In the late afternoon of April 9th we sailed to the Jardines de la Reina, a vast archipelago consisting of more than 4000 little “cayos” of coral origin and often covered by mangroves. The passage was a bit rough, with 25+ knots of wind and a few squalls that nicely washed the boat.
The first place where we anchored was on the west side of Cayo Anclita; in its sheltered lagoon, but too shallow for Zoe, there is a very special floating hotel – the Palapa Tortuga. We reached the hotel by dinghy aiming to get info on the area and possibly to buy a few liters of gasoline for the outboard engine. The owners were extremely generous with the gasoline (that gave us for free) but very conservative about the info on the nearby area.
The next day we headed to Cayo Cuervo where we enjoyed walking and swimming on a very tiny islet with a strip of white sand surrounded by crystal clear water with stunning colors.
The following morning, on our way to Cayo Algodones, we passed through Cayo Manuel Gomez, where again we experienced a glorious white sand beach with even more stunning colors of the water and the added bonus of a stingray patrolling the beach. We were not impressed by Cayo Algodones, so the day after we went back south to Cayo Alcatracito, a pearl of the archipelago. We anchored on a patch of sand making sure we were not damaging any coral, and spent the night in a beautiful bay with a white sand beach in front of us and the reef behind us. The next day we experienced the best snorkeling ever, being able to see hundreds different fishes and a great variety of coral colors. We were approached by a boat of fishermen who offered us lobsters which we bought for a few CUCs and a bottle of rum. In the afternoon we sailed to Cayo Breton where we were approached again by another fishermen boat. As we declined the offer for more lobsters, they asked anyhow for a bottle of rum, which we happily gave them, ending up with four more lobsters in our fridge.
On April 15th we left Cayo Breton and the Jardines de la Reina. As the wind was forecasted to reinforce, we went to find shelter at Cayo Zaza de Fuera, a very protected bay recommended by our guide. As soon as we arrived we were called on the VHF by a nearby sailboat whose owners, a British couple, advised us about the poor holding of the bottom, requiring a long chain to avoid dragging. We started with 50 meters, but we had to go up to 90 meters to get to a safe holding.
On Easter we sailed to Cayo Blanco, the last stop before Cienfuegos. After many days of solitary islands, here there was one house hosting a restaurant! Walking on the beach we had to dribble the hundreds of paguros going their ways.
In the early morning of April 17th we headed to Cienfuegos, lying in a deep, protected bay on the south coast of Cuba. Though the marina is conveniently located in a nice area of Punta Gorda, close to the Yacht Club and other facilities, it turned out to be quite inefficient, with severe management problems and lack of resources (e.g., water).
On the other hand, we had a great first impression of the city of Cienfuegos, which is easily reachable by public bus and featuring a great vegetable and fruit market to make provisions!
We enjoyed several musical bands performing in the streets and in coffee shops. The city is characterized by many colonial and art deco buildings and the main square, Plaza Marti, is the beating heart of the city hosting multiple cultural and music attractions. Close to the marina there is Palacio de Valle, a very unique example of eclectic style, where on its terrace we enjoyed a few mojitos listening to Cuban music.