cobblestone streets lined with houses and had lunch at a govt run restaurant. Hurricane Sandy had caused a lot of damage on this small island with ruins sitting where homes used to be. This small Cay actually has a population of 1000, no cars, a school for small children, church, dentist and doctor and a few private owned restaurants. Entry onto the island is by boat only.

The blue & white bldg is the govt. restaurant

The blue & white bldg is the govt. restaurant

Cobblestone streets

Cobblestone streets

Time to move on. To move from one Cuban port to another, on departure you are presented with a despacho for presentation to The Guarda Frontera or coast guard office of future anchorages and marinas in Cuba. The Guarda Frontera will find a local boat to row out to sailboats to check and document your information and then clear you in and out of that anchorage. The despacho is obviously the way the government tries to know where we are in their country. But who knows where the information goes and how long it takes to get anything done with it. There is no charge for this “service”.

Guarda Frontera in Marea Del Portillo on his way to see us

Guarda Frontera in Marea Del Portillo on his way to see us

 

All good!

All good!

More soon..