Monday, March 19, 2018

Freedom and food in the Cayos- 17th March 2018

After leaving Manzanillo we spent 5 relaxing nights in the Cays, away from the coast we can anchor wherever we please and there's no Guarda so no check in and out, but also no services or settlements so we will now need to be totally self sufficient until we reach Cienfuegos. The south of Cuba is a maze of coral and mangrove islands and careful pilotage is required along with a good look out. Some of the main channels are marked and often there's a stick on a shallow patch or marking an entrance the fishermen use.

Our first day out from Manzanillo was lovely and calm so we motor sailed West in about 7 knots of North East wind. We did a few boat jobs along the way while marvelling at the emerald green water - I really haven't seen water this colour. A cold front was due to clip the north of the island and we were expecting light Westerly winds that afternoon which came in just as we approach Cayo Rabihorcado -this gave us the unusual opportunity to anchor on the East side of this Cay.

The beach on the east side of Rabihorcado is just stunning and the water so clear with a huge shallow sand bank covered in rays and turtles. We went ashore and swam in the crystal clear shallows - it felt like heaven. There wasn't much to see on the reef; weed and some coral and we went to explore the anchorage on the other side by dinghy; it was also nice but not as spectacular as where we were.

We had a perfect calm relaxing night and then left the next morning at 9am heading further West. It was a bit cloudy early in the day and very light winds that completely dropped off by mid-day to officially zero and a glassy sea. Andrew caught a small snapper and I had a pedicure, then after lunch we caught a much larger crevalle jack. Woohoo the fridge was full of fish…..

We worked our way into the protected Cayo Granada, which is vitually totally encircled with mangrove and reef, with just a narrow channel of submerged reef that you pass over. It was eerie quiet with the calm lagoon and not a sound. We went to explore the two wrecks in the centre of the bay and braved snorkeling in the murky water and found huge numbers of fish and two nice wrecks with some soft corals. On one side of the bay there's looked to be a sand peninsular - but when we got there it turned out to be stinky mangrove mud with horseflies. The land breeze from the north east came in early evening - zero wind to 16 knots and the smell of smoke arrived within 10 minutes.
Wrecks to explore

Pretty but stinky!

Jack fish

 I cooked up the snapper with a breading mix Dianne gave us in Beaufort. I would never have bought something like that but wow, you just wet the fish and zip it in the powder and it was like real battered fish. Andrew was so excited and the fish was delicious.

 A long run was ahead of us the next day so we followed our track out of Cayo Granada and set a course through the Cays toward the very protected Cayo Cuervo. We went through two really narrow canals during the day, we snuck close to Cayo Malabrigo, which looked like the perfect sand atoll of the San Blas in Panama. We took a diversion from the charted route to save time and picked our way through the reef round two larger cays near to Cuervo - we had to do this to try and ensure we had good light to get over the submerged reef at the entrance - much like at Granada. It was all fine and then as we approached the Cay we saw a strange sight on our AIS - a yacht, wow people for the first time in 10 days! Then the name came up Rhapsody…. Omg it couldn't be our friends John and Ada we last saw in the Canaries and first met in A Coruna, we grabbed their card and confirmed it was their MMSI. They did the same and immediately called us on the VHF - what a totally amazing coincidence. So much so that with all the excitement we missed a huge shoal in the centre of the bay - woops, luckily it was just mud and sand. We had a lovely catch up with John and Ada over sunset, sharing all our adventures since we were last together. They left early the next morning and we decided to stay for a few days to wait for the perfect weather to go and visit La Jardines de la Reina.
Buoyage is quite good

Old friends - John and Ada

Cuervo actually turned out to be a busy and fascinating anchorage as it's a fishing base. The shrimp trawlers mostly go out over night and return in the morning unload the catch to a mother ship, get food or provisions from a supply ship and all work together. The mother ship then takes the catch back to port while they are out fishing. There are boats moving around nearly all the time and a lot of singing and loud talking. They are all numbered and mostly identical boats - C5 was the boldest that would come pretty close to us - really wanting us to go over and trade shrimp. We got used to the boats and even though at first I felt a bit nervous with so many of them (up to 13 one evening) but there were all friendly and a safe distance away from us.

Catching Lobster
Our catch

We got on top of our maintenance and laundry in this safe spot and spent a calm morning out on the reef on the southern side of the bay. The water was fairly clear here and the coral quite nice but there was lobsters, lots of lobsters!! In the space of half an hour Andrew caught four - so exciting, we are definitely not going to run out of food out here.

Saturday morning we pulled our muddy anchor that was so well set after a couple of windy days and headed south!

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