Having checked-in successfully, we spent the next few days exploring Santiago, getting some work on the boat done that I had been putting off till we were on the dock and enjoying the lower prices of food and drink. Coming from the Bahamas, even $1 beers are cheap! We saw the sights: Castillo Del Morro, Cayo Granma, shopped in the market, ate in a Paladar and took a taxi ride in a 1951 Chevy. It’s true what they say about Santiago, you can take it as a city of hustlers or a city full of culture and life. Once you figure out that you’re pretty much always getting hustled one way or another and you accept it, you can go on enjoying the city. I came to the conclusion that as long as I’m getting a decent value out of whatever it is (bike tour, being shown where to get a specific item, etc.) I’m ok with it. It’s worth noting that Rachel speaks no Spanish and I speak only a little in spite of years of classes in high school and college. I’m sure someone with more Spanish knowledge would be able to fair better. We did ok for ourselves nevertheless. (we were shorted every time we ate at the marina and over charged when clearing out – so check your change carefully)
We moved to anchor to save some money after all the boat work was finished with. Of course right after we moved a cold front descended on Cuba. The harbor was very sheltered compared to what we had gotten used to in the Bahamas, but with the wind singing in the rigging I never get a good nights sleep. We had planned to leave on Sunday morning but after looking at the GRIB we decided the 25kts forecasted was more than we felt like dealing with in the windward passage. Monday the wind was expected to lessen from 20 to 15 then to 10 by the time we reached Jamaica. Checking out was pretty simple, you notify the marina you plan to leave a day ahead of time. Then before you clear out a guy from the customs office comes aboard and checks to make sure no Cubans are hiding in your lockers. After that its some papers to sign and waiting for a call from the higher ups that all is well and you’re free to go. We rowed out to the boat and secured the dingy on deck. After upping the anchor we headed back out the harbor toward the ocean, and set a course of 190 degrees toward Port Antonio, Jamaica, 110 miles Ahead.
Couple things I’d like to clear up. First, they do not stamp your passports. Second, there are no Cuban gun boats or American Coastguard hanging out 12 miles out. Keep your AIS on so everyone knows you’re coming. If an American simply goes to a different country before heading back to the states there should be no issues. That being said, get the commerce department and coastguard clearance if you can. Don’t listen to people saying its dangerous, that your boat will get taken, that you’ll get locked up in some communist prison camp. Decide if you’re ok with the lack of insurance and go. It’s one of the last virgin cruising grounds left. Don’t expect it to last. The cuban people are full of life, color and music. We feel lucky we got the chance to experience all of it before the country opens fully to tourism. Onto Jamaica!
Rachel has put together a great gallery on the website with a ton of photos: Here
This article was syndicated from Cruising – Beautiful Crazy Happiness