By BRUCE VAN SANT
My techniques using an islandís night lee to advance against the trades could provide a boon to Gulf sailors if applied successfully to Cubaís north coast. I must emphasize that I only twice sailed this coast to evaluate its land effects, versus well over 100 times that Iíve done the same off Hispaniola. If you understand and have experience with the techniques involved, go for it. But prepare yourself for longer waits for weather or shorter legs.
From Florida to Hispaniola Iíve rarely used less than 15 stops in playing the lees through the Bahamas against prevailing conditions. Cuba from Varadero eastward may need up to 20 stops, averaging 23 miles apart. Worst case means 20 pre-dawn runs of 5-7 hours each, or at least a month of passage making May through November. It might take up to two months during the period December through April with the fronts active in that season.
Both Cuba guide authors counsel against easting on the northeast coast of Cuba. The coast slants a bit southerly into the trades, which takes the wind onshore. Cuba barely lies on the edge of the trade belt, so you get less reliable winds. Narrow and less than half as high as Hispaniola, Cuba does not give much katabatic wind. Fronts nearly always pass through most of Cuba, albeit weakened, while they rarely make it to Hispaniola. Dying and stalled fronts play a key role in my methods. All told, you donít leave Cuban harbors in gradient wind forecasts much over 10 knots, and then only between moving fronts.
Many alternative anchorages exist beyond those shown in the table above However, the waypoints shown fit the criteria of (1) offering nearby refuge to wait for weather, and (2) providing the most easterly staging point prior to a series of unprotected anchorages. After two cruises in Cuba I added ďNo Guardia PostĒ as a definitely positive criterion.
Editorís note: Refer to Van Santís book Gentlemanís Guide to Passages South for an in-depth explanation of the terms above.. For purchase information, click here.