Cuba – Cayo Largo

April 28th was our last day in L’Habana, and for Clara in Cuba. We accompanied her to the airport on our way back to Cienfuegos. We arrived at the marina late in the afternoon and started preparing Zoe for our trip to Cayo Largo, planned for the following day. The distance to cover was about 60 miles, so we left around 6pm on the 29th in order to arrive in the early morning at the marina in Cayo Largo.

As usual in Cuba, as soon as we docked we received the visit of the officials checking our “despacho” and giving us clearance to stay. At the dock we met Giuseppe, an Italian skipper who just returned from a 2 week charter with a catamaran. As we discovered later, Cayo Largo is a very popular destination for Italians chartering boats. As a matter of a fact, in Cayo Largo there are also many resorts hosting (mainly?) Italians and Russians.
The area around the marina is fairly small and with no special attractions. In fact, after walking for about a hour, we  decided to explore the neighborhoods by dinghy. We ended up in Playa Serena, on the north side of the island, a typical tropical beach, with white sand and palms providing shadow. Not too bad as a start, but in fact the real beauties had to come. On our way back we stopped at the a cute near by island. What a surprise when we landed; a large iguana came toward us showing curiosity for the new comers. In fact we later discovered that this is a popular stop for tourists that unfortunately feed the many iguanas that populate the island. We were lucky to be the only visitors that evening and to have had the attention of these creatures all for us.

Island of the Iguanas

Island of the Iguanas

Island of the Iguanas

When we returned to the marina we heard loud music coming from the main “plaza” – which we assumed was part of the preparation for the 1st May celebration. Surprisingly no one was there apart from the loudspeakers! We went to bed expecting something to happen the next day, but in fact at around midnight we were woken up by someone loudly announcing a list of “authorities” who were participating to the celebration. We were too asleep to check what was really happening, but this “parade” went on for quite a while. Conversely, on the 1st of May nothing happened.

At the anchor in Cayo Largo

At the anchor in Cayo Largo

We therefore moved to a bay close to the marina at the anchor, where in the evening we finally had a show, though quite different: the most beautiful and natural fireworks we ever experienced. The dark sky was crossed by a multitude of lightnings which every few seconds were making the night becoming day. As we realized later on, this was the phantasmagorical announcement of the rainy season!
The following days we explored the nearby area. We sailed to Cayo Rico where we found the most beautiful waters we ever seen (how many times did we make this statement already?). Make your own judgement…

Cayo Rico

We did not stay as much as we would have liked to, as we were heading to Cayo Cantiles where -based on what we read – there was a field station for studying a population of monkeys imported from Africa. When we got there at sunset we found three people, the guardians of the island on duty. They were extremely welcoming, but frighteningly surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes. They invited us to return in the morning when they would feed the monkeys, reassuring us that the mosquitoes at that time would have disappeared. We thanked and escaped followed by the nasty blood suckers.
When we returned in the morning at the agreed time, we were quite “disappointed”: the monkeys were already been fed, and on their way back to the bush; the mosquitoes were still there and thirsty of our blood. Even so we took on a trail leading to a pond where supposedly we should have observed crocodiles in the wild. We heroically reached the pond where we did not spot anything, other than the thousands of mosquitoes which seemed to be totally insensitive to our repellents. We walked back beating ourselves with palm leaves, action that reduced the bite rate from dozens to a few per minute. We will never forget the place! We left the island feeling quite sorry for the three guys leaving there.
Cayo Rico
We then returned to Cayo Rico that in our opinion deserved another visit. We enjoyed more swimming and observing the landscape; we left a little piece of our heart in this beautiful island.
The following day at 5.00am we set sails toward Grand Cayman.
We left Cuba with mixed feelings. On one hand, we experienced beautiful, unspoiled landscapes, on the other hand the relationship with the people dealing with tourists was in many instances not very positive. The Cuban social pyramid seems to be upside down – more educated people struggle to keep up with daily needs, while those who are involved in the tourist business earn wedges that are 20-30 times those of a medical doctor, a university teacher, etc.
Everyone we talked to seems convinced that drastic changes need to happen soon, but no one can predict the direction that they will take.
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Cuba – L’Habana

Plaza Vieja at night

On April 23rd we arrived in La Habana where we had booked a “casa particular” in the old part of the city (Habana Vieja). A “casa particular” is an inexpensive accommodation provided by private owners who rent one or more rooms of their apartment; something similar to a B&B. When we started walking through the narrow streets adjacent to our place, we had quite contrasting impressions between the elegance of the old buildings and the state of maintenance and cleaning of some of the streets. Most of the buildings are in neoclassical style dating back to the XIX century and  beautiful examples of Art Deco are also present. Proceeding further towards the main square, Plaza Vieja, we were pleased to see many buildings greatly restored, taken back to their original beauty. The whole La Habana is in fact under a process of renovation, though only some areas take good advantage of it.

Plaza Vieja

Arriving at the Cabaret Parisien

Similarly to other cities in Cuba, music is everywhere and at any time of the day. Small bands play traditional Cuban songs in many café and restaurants, as well as in the streets, spreading a contagious joyful atmosphere involving both locals and tourists. We spent 4 days in La Habana, deepening our understanding of the Cuban history and culture through some key museums and relevant sites; we enjoyed both a music concert at Teatro Marti and a traditional show at the Cabaret Parisien where we celebrated Clara’s birthday.

Old Pharmacy

In general, we found La Habana a fascinating city, where – more than in other places in Cuba – you can experience the contrast between the past and the projection toward a future that is still under definition. One key example is the double currency system, the “CUP” for the Cubans and the “CUC” for the tourists, an attempt to cope with very different purchasing capabilities which is creating enormous disparity between people working with tourism and other workers. As an example, a medical doctor earns in a month less than what a taxi driver makes in a day.

Marina Hemingway

Vintage or Old Cars?

Cuba – Trinidad, Santa Clara and Remedios

On the 19th we were picked up at the marina by a taxi that we reserved through a tourist organization for our trip to Trinidad. It took us about 1.5 hour to get to the town passing along a coastal road where we assisted to the crossing of  thousands of orange and black crabs. These crustaceans leave in land and reach the sea to deposit several hundreds eggs each. Unfortunately, the crossing turns into a lottery of how many of them are killed by the cars passing by.

Trinidad

Trinidad is a small, beautiful town where you can appreciate something picturesque at every corner. The cathedral square is the center of the city and features a very rich and well maintained garden with old style iron panks and a marble statue representing Tersicore, the musa of the dance. We spent the rest of the day waking through the very

Trinidad

colorful streets full of souvenir shops and crowded of tourists. We visited the museum  of controrevolution where we learned about the guerilla carried out in the early 60s by the “bandidos” (controrevolutionary forces) against Fidel.

Trinidad

After a day of “resting” in Cienfuegos we went to Santa Clara to visit the memorial of Che Guevara. What a disappointment when, arriving at the museum, we found out that it was closed due to the rain! The cemetery close by hosts all fighters that gave birth to the revolution together with Fidel, Che Guevara and Camillo Cienfuegos who was another hero of the revolution.  While many of the graveyards dated 1958, some are still empty!

Remedios

We continued towards Remedios, a small colonial city completely restaured. We had lunch for a very reasonable price in a nice restaurant owned by the state. Walking along one of the narrow streets we passed by a tobacco factory where we could see – looking through the windows – the process of making cigars from the tobacco lives.

Cigar factory in Remedios

On the way back to Cienfuegos we crossed many sugar cane plantations, still a wide spread cultivation in Cuba for the production of sugar and rum, the liquor used for many famous cocktails. It was interesting to observe that in the countryside the main mean of transportation is still based on the horse.

We spent the last few days in mainland Cuba staying in La Havana, and had a day trip to Viñales, a country area famous for the tobacco production and the very special landscapes.

Cuba – From the Jardines de la Reina to Cienfuegos

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.

Cayo Anclita – Palapa Tortuga

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.

Cayo Cuervo

Cayo Cuervo

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.

Clara at Cayo Cuervo

Cayo Manuel Gomez

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.

Cienfuegos – Yacht Club

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.

Cuba – from Santiago to Cabo Cruz

We entered the long bay leading to the city of Santiago de Cuba around 10.00pm on March 31st. While sailing the buoyed channel signaling the path to the marina, we were cheerfully greeted by the several fishermen going the opposite way for a night of work. After several attempts, we were able to get the anchor to hold in the muddy bottom close to the marina. The following morning we were waken up by somebody knocking the hull – it was the medical officer coming to inspect our provisions and investigating issues related to our health state. She also gave us some advise on how to treat water, protect against mosquitoes, etc.
This was only the first of several authorities that came on board. After moving to the dock, officers from customs, port authority, immigration and drug prevention thoroughly inspected every corner of the boat , finally giving us the “despacho” to cruise the Cuban waters.

Bus from the marina to the city center

After complying with the bureaucratic procedures, we took a public bus to the city center. This was our first colorful encounter with the Cuban atmosphere: the bus driver welcomed us with a large smile, moving at the rhythm of the salsa music that was playing in the background.
When we got to downtown we had the fortune to meet a university professor working at the Study Center of Antonio Macheo , a hero of the Independence War against Spain in the late 1800.
He invited us to his house and gave us as a present copies of magazines where he published articles on Cuban history. We spent the evening together ending at the Casa della Trova, a place where they play traditional Cuban music.
It was a great introduction to Santiago, which we explored in more depth in the following days, refilling our food reserve with local vegetables and fruit that we could finally find locally produced and at a very cheap price.

Music and ballet in the street

Cemetery of Santa Ipifenia

We were impressed by the lively atmosphere of the city that is the most Caribbean-like province of Cuba. Music was everywhere at any time of the day, with people of every age and status dancing in the streets. On the other hand, the high level of poverty became quite obvious walking in the streets.
Santiago has noticeable buildings from the colonial age, several museums and historical sites that testify the revolution period. We had the chance to visit the cemetery of “Santa Ifigenia”, where important figures of the Cuban history are buried, including Fidel Castro.

Castillo el Morro

Taking a brief ferry ride from the marina, we visited the islet of Granma as well as the Castillo El Morro, that was built by the Spaniards in the 17th century to protect Santiago from the attack of the pirates financed by France and England.
On April 5th we met Clara, a friend of us arriving from Italy, at the Parque De Cespedes.

The following morning we left the marina heading towards Chivirico, a small village south west of Santiago. We dropped anchor in a very protected lagoon – with a heart beating access – we almost touched the sand bottom at the very entrance!

Civirico – The fishermen’s dock

Chivirico – Cine Guama

The following day we left our dinghy at the fishermen’s dock to do some provisioning at the local vegetable and fruit market. We could fill our empty fridge of eggplants, peppers, onions, cucumbers, bananas and tomatoes for a total of 4 CUC (1 CUC = 1 euro).
When we got back to the dock we had a heart attack not seeing our dinghy were we left it! Some fisherman urged to reassure us that the “guardafronteras” (coast guard) borrowed it to reach another sailboat anchored close to Zoe. We patiently waited their return expecting some check on us, especially because we were told we could not land in Chivirico. Unexpectedly they were kind of ashamed – they thanked us for the use of the dinghy and helped us load our goods wishing us a safe journey.
We left anyhow heading to Marea del Portillo that was described as a lively touristic place. For us it was a convenient stop on our way west. We explored the tiny village consisting of very poor houses; we were really touched by a man who invited us to his house offering as a gift a small pack of coffee and lots of onions, refusing any money but asking for any used clothes that we could leave. We were also impressed by seeing a shop reserved to people exhibiting the “libreta” – an allowance for basic alimentary needs, such as bread, milk, etc. We left the village with a feeling of sorrow and helplessness.

Cabo Cruz – Restaurant

We continued towards Cabo Cruz, the west end tip of the coast we were navigating. We anchored at night in the very sheltered bay in front of the lighthouse – built in the 1871. In the morning we were waken up by the knocking of the “guardafronteras” who wanted to check our “despacho” – the authorization to sail the Cuban waters. With a very friendly attitude, they recommended to visit the small village and to have lunch at the only restaurant of the village. We had a good meal for less than 5 euros for the 3 of us – including beers which we paid twice as much the food itself. On our way back to the dinghy we were offered at a real bargain price a few lobsters – we walked back to the boat with our dinner! In the afternoon we did some good snorkeling in the nearby reef, where we could admire a great variety of coral.

Turks and Caicos

Cockburn town

On March 21st we left the Dominican Republic heading towards the Turks and Caicos archipelago.
Although a longer route, we decided to pass through the Silver Bank, that is a vast area of shallow water where whales gather to breed on their way to the North. We arrived there early in the morning anxious to encounter the humpback whales, but – there is always a but, the weather did not help us. We read on a book that you must be very unlucky not to see any whale in this period, and we were among those few unlucky people. It was raining and waves were up to 3 meters, drastically limiting the visibility. Actually we could sketch a pair of them by their sprays, and at a far distance one jumping out of the water, but overall it was a disillusion. Instead of spending the whole day on the bank as originally planned, we decided to continue immediately toward Grand Turk, where we arrived in the morning of the 23rd.

Gravenor Bay

We anchored just in front of the custom office, in the south part of Gravenor Bay – a beautiful long white sand beach with crystal clear waters. After clearing in we went by dinghy to Cockburn Town, about 2 miles north. The city has a long line of houses facing the seaside with several salt ponds on the back side. Salt production was the main income of the island till the 19th century; in fact, to maximize the salt concentration and to limit the rainfall, producers did cut most of the trees of the island. These ponds are now a nesting area for many species of birds.

A lady who gave us a ride

The day after we went back to the city for some provisioning and decided to walk; we tried, without much conviction, to hitch hike. What a surprise when the first car going by stopped and gave us a ride to the city. We were equally lucky on the way back as well as in the afternoon when we decided to return to downtown given it was so easy! This way we met very nice and friendly people, a police woman, a fisherman, a carpenter, etc., who were curious to know our story.

Grand Turk Cruise Center

Grand Turk is a popular stop for cruise ships; since it is a fairly small island with few touristic attractions, the cruise companies built a “Cruise Center” close by the ship dock, hosting a large swimming pool, several duty free shops, restaurants and bars, as well as hundreds beach chairs lined up on the small beach in front of the center.

Cockburn Harnbour

The following day we headed to South Caicos passing through Salt Cay – a small island bordered by long white sand beaches, which unfortunately we could not visit as the wind and waves were unfavorable for anchoring.
We arrived at South Caicos in the early afternoon and anchored in front of Cockburn Harbour, the “capital” and only city of the island.
The major activity in the island is fishing, with a particular focus on lobsters; in fact there are a couple of conservation factories which export to North America.

The Hole

While walking on the main road of Cockburn Harbour, we were stopped by a lady – the custom officer of the island – who, together with her daughter, kindly gave us an orientation ride of the village, and dropped us at the premises of the only hotel in the island. From there we walked to one of the salt ponds that are also present in this island. The highlights here were the “hole”, where the water from the ocean entered the pond through a natural underground channel, as well as a group of pink and grey flamingos resting at sunset.

Bell Sound

The next morning we wished to visit Bell Sound, a large bay of very shallow and crystal clear waters, located in the north part of the island – though we should have walked about 4 miles. We then tried to hitch hike again and immediately a pick up truck stopped and gave us a ride. On the way back we were picked up by a very distinct British guy who flew in from Providenciales to give a lecture on Human Rights at the local schools.
We also visited the School for Field studies – a very nice structure funded by a few US universities – where students spend a 3 months period carrying out small biomarine projects, such as surveying and tagging sharks present in the island.

Big Ambergris

On the 29th we left South Caicos and headed to Big Ambergris. This is a privately owned island, surrounded by a vast shallow water area full of starfishes of different colors and sizes. We dinghied and walked up to the beach where we sketched a pink flamingo just a few meters from us that patiently waited until we took a hundreds pictures of it.
Ambergris is a very special little island with crystal clear waters. There is only a very small marina difficult to reach for boats drafting 2 meters or more.
Since the wind was raising favorably to our course, at 7pm we set sails toward Cuba.

Big Ambergris

Starfish at Ambergris

Dominican Republic

Puerto Bahia

On March 15th we arrived at Puerto Bahia, about 20 miles from the entrance of Samanà Bay. The marina pleasantly surprised us for the nice facilities and the friendly attitude of the personnel. It features wide berths, several restaurants, and two swimming pools that are at the disposal of the marina guests.

Puerto Bahia – Pool

We were happy to get to know Alessandro, the Harbour Master, an Italian guy who chose to leave in the Dominican Republic since a few years; he gave us a lot of useful recommendations on what to see in the following days.

Bahia Rincon

We rented a car for a day and visited the area around Samanà. We first went to Bahia del Rincòn, on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, where we walked along one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, with a small river flowing into the sea.

Bahia del Rincon

We continued our day trip toward the “Boca del Diablo”, a hole on top of a cliff where air blows out violently because of the water and air compressed entering a cave in the rocks at sea level. It really gave us the impression of the devil’s breathing!!! We then drove to the “Salto del limon”; we walked along the shore of a small river covered by lush vegetation till a nice water fall.

Salto del Limon

The path was busy of little horses carrying tourists; we felt really sorry for them!

Las Terrenas

At the end of the afternoon we headed to Las Terrenas, an alive and popular village on the Northern see shore where we were able to make provisioning with a great selection of items and at very good prices (at the end!!!). Our touring day ended at an Italian restaurant – for once – where we had a very enjoyable dinner.
The following morning, upon Alessandro’s recommendation, we sailed a few miles to reach the National park of San Lorenzo where we anchored for the night being the only boat there. We were surrounded by mangroves where hundreds of birds were quietly resting.

Parco National de San Lorenzo

Gunkholing by dinghy we got to a big cave covered by pictograms, drawings from the ancient population leaving there. The pictograms were representing animals such as whales, birds, bats, etc, as well as objects from everyday life. We kept exploring the channels flowing into the see and spent several hours just birdwatching: pelicans, gray and white herons, sterns, fregattas, etc. We were impressed by the confident attitude of the birds, which allowed us to get very close to them. The next day, following one of the channels, we landed in a small village where they cultivated rice and reared cattle. We returned to the marina in the evening where we stayed for a couple of additional days enjoying the swimming pool and the internet connection!
We can say that we reverted our initial unfavorable attitude toward the Dominican Republic, which we considered a crowded place exploited by tourism. In fact, we enjoyed very much the time spent there, the places we visited and the friendly spirit of the people we met.

Parco de San Lorenzo

Passage from BVIs to Dominican Republic

The morning Filippo and Mariella left, we continued our journey toward Northwest. The next destination was the Dominican Republic where we originally planned to make a technical stop on our way to the Turks and Caicos islands. We decided to head to Puerto Bahia, a marina a few miles inside the Samana Bay. While sailing the 280 miles passage from Tortola to Samana, close to Portorico, we spotted a humpback whale (megattera). She was at about 300 meters from us, jumping several times out of the water and falling on her back. We did not even try to grab the camera as we were conscious that  this show would have not lasted long and we did not want to miss even few seconds of it. We will keep vivid images in our memory.
In the period between January and March these giant creatures come to this area for reproduction, and can be especially spotted in the north east end of the Samana Bay from where they move north. In fact, we had another chance to see one while entering the bay. This time we had our cameras ready but unfortunately we could only spot her back.
A couple of miles before our destination, we were contacted by VHF by a nearby boat that was leaving the bay. The lady on the radio spotted us on the AIS and welcomed us to Samana. They were a French couple who were heading to the US and were eager to exchange info on the passage.

We arrived at Puerto Bahia at around 11:00am on March 15th.

British Virgin Islands

We returned to St Martin to pick up our friends Filippo and Mariella who were arriving on the 28th from Rome. We spent about 3 days making some maintenance work and reorganizing the cabins to properly host them.

We docked at Simpson Bay Marina where – a few boat boats apart from us – there was Richard Parker, the boat of Dominique and Vera, a young Swiss couple that was part of the Cornell rally and that we last met in Dominica. It was a great pleasure to have them at dinner and exchange experiences and plans, cheering up to our next steps with a good white wine.

Drawbridge leaving Simpson Bay Lagoon

The morning following our friends arrival, we moved to Anse Marcell, where we docked at a very cozy marina. Here we met Lilly, a beautiful German boat from the rally as well! The day after we made a stop at Grand Case , from where we left around 5pm starting the passage to the British Virgin Islands, where we planned to spend two weeks with our friends.

The British Virgin Islands, or BVIs, are an autonomous crown colony of the UK. They were discovered – together with the USVIs, by Columbus who was so enchanted to give them a single name, the “11 thousand virgins”, commemorating the 11 thousand companion of St Ursula who were martyred by the Huns. In the 17th century the islands were haunt of the filibusters, mostly English, and of the French buccaneers, who launched themselves against the Spanish ships to get hold of the rich booties.

Beach at “The Baths”

The first island that you encounter coming from south is Virgin Gorda, where we arrived on the 3rd in the morning. We decided to sail during the night to give the opportunity to our friends to sleep during the passage, to prevent them from getting too sea sick due to the swell and wind that was forecasted. Virgin Gorda has a huge lagoon and multiple small islets surrounding it. Some of these islets are private and feature beautiful villas.

“The Baths”

However, the real highlight of the island is a place called “The Baths”; we were able to moore just in front of this spectacular site. “The Baths” are a set of huge granite boulders that form several natural pools; the space between the rocks gives way to the sun rays to create a fantastic lighting.

Unfortunately, the forecasts for the following days were of very strong winds and rain, so we decided to find shelter in a marina in Road Town in Tortola, that is the biggest and most populated island in the BVIs. The coast line is scattered with long white beaches, and offshore islets in the Drake Channel.

Marina Cay

On our way to Road Town harbour we moored for a couple of hours at one of this islets, Marina Key, a little paradise where we enjoyed the afternoon, before recovering in Road Town, where we ended up staying for a couple of days.

When the weather settled, we sailed to Cooper island and the following day we crossed the passage to Anegada,  a flat, small island sitting on an immense coral barrier, with turquoise cristal waters.

Anegada

It very much recalls Barbuda, including the only village here called simply “The settlement”. While we enjoyed very much its white beaches, we did not had a chance to dive to one of the 300 wrecks that lie along the coast line – ships that were attracted by false light signals created by the inhabitants to plunder the rich loads.
The inner part of the island features a number of lagoons where several bird species, including pink flamingos (which we could not spot!!!), make their nest.

Mariella and Filippo at Anegada

After such an isolated paradise, we took a chance to experience some mundane life in Jost Van Dyke, the westernmost of the BVIs, getting its name from a Dutch pirate. The main attraction of the island for us was the “Foxy’s Bar and Restaurant” in Great Harbour, a very unique meeting point featuring live music performed by excellent bands specialized in very different kinds of music, from jazz to dance. We had a very enjoyable evening, accompanied by good food lubricated with rum punches and beers. We discovered the hidden freak soul of Filippo, who was filming the bands while walking at music’s rhythm.

It was a perfect celebration of a vacation that for Filippo and Mariella was coming to an end. In fact, on March 13th at dawn we accompanied them to the taxi going to the airport of Tortola, where they took the first of three connecting flights to get back to Italy. We had a good time with them and we are missing their company.

Nevis & St Kitts

On February 21st we left Barbuda earlier than planned as the weather worsened becoming rainy and windy. We headed to Nevis; after about 20 hours of sailing in 20-25 kn of wind we anchored just in front of the capital Charlestown. An historical note: Columbus called the island Las Nieves because of the clouds looking like snow that often crown Nevis peak.

Port of Nevis

After clearing in, we walked through the village, where we found very friendly people and a nice and colorful atmosphere. Since Sergio badly needed a hair cut, we went to one of the many barber shops. The owner, a young guy coming from Santo Domingo,  was about to start his job using an electrical hair cutter; after Sergio’s firm request to have him use comb and scissors instead, he accepted for an additional amount of money (still quite reasonable). What followed was perfect for a comic movie. The barber’s hand holding the comb was waving in the air emphasizing his storytelling, rarely touching Sergio’s head, while the hand holding the scissors was randomly diving into Sergio’s head without any criteria. We were looking at each other wondering what will have been the final outcome. We left the shop thinking it could have been much worse, however Gemma was immediately appointed as the new personal barber of Sergio!
We spent the rest of the day in a small café in front of the dock where we were finally able to find a reliable WiFi connection to make calls, clear out some backlog and update the blog! The day after we moored to a buoy in front of the Four Season lodge, featuring a beautiful long sandy beach. Quite a touch of elegance!
Even if we found limited places to see and visit, we liked Nevis as a small island, peaceful and authentic.

On February 23rd we crossed the “Narrows”, the small strip of water that divides Navis from St Kitts. We anchored in front of downtown Basseterre, the lively capital of St Kitts. We found once again close to the cruise terminal an artificial “city in the city” made of duty free shops lined up in a colorful architecture. We spent just one afternoon in the city, so we were only able to gather a very superficial impression of the island. On the 24th we left for St Martin where we planned to stay a few days to prepare the boat for the arrival of a couple of friends from Italy. it took us about 9 hours to get to Sint Maarten, just in time to pass under the dutch bridge leading to Marigot bay that opens at 5pm. While we were waiting for the bridge to open we had the pleasant surprise to see “Touch of Gray”, the boat of a British couple who made the passage with our same rally.