From wilder­ness to civil­i­sa­tion

Yachting World - - Front Page -

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

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