Leaving Marina Hemingway
After a week and a half in Marina Hemingway, inadequately expensive, noisy, mosquito-infested place with terrible facilities, we are eager to leave and sail west. On the way out of the marina, we have to clear la guarda and immigration again. In Cuba, you have to go through this painful process every time you enter or exit a port. Even if you go for a two-hour sail near the shore and comeback to the same port, which we’ve done once while in Marina Hemingway, you have to check out and check back in with la guarda and immigration, as if you are leaving the country and then coming back. This means: officials on board inspecting your passports, boat documentation, and the boat itself, before authorizing the move. I believe, Cuba is the only country who does this to cruisers. Unpleasant.
The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.
Here Ivo and an immigration officer paddle the kayak, El Poderoso (the name of the kayak means The Mighty One in Spanish) back from the boat anchored at Cayo Levisa. Fastest kayak ride ever, said Ivo.
Our plan is to sail 60 miles west to Cayo Levisa and spend a few days there, then continue to Cabo San Antonio, the westernmost tip of the island before crossing over to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
We hoist the main sail and the jib early in the morning on August 4, but there is not much wind until noon. The ocean surface is calm and sleek like the skin of a sleeping manatee. The boat barely moves with 1,5 knots.
Viktor and Maya are doing some laundry while the boat gently sails west.
In the afternoon the wind picks up from the east and we start making good progress doing about 6-7 knots, wing-on-wing. Our autopilot and wind gauges don’t work since we started this journey, so we never know what is the wind speed, and we constantly hand-steer the boat. These are two major things we have to work on as soon as possible, but for now we just make the best of it. We became really good at ‘feeling’ the boat while steering and guessing the wind. They certainly didn’t have wind indicators and autopilots in the old times, is our consolation.
Thus we sail west all day along the Cuban north coast keeping a safe distance from the reef breakers, on the edge of the indigo-colored Gulf Stream. On our left slowly float by soft green hills, deserted beaches, and small coastal villages.
As the sun prepares to dive behind the horizon, we prepare to clear the reef and find an anchorage behind Cayo Levisa. It has been a long day.
Fata Morgana is the only sailboat at Cayo Levisa anchorage.
Cayo Levisa is a tiny mangrove island with a long stretch of fine sand on the north side. Tourists, mainly from Italy and France, arrive here daily, but the place is never overcrowded, as there aren’t any hotels, but a few coquette wooden bungalows alongside the beach. I wonder, how much it would cost to come here and rent one of these for a week. The good thing about sailing is that you can visit places like this and stay as long as you want for the reasonable amount of zero.
Cayo Levisa Beach
We even get a huge pile of fruits and vegetables as a gift from a guy who works here. Marcus is one of those rare people with open hearts and minds and a talent for kindness and benevolence. „Remember, not all Cubans are like those you met in Havana. In the countryside, people are welcoming, honest, and generous, even if they are poor“, he tells us with a perfect English. This little gesture illuminated our entire Cuban experience and restored our faith in this country’s ordinary people.
An unexpected gift.
The next couple of days we spend with Harley and April who followed us here from Havana. Together we go snorkeling on the reefs in the morning, feeding with leftovers the thousands of yellowtails and sergeant-majors swarming near the corrals who come and take small pieces of food from our hands. We spend the afternoons on the beach submerged in the warm shallow waters only our heads sticking out, like a family of hippopotamuses, around a small surf board where we rest our beers, exchanging stories.
And in the evenings, the kids stay on the boat and watch Back to the Future 1, 2 and 3, while we go on shore to the small restaurant and dance on the beach. April brings two cords with scorched tennis-size balls at the ends where we attach glowing sticks because we couldn’t find kerosine and teaches us to fire-dance but without the fire (and a good thing too, especially for beginners). Ivo is natural and ambitiously masters most of the moves in just a few hours. The tourists are sitting at a safe distance, watching us.
Maya drinking Cola at the beach restaurant
Although we enjoy our time in Cayo Levisa, we get disappointed again when we try to go on the other side to the mainland and visit La Esperanza, a tiny fishermen village nearby. The authorities tell us we cannot go. Even if Harley and April would stay behind and keep an eye on our boat, we are not aloud to set foot anywhere except Cayo Levisa. The explanation is that there is no customs and immigration authorities there to clear us in (although we already cleared three times in Cuba…) It’s ridiculous. Not being able to go on shore and explore the country’s rural interior is the biggest downside of visiting Cuba by boat.
The next morning, we lift anchor and sail off to our last Cuban destination: Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio.