CUBA! We made it to Cuba,,, Havana on the horizon in the background. This is the first marker at the entrance to Marina Hemingway. It is the morning of our forth day out. The race is over but the fun is about to begin.
The deep Florida Straights come very close to Cuba's coastline, about one mile. Mr.Hoot's depth sounder will read to almost 600' but here it moves from off the scale to 120' in a few seconds then gradually tapers up. These small fishing boats are all over out here. I missed a few shots of some tiny Styrofoam and tire tube boats. A very dangerous place for these tiny boats. Makes one wonder how many are lost! A person would need to be quite desperate to try and make it to Florida in one of these craft.
JJ with a fresh deoderant and shirt. JJ was a great help on this once in a liftime voyage. Always willing and able to help with any task. Here he was getting dock lines and fenders prepared for the customs dock.
In the customs boat lineup...this was a few hour process. There were no less than four different customs folks at different times. I really don't think they were prepared for all of these boats in such a short span of time. Here you are looking at (left to right) agricultural agent, health examiner, Joe and JJ. This is where Joe earned his bread and butter. I had no idea how to communicate with these guys! First all hands must stay on deck while these guys deal with the captain. I immediately called Joe and had him tell them that he would be our interpreter. Things went pretty smoothly after that. I had prepared a manifest in Spanish with all serial numbers and other important information as Jim Duncan had explained at our briefing. Jim covered all the important items at USF in St.Pete a few days before the race. What a huge help that was. Without this preparation I could see this taking all day to clear customs. They looked over most of the boat and asked a few questions but could not get through packed ice and a few other areas. We had nothing to hide and were on our way in a little under 2 hrs best I remember.
Customs dock lies just around the bend from the Straights
Here Joe is taking it all in. About this time one of us starts to smell something burning. Joe takes the helm and I run down inside. A customs chick left a burning cigarette on the V-berth cushion and it burnt the cover and foam a few inches. So always watch customs closely if they are ever on your vessel. No I was not going to turn around and hassle them! It just pissed me off smoking down below anyway...then the custom covers and foam...
People around the marina were yelling and pointing directions to slips for the boats to settle in. There were so many boats they were doubled and tripled to the sides. One boat in front of us had a throttle/shifter problem while docking and ended up tearing a cleat out of the boat he was rafting up to. Quite a bit of damage, ripped a section of fiberglass out. The whole place was lively. Mr.Hoot being so small had a special spot just behind some apartments. Only problem here was the coral base stuck out from the seawall a few feet and would present a big problem at low tide. Here you see JJ and our helpful electrician with Joe in the back. All I wanted was a little extension cord for the battery charger to keep our fans running. This guy just opens someones apartment and plugged in by their TV. I asked him not to bother the people (at home) that our boat in their back yard would be trouble enough. He ended up splicing into the main wires running along the ground. I'm talking about three separate wires. He cut the plug off of our cord and spliced them directly into these large wires that run for a long distance and taped them up. We had our power!
This was our go to guy. He was very helpful and could answer most any question about Cuba. He was one of the first guys to shine a little light on how Cuba works. Of course Joe was the man! Joe did a lot of translating the entire time we were in Cuba.
Me finally relaxing a minute with a cold brew on Cuban turf!
Joe getting information from a marina guard. These little posts were scattered around the marina. Marina Hemingway is a very large four pronged fork like place.
JJ in the Marina Hemingway Yacht Club, how cool is this...Yes, air conditioning and cold beer!
Back at the boat after fresh showers. Life is good - and clean!
View down the road to our floating home, Mr.Hoot
Had to do something to keep the hull off of the rocks at low tide. I really liked this spot and did not want to raft up alonside 3 or 4 other boats. I had made a wood brace for the large cooler loaded with ice so it could not shift around under way. Also had a battery operated drill so I took the support apart, drilled holed with a screwdriver bit, and tied it off like you see. Hey, it worked great holding the boat off of the rocks just far enough and still hold secure at all tides.
Cube has many old cars and most are running. Walking into a gas station for the first time I noticed old used parts under the glass counter similar to where we would have candy bars. Yes Sir, I'll have a 1940 Carter updraft carburetor jet with a Cuba Cola please! Really cool old cars of all makes and models.
We met up with friends from St.Petersburg, Ford & Amber Carson Davis and Crew on their Morgan OutIsland 41 'Be' - our group, minus the photographer, seen here at the marina in the shade. We really did not know what to expect in Cuba and figured there is safety in numbers so decided to stick together for a while. Of course Joe was the go to guy for any Cuban Spanish conversation...
The 'Fiesta' restaurante was just up the marina finger we were on. It was destined to be on our short list for Cuban food in Marina Hemingway. I think 'Tapas' means appetizer...
JJ points out that we can stop pinching ourselves, we really are in Cuba!
Cool, a Photo Club and right at the Marina. Stopped in by myself for a moment but unfortunately could not converse with the propritor! Had a laptop along to transfer images but in all the packing choas forgot the CF card adapter. Was hoping to maybe find something here. That limited the Coolpix to the single monster 48MB card
Ahh, Club Nautico Internacional Hemingway de La Habana, aka Yacht Club at Marina Hemingway. This shot out front.
Another shot of the Hemingway Yacht Club with a few sailors hanging around outside. We are getting ready for our first walk 'off base'. Marina Hemingway reminded me of an old navy base complete with guard station at the entrance. After a passport check we are off.
Just outside the marina heading East (towards Havana) was this really cool view of a real Cuban natural harbor. Would be a dream to go back in time with my present day photography gear and re-shoot this scene!
Not many places here have air conditioning so most people hang outside hoping for a little sea breeze. They all seem quite happy, more then I can say for some of my neighbors here in St.Petersburg, Florida
This military jeep like vehicle had just pulled up to the curb and a guy in uniform got out and walked into the house. The guy out front just stood and stared at us across the highway. This is a four sort of lane highway and a main road to Havana about 8 miles distant.
We decide to take a walk off of the main road and get a better glimpse of the locals doing their daily thing. This is a typical view of homes in this area. From what we have been told Marina Hemingway is very safe but looking at the metal bars here I was not to sure about this area! As it turns out we did survive or you most certainly would not be reading this.
We bumped into a couple of other sailors from the Havana Cup looking for cigars so Joe lit out ahead. JJ and I felt a little uneasy anytime Joe got to far away. Anyway they disappeared down a pathway between some houses and we stood out by the packed dirt/shell road. This guy pulls up on a brand new looking motorcycle none which I had ever seen before. Looked like a drug deal to me but who knows,,,most likely just friends telling fish stories.
Joe and the guys were gone about five minutes when one comes out and tells JJ and I to come on back. We pass beside what looked like some apartments (all block - no paint) and end up at this little thatched roof shelter. The guys are pulling out some plastic bottles with what looked like water in them. Its gasolina they indicated, try some of our gasolina, we make it ourselves - translated by Joe. Wham-O, that stuff is white lightning, smooth and HOT! The local boys make this homemade moonshine right there on some stainless steel grill looking jury rig. I was getting hotter about now and thinking we had better slow down for our first hour off base. It sure was fun but I still had to err on the side of caution after all we are in another country and don't know the rules very well, Yet!
Beautiful sunset of a little island with Mother Mary statue in the center just off of the Gasolina shack. Well its been real new friends, thank you very much for the true hospitality, we had better start walking back. Havana Cup festivities were to begin at dusk and we were a mile of so away.
Think this guy was trimming a boat plank in the street with a machete. Maybe making one of those little fishing craft like we passed on our way in.
JJ is wondering why there are no big dogs around here! Or lets get moving - or I'm looking to buy in the neighborhood.
Here we are at Club Havana back at Marina Hemingway relaxing for the first time in a week. They had some pretty cool Vegas girl type show in and out of the pool. The menu choices were filet or lobster. I went with the steak which was a huge mistake. I'm pretty sure I know where all the large dogs have gone! The meat tasted unlike any I had ever tasted and I'm not talking favorable either. And it took hours to get so there was no reordering at that point. I thank my lucky stars that the girls gave me a portion of their lobsters. I'm forever grateful ladies... We watch the show hamming it up then head back to our boats for some well needed shuteye. Tomorrow will be an even longer day. We can only have three days in Cuba so we will pack in every second humanly possible.
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