Friday, May 24, 2013

Cuba To Goodland, Florida

Bridget and Elena arrived Marina Hemingway the afternoon of May 3. We spent a couple of days exploring Havana (Architecture is not exactly my thing, but Havana is really something to see). We then hired a car to drive us to the city of Trinidad (just 20-30 miles east of Cienfuegos) on the south coast. It's a UNESCO world heritage site (as is Cienfuegos. Cuba has 9 in total). Trinidad really exceeded my expectations with its lovely old buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and lively atmosphere. We liked it so much that we stayed a day more than originally planned. One the way there and on the way back we stopped at The Bay Of Pigs for snorkeling. The coral was in pretty good shape, but the underwater wildlife was less interesting. Our final day in Cuba was spent lounging around Marina Hemingway and getting Twister ready for the passage to Florida.

     Cuba--Loved it and hated it. Visually mesmerizing, people as friendly as you'll find anywhere, but (especially if you're on a boat) endless bureaucracy, and for every truly generous and nice person you meet, there is another trying to rip you off. Cuban people are outgoing and amiable, so it's easy to get caught off guard. I should correct something I wrote in the previous post:  It seems there is no problem for foreigners entering Cubans' homes for short visit (we had dinner with one family). Staying overnight, however, is not allowed unless the house has a license as a hostel/bed-and-breakfast (as determined from the anchor-like symbol on outside walls of these homes).
     The basic necessities (ie rum and cigars) can be had very cheaply in Cuba using Moneda Nacional (the regular currency. 24 = 1 dollar). Imported and luxury goods have to be purchased with the convertible peso and can be expensive.  Photos from Cuba here.

We departed Cuba the evening of Friday May 10 and motored for 5 hours before we picked up the tradewinds.  We had planned to sail past Dry Tortugas but the Gulf Stream carried us so far east that it made more sense to pass through Boca Grande Channel between Boca Grande and Marquesas Keys, which we did the night of May 11-12. At the shallowest point we had maybe 5 feet of water under the keel. The winds eased on the 12th and we raised the asymmetrical spinnaker on the final leg from The Florida Keys to Marco Island. The evening of May 12th we approached Cape Romano having decided to attempt Coon Key Pass into Goodland. As both approaches (the other being Marco River) to Goodland are very shallow, an entry near high tide would be preferable. As darkness descended, we were sailing along at 5 knots (with some help from tidal stream) in charted depths of 10 feet, when, just as I was saying that we should reduce sail to slow the boat down to time our approach correctly,  the boat shuddered to a stop on a sandbank. Elena and Bridget went to the bow (where the keel is shallower) to no avail (only later did I mention seeing some commotion in the water which I thought looked like sharks). After trying to free the boat using the engine, the rising tide eventually lifted us off and we quickly retreated and headed for Capri Pass and The Marco River. We reached Capri Pass at dawn (May 13th) and were met by Jim and Noreen in their little Whaler motorboat. They jumped aboard and we towed the whaler as we motored down the river. We ran aground only twice more before reaching Jim and Noreen's house in Goodland on the southern end of Marco Island. Twister has been tied to their dock since.

     My time in Goodland has been very enjoyable. Jim and Noreen have been very hospitable. It was great to see many friends (who were gathered there for a wedding celebration) I hadn't seen in over two years. Now that the wedding party has gone home, I have been staying busy doing some of the inevitable boat projects that have piled up.

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