Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Cuban Cruising - Marea Del Portillo

Fisherman Row Home After A Night On The Water - Marea Del Portillo

From Santiago De Cuba we headed west along the southern coast, with the dramatic Sierra Madre mountains running down to the coast right along the shore line. It was 80 nautical miles to our next safe harbour, and we managed to motor and sail the distance in a single daylight run, arriving in beautiful Marea Del Portillo just on sunset.

The bay here is wide and deep, well protected from the ocean with mangroves and reefy cays on the ocean side. Local fisherman work the reefs and mangrove channels in small row boats, setting nets and traps.

The local Guarda Frontera officer, resplendent in green uniform, was rowed out in a tiny fishing boat to welcome us and take possession of our cruising permit - in each port they hold the permit until we depart. With heavy conditions forecast for the coming days, we decided to sit tight in this beautiful bay and catch up on some boat work.

The staysail furler needed some fine tuning, so we dropped the sail to the deck and worked on the furling mechanism for a day, including removing the drum mechanism and detaching the stay from the deck. During all this we (of course) found and rectified the mistakes made by the last riggers that worked on the system, but that's just the cruising life .... sure it is.

After sorting that one, we moved the sewing machine onto the fore deck and Ley re-stitched the sacrificial UV cloth on the staysail. A monster job, now done and dusted. So we re-rigged the staysail, furled it and turned our eyes to the shore, where the local village was waiting for us.

At the local fisherman's jetty we landed our dinghy on a black sand beach. Immediately it was clear that this was a fairly poor rural village, with little infrastructure and most of that in poor condition.

However that didn't stop the locals wanting to help us ... they made us quite welcome.  These were farmers and fisherman, the only industry being a modern bakery that produced bread for nearby beach resorts. It was a sleepy kind of place, with pigs, goats, horses and chickens roaming free in the streets.

A Sleepy Kind Of Village - Dog & Pig Siesta

Local Housing
The housing was very basic, though as we've seen elsewhere in Cuba the people were well fed and healthy, with a medical clinic in the village.

One local lady offered to provide us with bananas, and we visited her house while her husband went out to the gardens to cut the bananas for us - for these we traded clothing, a welcome delight to these folks who are miles from any stores. She proudly showed us the new metal roof on her home, replaced after the last hurricane stole the original roof. We also saw cherished photos of her children and grand children, departing having once again found friends in the Cuban countryside.

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