From wilderness to civilisation
After five days cruising this desert island paradise we made for civilisation. The UNESCO world heritage site of Trinidad is just inshore of an approved yacht port, Casilda. The small marina couldn’t be raised on the VHF so we made straight for the commercial port. I employed my usual berthing tactic – seek forgiveness not permission – and tied alongside an official looking wharf. It didn’t go down very well: “You’re in a military zone!” Barked an irate security guard, “Leave, now!” Juan, our Spanish speaker, tactfully apologised and with incredible charm asked how to proceed. We had to anchor in the bay and take the dinghy in to the shallow marina two miles away, where the Guarda would meet us.
Three hours later we were checked in and two taxis arrived to take us into town: an immaculate pink Chevy and a red Cadillac. Trinidad is a much-loved time warp with a well preserved old town, ochre-coloured buildings and cobbled streets. We were hoping to pick up some supplies but our first taste of Cuban supermarkets lacked promise. Long shelves were stacked one row deep with a single brand of tinned tuna. The next aisle was devoted entirely to bags of rice and beans. “Cornflakes?” I enquired, “No.” “Fruit?”. “No.”“eggs?”“no”. I asked where to buy vegetables. “I just saw the guy with the tomatoes go past the window,” the shop assistant replied. I hurried out after him, and so began a long day hunting barrow loads of vegetables in a warren of streets, not helped by the fact that Cuban streets all have two names: pre- and post-revolution.
Cienfuegos, our next stop, was a short sail further west, where we’d make a crew change. It is another colonial town with grand pastel-coloured buildings arranged around neat central squares. By sea it is accessed through a narrow entrance but the harbour opens up into a vast inland waterway, although much of it is off limits. We were allowed alongside briefly at the marina to re-fuel and check in before anchoring off with the rest of the ‘transients’. The night life was fantastic – there were rooftop bars and an open dance school where salsa students (who ranged