We were excited to be heading for Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s former capital on the south eastern coast and one of the few points of entry. What should have been a three day sail took us five due to the wind shadow caused by the 1900 m Hispaniola mountain chain. Having daughter Megs on board eased the night watches considerably as we could each get six hours’ sleep instead of four.
Southern Cuba sits on an underwater escarpment that rises sharply from depths of thousands of metres and it has some amazing, almost completely land locked natural harbours, Santiago de Cuba being one.
After entering via the narrow channel we tied up at the marina and were warmly greeted by its manager who told us to stay on board until the doctor had examined us. A white coated lady arrived, enquired about our health, took our forehead temperatures and cleared us to proceed on shore.
Jolly Harbour on the west of Antigua was an easy landfall and we anchored outside the channel, along with perhaps 14 other yachts and the next morning took the dinghy to clear in and do some shopping. Development along the coastline is first world and substantial; palatial homes, guest accommodation and hotels. We later learnt that much of the coastline is private property above the high tide level, which includes most of the beach, as the tide only rises about half a metre in the Caribbean.
Replacement of our sail being a top priority, I sent out some email enquiries and we later motored around the coast to nearby St. John’s, from where we could get transport. Here we found the anchor holding very poor, eventuating in the need to motor back out a kilometre to Side Hill Bay, where, after several more attempts, the anchor finally held.
It was only a two hour sail from Charlotteville around the headland to Bloody Bay. If one looks at the peaceful bay, it is hard to believe that it derived its name from pirate activity in the early 1700’s. It is a small bay with facilities only for day visitors.
For a small island, 42km long and 10km wide, we found that Tobago punches well above its weight! It’s one of the last unspoilt Caribbean islands lying just south of the hurricane belt, close to the coast of South America and 33km north-east of its ‘parent’ Trinidad.
It has lush, tropical rain forest clad mountains with beautiful beaches and quiet bays. The island has two season: a wet and a dry season. The temperature is around 30 degrees C with no seasonal change.
It was a beautiful, peaceful morning, at first light, when we sailed from Enseada das Palmas on the north eastern side of Ilha Grande. We were rather sad to leave this beautiful area after having explored and enjoyed it for almost two months.
We had to sail directly east, past Rio de Janeiro, to round the cape at Cabo Frio before we could head north. We were grateful for good wind of 16 -20 knots from the starboard aft quarter to push us along but the sea was boisterous and lumpy with short, steep swells and breaking crests, the odd one drenching the boat. If it wasn’t for our canvas covers the cockpit would have been totally soaked. Karin got terribly seasick again and I got only about two hours’ sleep that first night, partly as I was by now unaccustomed to the noises of ocean sailing.
After exploring on our own for a few weeks we had some appreciation of the unique and beautiful area around Ilha Grande and were looking forward to the arrival of young family members with whom to share our experiences.
Pete had earlier sent them a shopping list and when we collected them at Marina Piratas in Angra dos Reis, he was embarrassed to discover that one full check-in bag had been dedicated to his boating needs.
We found what appeared to be the perfect anchorage; the shore of steeply rising Ilha da Gipoia a few metres away, covered with every shade and texture of verdant forest. Trees soar upwards, supported on tall, narrow, grey trunks, their foliage finally bursting outwards, finding light, and every nook beneath crammed with prolific, lush growth. Typically the land, clothed in profusion of green dotted with mauve, drops abruptly to a round bouldered shore lapped by the sea.
To me St Helena was just a dot in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, a stop-over for westward bound sailors. However, since we spent ten glorious days there, it is engraved in my mind as a beautiful, diverse and interesting island, well worth a visit.
I will remember it for the warm and welcoming Saints, as the locals are called, the place where I swam with Whale sharks, set foot on the same soil as greats like James Cook, Charles Darwin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Edmund Halley, Captain Bligh as well as the Duke of Wellington… and hitch-hiked for the first time in my life. Sadly, it is also the place where I lost my precious drone with its GoPro camera before I could publish even a single drone video clip on this blog.