Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cienfuegos and Trinidad, Cuba

We just returned from a four day jaunt with our good buddies Ken and Wendy Squirrell formerly from Cop Out. They flew in from Canada and we luckily were able to hook up with them in Cinefuegos. We had a great visit wandering around the artistic towns. We popped into every gallery we could find, the art is so colourful and varied it was a pleasure to the eyes. 
We stayed in people's home, our version of a B&B. They are very strictly regulated so that they were all clean. The first one we stayed in Cienfuegos was the best, the bed was great, the toilet had a seat (this is a real bonus in Cuba, and the toilet paper was included) and the water only stopped once, Barry got to shower in a much nicer bathroom downstairs. 
Our balcony in the first place.
Orchids flowering in the downstairs courtyard, beside the table where we were served breakfast. 
For breakfast you would be served a standard fare, fresh fruit, papaya, bananas, pineapple, guavas and oranges, Cuban coffee with hot milk, bread, fresh squeezed juice, and eggs with cheese grated on them, a great way to start your day. 
We visited a theatre that had been built in the late 1800's and there were posters from Caruso and Sarah Berhardt in the walls. I could just image in the cream of Cuban society dressed to the nines attending performances here. 

We took the pedi-taxi down to the ritzy part of town and gazed sat the gorgeous mansions there. We visited the Marina and inquired about prices, then relaxed with a mohito at a waterfront bar. 
We discovered a sculpture park on the way back to our casa's and I couldn't resist taking a picture of two Canadians who know about these bugs. They are almost that big in the NWT!!!
We moved on to Trinidad which is close to the mountains. We hired a collectivo or a private taxi to take us there, the young man was a very good driver and we safely arrived at out next casa.  There is a network across Cuba, you just tell you host where you want to go the next day and they phone around and find a place for you.  Trinidad is close to the mountains and the sea, there are beaches and trips to waterfalls to be had.  We spent out time in town, the weather was not warm enough to hit the beach.  The first day we did a walking tour of the the old town, the view from atop the steeple of a former church was astounding.  I was not so sure about the integrity of the bells though. 
As we wandered about the streets and the main square we caught glimpses of life in Cuba. 
The main square in Trinidad, a very touristy town, beautifully restored. 

We ran across a gentleman who wanted to be our guide the second day, he arranged for us to travel by horse and buggy, notice the cobble stone streets, the ride was very bumpy at times. 
 We visited a train station 
A cigar factory
The cigars are being squashed by a press so they stay together. It was fascinating watching the process of these cigars being rolled by hand. 
Wendy is a potter so we had to stop at a pottery factory. I just love all the beautiful colours and I would have bought one of the masks I was looking at if I thought I could have gotten back to Canada in one piece. 
Ken and I ended off the day sampling the cigars and swigging some rum.  First Ken succumbed, claiming dizziness and nausea, I called him a wimp but 20 minutes later I made a beeline for my bed, ready to loose my cookies.  Thankfully a brief rest and We were ready to head off for our final dinner together.  It was a great holiday away from the boat and we rekindled the friendship that flourished through Indonesia, 
We are back at the boat in Marina Hemingway in Havana. We are heading off to figure out where the Canadian embassy is and renew our passports. We will have to stay in one place for at least two weeks until our new passports come. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Marina Hemingway in Cuba

Our first taxi!!

We have arrived safely in Cuba.  It was a rocky, rolly, quick ride.  We left with the tide at 1100 hours on Wed. and had to slow down about 0300 on Thur. because we were going to get there too soon.  We sailed slowly in under a triple reefed main and a handkerchief of jib out.  Clearing customs was a breeze, done effieciently and quickly, the only ones who asked for a bribe were the older agriculture officials, who did not consficate any of our food, but got a Coca Cola for their troubles. 
We immideately saw a couple from New Zealand whom we had briefly seen in Key West.  They had crossed on Monday.  They were going in to town with a Swiss couple so I went with them.  I managed to change some money and book a bus to Cinefuegos, on the south side of the island, to meet up with our Canadian buddies who have been here since Jan. 11.

We are now in Cinefuegos and they have e-mailed us a spot where we are too meet.  They just came in, woo hoo. Mission accomplished.  We will spend the next week touring around with them. I am on a hotel computer, not having quite figured out how the internet works here so no pics as yet.  I will say the taxi we took into town yesterday, it is about 10km, was a beaut, old, rusty red, converted from automatic to standard and the gear shift was just up through a hole in the floor. 
Gotta go.
This is the hotel where I booked the bus tour.  Good thing I took a picture because I did not know the name and I just showed the taxi driver the picture and he was able to get get us to the hotel. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Key West

This was the site off our port bow yesterday. Not something anyone living on a boat wants to see.  It blew up a houlie.  We had dragged our anchor earlier in the day so Barry stayed on the boat while I went ashore to take our computers to the "doctor", they are very ill. These clouds came complete with bolting lightning and LOUD CRASHES of thunder. One was so close to me, that I screamed.  Now I like a good thunderstorm, on the prairies you can see them coming for miles and you get prepared and then they stay around for awhile and you can count the time between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. Here, there were four terrific crashes and then the whole thing was gone, blown away just like that, Mind you it did rain for quite awhile.  There were tornado warnings further up the coast but it bypassed this area. 
These beautiful boats are used to take tourists out for a jaunt and tonight there were three in the harbour for the sunset cruise. It is a Key West thing to line the harbour for sunset and all the boats paraded in front of the crowd on their way out of the harbour, just lovely. 
There has been a cruise ship in town everyday, I just love the paint job on this one.  Barry's brother Bruce and Margaret, the love of his life, are coming here on a big ship on Monday.  We are looking forward to spending the afternoon with them. 
We walked by this marker a couple of days ago. That makes three biggies, northern most point of continental Australia, the eastern most point of continental North Amerca and now the southern most point of the continental U.S. I guess you could say we get around!! 
In the past Key West was having issues with the Federal Gov't so a movement formed and they declared the area the Conch Republic! It had it's own flag and flower and marine animal. This is an example of Conch architecture. There are some stunning restorations in town.
Roosters romp through the streets. I heard a guide telling his charges that cock fighting used to be a big sport here.  In the 1970's Florida declared the sport illegal so the owners just let the chickens run wild.  Well this is a prime example of the umpteenth generation of chicken. The cars slow down to let them cross the street and there is a store full of chicken memorabilia, I could not resist a chicken shot glass for Barry's collection. 
These are the boaters that give the rest of us a bad name. They totally neglect their craft's and the boats are eventually driven ashore. No one wants to spend money disposing of them so there they sit, unwanted and just plain ugly. It is so sad. Thankfully, we were aboard Cat's-Paw IV when she decided to drag and  we just started the engine and reanchored. We let twice as much chain out this time!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Florida Keys

This is the cruising scene in Marathon, FA! It is the home to a huge number of boats for the winter. There is a radio net, they have yoga, baseball, Mexican Train, and meetings about Crossing to the Bahamas and what you can expect in Cuba. We are anchored in the outer harbour, about 2 nm from the dinghy dock, which costs you $22/ day to leave your dinghy, OUCH! I can see how staying here would be a comfortable place to spend the winter, apparently there are a lot of RV's here as well. I think we will move on down to Key West so that our crossing to Havana will not be so far. 
This series of shots were taken at the lighthouse on the south end of Key Biscayne. It is located in a state park on land that a newspaper fellow convinced the owner to donate to the state when it was scheduled for development. He felt that the people of Miami would need some green space, there are over 800,000 visitors to the park every year!  The lighthouse was built in 1855 and restored in the late 1990's, they had the bricks fired in a special way so that they would be like they were in the 1850's and they replaced all the iron stairs inside. It is now automated but still in use. 
The more modest homes of Key Largo, notice the cannons in this fellows' front yard, I was jealous, also the houses are built from large cement blocks. We talked with a taxi driver and he has been here 18 years and they have had 4 hurricanes, so the houses are pretty sturdy. 

We motor sailed down to Key Largo and pulled in behind a little island just at dusk.  We needed fuel and water so pulled into a Marina which we had to enter at high tide.  It was down a canal, which was about .8 km long and stayed there for the night. We arranged to go diving and what fun! Two really nice dives with lots of sea life, the corral on the second dive was a lot better and we saw nurse sharks, a bull shark possibly, and a largish sea turtle, plus a delicious looking lobster. There were a tremendous number so reef fish as well, all colours and sizes. I remembered how much I loved being under the water, yippee. 
 The start of the seven mile bridge from Marathon to Key West. I checked it out and Key West was the site of the filming of another 007 movie, so this will be our 4th Bond film location! 

So do the two boats look similar?? When we pulled in to Marathon there was another Fast Passage 39 anchored. The folks, Monika and Trent came right over and introduced themselves and we had a couple hours of a mutual admiration chat and then they kindly invited us to a potluck dinner aboard   their buddy boat. We had a lovely evening on a roomy 43 foot boat, the Last Tango, where Tim and Gigi were the hosts and a delicious bean stew was produced with fresh corn bread, yum. 
The last two days have reawakened my desire to continue cruising, the diving and the fellowship we experienced the other night. The ICW was not my favourite place, due to the shallow water, the constant fear of grounding and the inability to sail.  I am really glad we experienced it, we saw lots of places we never would have if we had hopped down offshore, but NEVER again! 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


We are anchored across the bay from downtown Miami.  I must say that Miami was one of the busiest ports we have ever entered. We went out to see to avoid the last 20 miles of the ICW because there were too many bridges to cope with, and when we came in Wow.  There were sport fishers by the dozen, ferries, cigar boats and the thrill seeking go fast tourist boats, tankers and cruise ships (they were at the dock, thank heavens). Oh, did I mention the helicopters, sea planes and there was even a blimp. The only other port in the world to come close was Sydney, AU. 
We survived and found a decent anchorage, right next to the spot where they hold the Miami boat show, on Virginia Key.  It is not very convenient but we have been able to tie our dinghy up and grab a bus to get out chores down and do some exploring.  We have been trying to get things we don't think will be available in Cuba, boat parts and favourite food stuffs. We went to the Maimi Casino and took in a game of Jai Alai.  I have heard of the game and always wanted to see it played. 
It is kind of like raquetball except they use a scoops thing attached to their right hand to catch the ball and fling it at the wall.  There are only three walls and you have to scoop up the ball before it bounces twice.  This was a professional game and there were groups of men betting on the outcome.  I googled it and a good player could make over $100,000 a year. There are no lefties in the game, or if you are a lefty you still have to scoop and throw with your right arm.  They really whip the ball, apparently it is the fastest game in the world. They played singles and doubles, once the player  lost a point he had to retire, so if there was a good player he could stay on the court for 15 to 20 minutes. Very interesting! 
We strolled around downtown Miami and marvelled at the architecture and the skyline. 
The last night at anchor on the ICW was an interesting one. We were in Boca Raton, when we arrived it was New Years Day, and the party boats were all there. Young people were swimming and drinking and whooping it up. Then we were awoken at 0330 when a huge motor yacht pulled in and proceeded to crank up the tunes and give a drunken display of dancing to the anchorage.  Being unable to go back to sleep I watched off and on, soon the revellers were asleep and the wind picked up. Guess what, the drunkards did not set their anchor very well and a $1.5 million boat was drifting around the anchorage.  The next thing I heard we the 35 foot sailboat next to us blowing their horn, I went up on deck and there they were fending off the 70 foot motor yacht. Once they could be roused it took a few minutes for the motor yatch bunch to figure out what was going on and the hapless sailors were heaping abuse on them, quite the early morning entertainment. 
We spent the next day racing from one bridge to the next. They have it timed so that if you go about 6.5 knots you can make it from one to the other without having to wait a half an hour for it to open again. We had the motor revved to top speed for most of the day, once we hit Fort Lauderdale we had had enough and since the weather was benign we motored the remaining 20 miles to Miami in the Atlantic.  It was very restful and we had a great view of the Florida coastline.  The last view miles of the ICW saw some very opulent houses.  
                                 One of my favourites on a corner lot. 
 We particularly like this one because it had a basketball court on one side, a soccer field on the other and, of course, the pool in the middle. 
                              The family boat parked at the front door. 
                                  Inspired Christmas decorations! 

We will spend a few days in the Florida Keys and then wait for decent winds to head to Cuba. We are hoping to get some snorkelling and perhaps even a dive or two in before leaving. 

Sailing Info.

We are using "The Intracoastal Waterway, Norfolk to Miami, A Cockpit Cruising Handbook" by Jan and Bill Moeller. It is a small guide with few pictures and has references to bridges, anchorages and marinas by the mile number along the waterway. We just purchased some old cruising guides Waterway Guide published by Boating Industry Magazine. We got it at a Sailor's Exchange and it covers Florida, east and west coast, the Keys and some of the Gulf Coast.  We are using it only for anchorages and ideas of what to see in places we visit. 
Boca Raton, FA  26*20.7 N  X 080*04.4 W
We anchored in about 3m. of water, very good holding.
This spot was party central on New Years Day. Very crowded. 
No info. on services. 

Virginia Key, FA     25*44.9 N  X 080*10.3 W 
We anchored in about 3m. of water, very good holding. 
There is good protection except from NW and W. 
Decent access to buses to downtown Miami, restaurants available, marinas are not friendly
We secured the dinghy to trees on shore when we left.