Are you wondering what to do in Cuba? Well, the posibilities are endless. You can chillout in the sun on one of the beaches of Cayo Coco, you can drive around looking for the remnants of Hemingway’s life on the island, you can visit the biggest cities and admire beautiful landscapes. And if you managed to do all that and still look for something to do on Cuba, just go sailing! In this blog post you’ll learn all about organising a catamaran cruise.



This blog post is a second part of a longer story written by father Balmas. Be sure to check out the first one HERE. There you’ll find some useful information concerning planning ‘on land trip’ to Cuba – what to see, where to sleep, what are the best stops for eating out, etc.

Second stage: actual sailing. Finally!

Our sailing adventure began in a marina located in a Bahí­a de Cienfuegos bay (address: Calle 35 s/n e/ 6 y 8, Punta Gorda) in the city of Cienfuegos. The city is located on a south coast of Cuba, about 250 km from the capital city of Havana. Around 150 thousand people inhabit this town and it is frequantly called “the Pearl of the South”. The name of the city means “hundred fires” when transleted into english.


Our catamaran, by the name of “Marlene”, has been booked from Poland through the ALBERAN Yacht Charter in Spain & Cuba company. For those interested in going on such a cruise, without any knowledge or experience in sailing, can still do it as there’s an option of renting a boat along with the crew as well as a skipper. There’s also something for those who prefer a rather luxurious lifestyle – when we arrived to the marina we watched three gorgeous, shining and huge 24-person ‘Lagoon 620’ catamarans going out to sea. The units were brand new, luxurious, have several 2-person cabins and a crew with a skipper, a cook, etc. Well, we’re not this kind of people and we can’t afford such holiday, but if you’re interested check out the Dream Yacht Charter website to find any additional info.


Well, after we had a look at the brand new 620s, it was hard for us to come aboard our modest 380, where the fridge door barely closed, and the portholes were leaking with every bigger wave. Unfortunately, that’s all we could afford.  Renting a catamaran such as ours (year 2009-10) costs around 4,000 € for a week, including the shipping tax – 12CUC per person. While a beautiful Lagoon 40.0 or 40.5 (2015) will cost you at least 7,000 € if not more.


Arranging the food for the boat

The best way to get all the food you need for the cruise is to compile a list of items and order them when you book your yacht. We went a different way – shopping on our own – and it was quite a lot of work. Although there is one well stocked shop in the marina,you can’t get everything there. We managed to buy most of the things, but there were no fresh fruit or vegetables available.  Psss – do not tell anyone, but with a little humor, personal charm and banknotes, in the end we managed to get some of those goods from under the counter.



The wind always blows in the Carribean sea

However it might not be strong enough nor coming for the right direction. We learned it the hard way. At first we were lucky with the wind as we sailed towards the Cayo Largo islands. First we got a broad reach wind, 19-22 knots strong, which later changed into a running backstay wind (26 knots). Which meant we made it fast and easy.

The distance from Cienfuegos to Cayo Largo is about 80 nautical miles and it takes some time to get there, therefore, or maybe more because of the rising wind, midway we decided to hide behind a little island with a lighthouse. It turned out to be a brilliant idea.  At night the wind force reached 40 knots which made a few of crew members really seasick. The next morning we resumed our struggle and late in the evening we finally reached our destination.


Cayo Largo – Marina Puerto Sol

There’s not much to do on the Cayo Largo island. As far as infrastructure goes, there’s only a marina with an airstrip right next to it and several holiday resorts. We decided to anchor in the wild near beautiful sandy beaches where the water was shallow and unusually blue. We spent a next few days doing absolutely nothing. Enjoying the blissful laziness, swimming around the yacht, lying on the beach and snorkeling next to the surrounding coral reefs. I can’t complain about that life!



The fauna of the Caribbean Sea is perhaps not as rich as the one in the Red Sea or the region of Thailand, however my first dive resulted in  spotting a shark right away, followed by a stingray, a large black mantis and a turtle. Not to mention  many predatory barracudas and countless colorful fish that passed me in the time I spent underwater.



It worth checking out the nearby island as well. They’re tiny but full of life. The first gem is the island of iguanas, surrounded by a wide strip of very shallow water, where the shore is literally swarming with friendly lizards. It is also worth going to the island of turtles, where with a bit of luck and a gentle wave you will come across many of these creatures.


On the last day before the return trip we entered the Puerto Sol marina to replenish our supplies of drinking water and food. To our great surprise we did not need any fuel, as it turned out our catamaran used very little fuel even in very unfavorable conditions. So we went ashore, and it was Wednesday – which is not without significance, because on Wednesday the so-called ‘change of the crews’ happens and there is a big party in the marina.


Watch out!

Do not try to swim in the waters of the marina or its immediate vicinity. One thing is that it is against the rules. The other, far more important one, is that late in the evening two different sized crocodiles swam around the stern of our catamaran. The locals claimed that they are the only two living on the island, as all the others were killed years ago, but they were unable to say whether they were dangerous or not. Just in case, we assumed that they could still remember the times of the slaughter of their brothers and would like to take revenge, so we stayed away from the water.


The way back

I have already mentioned that the wind always blows in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, for us, sailing brothers, it usually blows “in the face”. That’s exactly what happened on our way back to Cienfuegos, and it was a strong one as well. Using the engine by night, we managed to reach the aforementioned island with a lantern, where 4 other units have already taken refuge. And so we survived until the morning. We had an ambitious plan to sail out at 4 in the morning but it turned out to be impossible as the force of the wind was almost 40 knots at this point. So, finally, we left at 6 a.m. with a wind of 33-36 kn.


It took us over 17 hours to get back to the marina in Cienfuegos. Which was unfortunate for some of crew members who did not feel weel the entire way back, and had to spend those 17 hours lying down and praying for the waves to go away. The rest of us turned the autopilot on and went to the kitchen to prepare some food and then just stared at the water. Fortunately the entertainement was on it’s way! We spotted about 40 dolphins playing around and swimming next to our catamaran. Just for that view it was worth going on this cruise.



Photos by: Piotr Balmas | Karolina Sprawka