Cuba. I have never returned from a sailing trip with so much to say.
The coming weeks will be an interesting test to see if I can capture my thoughts in a way that adequately expresses why we will definitely be back – sooner than later – and why each person considering a charter trip to Cuba must be fully armed with information about sailing in this beautiful place.
Hear this: The risk is as great as the reward.
On our last evening when we were back on the dock at the Cienfuegos marina my husband observed “We have had some near-misses on sailing trips before, but I don’t think we had any this time.” He was commenting on the fact that we had managed the challenging sailing environment well. After a minute he continued, “Maybe this whole trip was a near miss.”
There it is. The risk. The things they don’t tell you, the things you probably should have asked about but didn’t realize you needed to. How fast can this boat motor? Better yet, how fast can it motor straight into 30 knot winds when the only option for safe harbor is 50 nautical miles away?
Questions like that.
But if you are prepared and have the right crew and the right boat, there are great rewards to be had. The Jardines de la Reina (The Gardens of the Queen) to the East is a National Park harboring one of the World’s most spectacular, thriving ocean eco systems for diving and snorkeling with abundant aquatic life, reef sharks, and even alligators. Cayo Largo and its neighboring islands to the West boast 120 miles of unspoiled white sand beaches and the lightest blue teal water imaginable. In each of these locations, you literally have the place to yourself, which when you stop to think about it, is both a risk and a reward.
In the coming weeks we will chronical more details about Cuba with an eye towards helping future sailors know if this is the right destination for them. Things like how to get there, if they should hire a captain, provisioning ins and outs, the formal documentation process at a port of entry, and expectations for currency, language, logistics and sailing skills. What everyone MUST know about charter sailing in Cuba.
And the thing is, if you are prepared, if you know what to expect, if you plan ahead, this might well be the best sailing experience you’ve ever had. We cannot wait to return for that very reason.
As for our recent trip, it was not at all what we expected. The sails, rigging, and motors on the older 38-foot Catamaran we rented simply would not make it to the places we intended to go. Because of big wind and big waves working against us, it was impossible to cover the large distances required for the area. But we loved it all the same, and the gems like Trinidad that we did find were magnificent.
But we have unfinished business.
When planning our trip and mapping out a sail plan we thought we would head to the West, toward Cayo Largo, but we ended up being directed East. We still want to sail to Cayo Largo. At no time did we think we could make it all the way to the Jardines de la Reinia, but now we cannot wait to go. There is so much we didn’t get to see on our first trip, we have to go back.
Beyond the sailing, I suppose my unfinished business extends to wanting to learn more about this complex country whose history is unfolding, and whose well-being is directly impacted by political choices made by the leadership in our country as much as the political system of Cuba. It is hard not to come away from a trip to Cuba questioning what you thought you knew. Questioning what you’ve been told.
If nothing else, this once thriving society serves as a cautionary tale.
I can say this with certainty, though: The people we met at every stage of our journey were exceptional. This is something we frequently find traveling to new places, because while it isn’t always true, more often than not it is. In the case of Cuba, you’ll find a community of people who are incredibly resourceful, open to opportunity, and intensely knowledgeable about the American political state of things because, more than you’d think, it directly impacts their lives.
There is more for us to see in Cuba. We will be back. In the meantime, we’ll unravel our experiences in upcoming posts and attempt to share as much as we can about this utterly unique place in the world.