Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Things that go Bump in the Night

Departing Providencia was a sad task as we had fallen in love with the island and were loath to leave it behind.  But onward we must go, so we pulled up the anchor and, along with the big Pjotter, headed northwards for a 700 nautical mile sail to Havana, Cuba.   

The sail was fast and pleasant, although winds were high from time to time, and we found ourselves just off the North coast of Cuba on the evening of the April 28th.  It was pitch dark, I was well settled into bed and Seb was on watch when we heard the familiar “Pjotter, Pjotter, here the Pjotter.”  We spoke frequently on the VHF with each other so this in itself was nothing unusual.  The unusual part was the panicked tone of voice.  The next message was much more alarming. “There is a small fishing boat next to our boat, they just appeared out of the dark” “They are shining their search light on us and they refuse to identify themselves.”  Seb called immediately to me and together we motored as quickly as possible towards them in the dark.  Seb called his father on the sat phone and he notified the coast guard while I readied the EPIRB and our flares…on the off chance that we would require assistance.  We were both shaking a little.   The reports on the VHF from Kees and Marta became more unsettling as we heard that the men on the boat were armed, had pulled up alongside their boat and were holding onto their railing, still refusing to identify themselves.  The two boats came into view in the dark and we made out 4 men, one carrying an incredibly scary looking machine gun (I guess they aren’t any other kinds).   They were all wearing t-shirts and jeans and were shouting questions in Spanish and generally looking very intimidating and it was all quite terrifying.   After several very, very, very long minutes it finally became clear that they were Cuban customs officials, checking if we were up to anything untowards.   When they were finished with the big Pjotter, they came alongside our boat and fired a number of questions at us, offered no information themselves, and finally rather grudgingly let us proceed.  As soon as our heart rates were back to normal (this took some time) and after several reassuring chats over the VHF with Kees and Marta, we settled back into our watch.

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