Andrew Smyth

Yachting Monthly - - ADVENTURE -

out­side the reefs into open sea. The Gulf Stream was too far out to help speed us along, so our progress to Ha­vana took another four days, al­though we were still able to head in­shore each night to an­chor.

The Ma­rina Hem­ing­way, about seven miles from the cen­tre of Ha­vana, is made up of long curv­ing jet­ties like a stem of ba­nanas. The con­crete walls, though crum­bling, were not in as bad con­di­tion as I ex­pected and de­spite cov­er­ing a large area it was well kept with a new fuel dock.

Ha­vana city it­self was a rev­e­la­tion. It’s much larger than I thought, while the range of ar­chi­tec­tural styles, from Baroque to Mod­ernist, is amaz­ing. The city is also ben­e­fit­ing from a ma­jor pro­gramme of restora­tion us­ing funds from UNESCO and tourist taxes. New ho­tels were be­ing opened and old ones re­fur­bished, en­abling us to en­joy ridicu­lously cheap rum cock­tails in some of the most glam­orous sur­round­ings. Our visit was shortly af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced the end of Cuba’s em­bargo and we found Cubans ex­cited by the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of the new pol­icy – al­though I sus­pected their op­ti­mism was a bit pre­ma­ture.

We spent a week tour­ing Ha­vana un­til it was time for Corinne to fly back to Lon­don. Pi­eter and I set sail early the fol­low­ing morn­ing and headed out to hitch a ride on the Gulf Stream to Florida. Later in the af­ter­noon a voice sud­denly came over the VHF ra­dio, call­ing us by name. We searched the sea but could see noth­ing, yet clearly who­ever was call­ing us could see our AIS sig­nal and we fi­nally re­alised there was a US Coast­guard aero­plane cir­cling above us. What they re­ally wanted to know was whether we were smug­gling any Cubans on board. They were able to find out for them­selves the fol­low­ing morn­ing when a bright Andrew, 66, started sailing dinghies at the age of 11. Later, with his wife Corinne and their two chil­dren, he cruised ex­ten­sively around the Chan­nel and At­lantic Europe in a suc­ces­sion of Moody yachts. Fol­low­ing the sale of his man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, they sailed in the Mediter­ranean for 10 years be­fore buy­ing Cal­liope, a La­goon 470 cata­ma­ran, and tak­ing her down the Red Sea to East Africa and then Asia, be­fore mov­ing her to Gre­nada three years ago. orange Coast­guard RIB came speed­ing up along­side. Two of­fi­cers, laden with heavy gun belts and huge boots, clam­bered on board and searched the boat. We reached West Palm Beach in record time – the 300 miles had taken us just over 30 hours.

Af­ter clear­ing in, we headed to­wards Sa­van­nah, where we had ar­ranged to leave Cal­liope un­til the sum­mer. In pass­ing, we cir­cled a cou­ple of right whales, a gar­gan­tuan mother ac­com­pa­nied by an in­fant the size of a small house. Nei­ther of them showed any in­ter­est in us, though we stayed for half an hour tak­ing pho­to­graphs. We fi­nally ap­proached the grey, muddy shoal wa­ters off Sa­van­nah in a thick fog – such a con­trast with the clear blue wa­ters of the Caribbean. We’d man­aged it. We had sailed nearly 3,000 miles in just over two months but we had spent only two nights at sea. That’s my ideal cruise.

Nigel Calder’s book: Cuba: A Cruis­ing Guide, is pub­lished by Im­ray/ RCCPF (£30) and was up­dated in 2010.

The Rus­sian-made charts can be down­loaded from www.jarogers.com

‘ The fol­low­ing morn­ing a bright orange Coast­guard RIB came speed­ing up along­side’

Boarded by the US Coast­guard look­ing for il­le­gal Cubans

No visit to Ha­vana is com­plete with­out a ride in one of these fa­mous Amer­i­can cabri­o­lets

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