PUERTO VITA RESPONDS TO AN EMERGENCY
Below is an excerpt of correspondence from Canadian cruiser Georges Nydam, who visited Cuba two years ago on his Jouet 1040, a 34-foot French motorsailer. Besides charts, Nydam used Cuba: A Cruising Guide by Nigel Calder as a primary navigational resource. Following is Nydam's description of the assistance he received at Puerto Vita after heavy seas damaged his boat.
"We ran into a strong and prolonged cold front and hove to. A few waves shook the boat, stove in a portlight, and tore off the bottom of the rudder fitting, with the result that we bent the rudderpost significantly. This allowed us very limited steering. We called up the port captain and let them know that we would enter the closest harbor of refuge. As normal, they did not respond, but when we were anchored, they came to inspect the damage, let us stay until the front passed, and then recommended we go to Bahia de Vita.
"At Bahia de Vita, the marina operators bent over backwards to help us. They arranged for divers to come look at the damage and then remove the rudder. They cut the post, straightened it, and re-welded the whole [component]. They gave us access to their limited supply of fiberglass pieces to repair the portlight.
"To make a new fitting, we held a collection amongst the visiting boats for pieces of stainless steel (they did not have much in store), remanufactured the components, and reinstalled the whole [thing]. When we left in a group on a weekend, the manager of the fuel pumps came by bus from Holguin (30 miles away) on a Sunday afternoon to fill us up.
"You are right that cruisers to Cuba have to be autonomous and self-reliant, but let us face it, it is similar to elsewhere outside the developed world."