CUBA TRAVEL JOURNAL

We Finally Obtain Water, Have a Farewell Meal
and Depart for "The Queen's Garden"

July 8, 1998 5:45pm

It's clear now I have the flu or something similar. We're at sea and the fever and head cold symptoms have joined with the strain of getting provisions to leave.

Yesterday we met Yasmell and Alexis at the marina to try to sort out the water problem. Yasmell climbed under the dock to try to wrap a plastic bag around a leaking pipe to increase the pressure. We worked to attach his pump to a hose spigot dribbling water. When it became apparent these efforts would not pay off, I began to hand carry water from the hotel three blocks away.

As it happened, the owner and skipper of the "Marlin del Rey" of Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Big John who had accepted our thirty-five pounds of tuna for his freezer last week had just installed a desalinization water making unit on his 90 foot steel hull vessel. We explained our predicament to which he said we might be able to have some water when he finished topping off the 1,500 gallons already in his 5,000 gallon reserve tank, several days from now. We can hold less than 100 gallons which with the water making rate of 36 gallons per hour, could have us full in no time.

Instead of helping our plight, he placed a lawn chair in front of his machine and gleefully watched it work while we walked past him carrying bucket after bucket to pour into our small yacht.

I ponder the irony of coming to Cuba to find some of the kindest and most generous people I've ever met and the stand out, head above the crowd, biggest asshole I've ever met is the only other American in town, Big John.

When we finish with the water, the guard tells us Yasmell and Alexis must leave. Cubans are not allowed in the Marina and we already had them there too long under the special permission we had lobbied for earlier in the day. We gave Yasmell five pounds of tuna and some of our potatoes and onions to take to his mother's house. Yesterday was her birthday and she's asked to meet me and see Chris again.

At 9:00pm we arrive with a bottle of rum and set to work preparing a tuna feast. Chris did most of the cooking since she had never had tuna before and wasn't sure what to make of the potatoes. She made some rice and served Cuban coffee after dinner.

I have developed quite a taste for Cuban coffee which is served expresso style, heavily sweetened with the coarsely refined sugar grown here.

She lives in the top floor of a four story flat with her father, accessed by unlit treacherous outside stairs. He is very old and sits in a chair blindly staring at a flickering black and white television.

The apartment is clean and larger than most of the homes we've seen closer to El Centro of Cienfuegos. She offers us our choice of rooms to stay for the rest of our time in town. When we thanked her and explained we had a Casa Particular close to the marina, she insisted this was better because we didn't have to pay.

Chris gave her the last ten dollars in his pocket to pay for a new pair of glasses to replace the cracked ones she was wearing and we went home.

We woke up early this morning to meet the Harbor Captain, Customs and Immigration to clear out of Cienfuegos and finally departed the dock around 11:00am for the long awaited dive trip to the Queen's Garden.

  As we passed an old castle on our way out of the huge natural harbor of Cienfuegos, several dolphins swam next to the boat and played in our small wake before darting off.
Children cooled themselves swimming in the bay of Cienfuegos and stopped their play long enough to wave as we passed.  

Once outside the protection of the harbor we are met with fifteen knot winds and six foot seas. Our progress is slowed to the point Chris is concerned we won't make Casilda before evening and will have to find safe anchorage in the dark.

As the day wears on and the seas settled, we put up the main sail to assist the motor but it is apparent we've already lost too much time.

We are motoring slowly east along the coast and can see thunderstorms coming through the mountains in our direction. We'd both like to anchor up by 8:00 or so and get some sleep. We plan to head out early and maybe catch some lobster for dinner though I have doubts as to whether my clogged up head will permit me to dive.

1998 John Petrak

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