sailingtalesofcalusa

Sailing and travel tales

Cuba – making do, somehow

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We have not worked out how the food gets transported into central Havanna.

There is a distinct lack of freight trucks about but could be because there is a distinct lack of food stores and if you find one there is only basic stuff in it. This means the roads are relatively quiet and peaceful. There are many 1950,s cars in operation still. The big old American cars. They are an icon of Cuba right now. Mechanics work daily on the street sides maintaining these old cars ingeniously to run yet another day. We stopped and talked to some. Perkins diesil engines have replaced most of the petrol engines in these old cars.There are also old  Russian cars still in use too and there are some new cars on the streets as well –  not many.

 

There is a terrible lack of buses for the general population but the tourist ones we used are new and were free for us to travel the half hour to and from our marina to Havanna.The local people are not allowed to use them.

Today we were accosted beside our boat by an older Cuban on a bicycle. Please could he have one of the tyres off our bikes which were parked nearby. He showed us a gaping tear in his bike’s tyre. Of course we could not oblige because as Andreas pointed out we would only have three left and we need four for both our bikes to go !

There are no spare bicycle tires to replace damaged ones in Cuba. There is no money to fix anything in Cuba it seems. There is just no money and there is no motivation or inclination in the people to get on with restoring what they have. Nobody takes responsibility for anything and nobody seems to takes pride in a job well done.

The communistic zeal of the revolutionary generation has evaporated. The following generations have been adequately feed, educated and maintained healthwise – on the state –  but the real cost seems to be that many have failed to learn the fundamental that when you grow up, you work, like all free animals do, to put food in your mouth. The Cuban society we saw seems largely unmotivated and unwilling to do more than what is barely needed. It does feel like they are “unravelling” they are “waiting”. We were told that the government is starting to address the situation – rations and cash weekly payments are being reduced for those not working.

But what you do not see is that there is a sound education system in place, everyone until the age of 17 gets free education. There is a good health system in place. Doctors and nurses are in abundance here not lawyers! There are good sanitation systems installed. The main roads are good. There was a good train system but it, like the fishing fleet, also is in need of a lot of maintenance now. So much is good here. Much of the land is good soil. The climate is good for growing. There seems to be plenty of water. There are minerals ores, nickel currently the most mined but copper, manganese , lead, zinc , chromate, cobalt, iron and gold reserves are substantial but in early stages of extraction. Why the Americans swapped Florida for Cuba with the Spanish in earlier times I cannot imagine.

Tourists are hoping that when the time comes that the Cubans will be able to emulate places like The Czech and intelligently change without more revolution and war.

Written by teoranga

January 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm

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Cuba – Havana, a grand city crumbling

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We went to Havanna on the second day. Again shocking decay. No maintenance
undertaken for years and years and years. Probably not since 1959 and before. There
are many narrow streets in the old part that the Cubans walk down the centre of
to avoid falling masonry – we did too !
    
The size of Havanna is astounding.
It has a population similar to Auckland but the old part is huge, not only the
buildings are huge but the area the old part spreads over is huge. The old part
has many beautiful old buildings and some wide wide streets running inland from
the sea side with wide tiled pedestrians avenues between the two traffic ways.
UNESCO is assisting in the restoration of some of the monumental buildings near
the sea because of their attraction to tourists.The tourist area is a warren of
small shops  tucked inside dilapidated doorways with crumbling overhanging
balconies and ledges. Often doubling up as accommodation somewhere in the dark
crumbling interior behind.An artists and craftsman quarter. A cigar shop, very
few clothes and shoe shops all intended for the tourists not the locals; but the
streets team with idle Cubans of all shapes colours and sizes who can barely
afford food let alone anything else.They are not an unhappy lot but I cannot
relate the need for work all around them and so many people on the streets with
clearly “nothing to do.”
 
Dogs of all shapes and sizes happily – tails always up –  and freely roam
the streets of central Havanna,belonging to no one but everyone. I questioned a
waitress in a restaurant about the dogs. It seems they are independently working
rat catchers ! I guess that is a change from the pampered ship dogs of Marathon
who would not know what to do with a rat and would not be allowed to move if he
did know what to do !

Written by teoranga

October 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

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Cuba – The Marina in disrepair

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The Hemmingway marina is a specially designed and designated tourists
marina complete with two quite large hotels. It is against the sea, it is
expansive, it was beautifully planned. Everything you need in a marina is here –
water and power at each dock, spacious lusciously tiled on shore showers,
toilets and laundry service, a dock side shop, restaurant and bar separate from
the hotels ones, marina administrative offices centrally sited.   I guess it
must have been built in the late 1950,s but no body has done any maintenance to
it since. It is so sad to see. There is an abundance of people working on the
marina, maybe six grounds men who scoot about picking up the odd palm frond that
has fallen and pick up bags of rubbish with an old tractor and a big trailer and
mow the grass sometimes. With six grounds men in a place like this in New
Zealand or Switzerland there would be no cracked and crumbling concrete dockside
walkway, or potholes here and there, some deep enough to break a leg if you
walked into it the dark, and usually rubbish has gathered in it. The grass would
be manicured  back off the concrete pathways and roads. The power cables
congregated at each dock site would be safely covered from the weather and
customers with a lid and water would not be leaking out of hose connections
etc… A lady stands on duty at the toilet/ shower block. She has few customers
! She could be gainfully employed doing something else as well as standing duty
. There are about 3 security guards wandering about at any one time – guarding
us from Cubans who are not allowed to board the boats – including the security
guards themselves
     
    
Last night after getting a little bit sick of being
constantly peered at through our windows by a young negro security guard Andreas
went out to see what he wanted. It was a bit difficult to work out. He could not
speak English. Maybe he wanted a tip to stop peering at us , not sure maybe he
just wanted to talk to someone to pass the time. He did indicate that it was
cold and it was quite cold.   Andreas did not tip him and came back inside and
still he stood out and watched us as we started to eat. In the end I said to
Andreas “Do you think he is hungry ? “ Andreas went out and offered him some
food.He gladly accepted a bowl of stew and potatoes and disappeared somewhere to
eat it returning a cleaned bowl and spoon a little later on.
I guess we can expect a “guest “ for dinner most nights now!
       

Written by teoranga

October 2, 2011 at 1:42 am

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Cuba ….. Hemingway Marina

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15 January 2011

And guess what ? Today , two days later, a 37 – 40 ‘ yacht tied up next
to us. A Kiwi man with a Swissy wife from Whangarei on a boat called Barnstorm.
They too had been out there in the rough weather but ended up choosing not to
come through the Hemingway Marina entrance and went further west to another
easier looking harbour entrance. They were put under guard and were sent on back
here as soon as the weather settled a bit. There are only a handful of harbours
foreign pleasure boats can come into in Cuba!

  

 

We tied up for officialdom – 1st an old white man, a doctor who declared
us fit and our boat uncontaminated. Then MAF equivalents, a fifty plus paunchy
negro man and a skinny similarly aged negro woman. They did not look for much, filled
in forms then surreptitiously asked us for a tip. I think instead of a thorough
inspection but I am not sure about that. We were a bit taken aback because I
had read that there is no tipping in Cuba. However as it was all very convivial
and we were just so glad to be tied up Andreas tipped them ( overtipped them
because he got five thank yous out of them !) – all of course out of sight of
the harbour managers who were waiting to be next to come in.

Two very young good looking male harbour masters then boarded, while,
from a small office adjacent and on shore, a fat bulldog looking immigration
lady ( she looked like she had been exported directly from Russia for the job )
was firing questions down on us. The young men spoke good English and we dealt
with the business of how long we were staying, any guns on board and “we hold
your flares until you leave” etc as well as what were our next plans. Then one
left with our flares in a plastic bag and a very young, attractive,
immaculately presented – painted fingernails in uniform and not a hair out of
place, negro woman took her turn with us . Customs officer. She spoke very good
English and after another round of form filling and signing, sealed up our
GPS,s and our satellite phone but left them with us. We were not allowed to use
them while in Cuba. A Spanish looking man and a cocker spaniel arrived next to
sniff out all the cocaine on board and because he was disappointed not to
quickly find it asked for a tip – asked of course when we were down in the bottom
of the boat so the other officials would not see. Finally we were issued with a
docking site and once there were assisted by a small rabble of men and a woman
or two… all it turned out hoping to get some boat cleaning , laundry or
whatever work off us.

Finally we got settled in, “our helpers” dispersed and we went off to
sleep. It was lunchtime.

Written by teoranga

September 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

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Across the Gulf

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We started off in a choppy sea and 15 knot wind and soon had both the fore
and the main sail up… but as the day wore on the wind dropped and we motor
sailed, past a turtle and one lonely pelican, to our overnight stop on a free
mooring ball on the coral reef 20 miles east of Key West.We had spent an
evening  while at Marathon in a working bee splicing ropes for mooring buoys
around Florida’s protected sea reserves so were quite entitled to moor here.
 
Overnight there was absolutely no wind and next morning we motored away then put
up the parasailor spinnaker  and made 2 – 3 knots in 4 – 5 knot wind. It was OK
to go slow because we wanted to come into Cuba at daylight not the middle of the
night. The day was beautiful with warm sun and flat sea but my stomach was still
ooky from the sailing the day before. The wind picked up to 10 – 12 knots by
midday then 15- 17 knots in the evening. We decided to take the parasailor down
before dark and start motor sailing with just the foresail. We knew that by
midnight we should expect it to rise to  +20 knots but we had to go slowly  so
as not to beat the sun to Hemingway Marina in Cuba.
At about 2.00am doing 4 knots in 18 knot wind and two thirds of the way to
Cuba – over 60 miles off the American coast – the US Coast Guard appeared at our
stern. They had sneaked up in the darkness then turned on floodlights checking
us and the sky above out. They flanked us for about 5 minutes then called us on
the VHF. Boat name? where are we going ? where had we come from? how many people
on board? nationalities? what was our reason to be sailing here.. over and over
they asked and I got really mad with them and said our boat is CALUSA  NZ1665 ..
a  NEW ZEALAND boat stressing the NEW ZEALAND word at every opportunity .
I said we were on the way to The Hemingway Marina …
 They asked where that was !!!
I said in CUBA.
 After about 10 minutes of to and fro they decided to go
then shut off their lights and vanished into the darkness as quickly as they
came. No I do not think they were after us, they are after people running drugs
from South America. Their spotlights were scanning the skies for a plane that
might be air dropping drugs to us. It was very startling the whole episode
and I was about useless with seasickness so Andreas was pretty much on his own
on watch after that.
The seas climbed and the wind climbed gusting to 30
knots at times. It was hell on board but the boat was fine. I was too sick to
even take photos of the 3 – 4 meter seas around us when light came. Then came
the real worry of the trip – finding the marina and getting in safely.
Jimmy Cornell,s book has it wrong – the writings and the co ordinates.
Luckily we had worked out that there was something wrong. with either
the American chart plotter map which did not name the Hemingway Marina anywhere,
or the books ( we have two Cornells, a newer one in German – nearly right – and the older one in English –
very wrong ) About 10 miles off the coast I called up the Cuban Coastguard and
the Hemingway Marina on the VHF and the man who answered alerted us to the fact
that maybe we were not on course too. So then there was this terrible problem of
him with his very accented English trying to convey to me, very seasick in a
raging noisy sea on a VHF with very bad transmission, the correct  co ordinates.
Luckily it did not really mean extra miles for us, we just had to turn to meet
our new target about 10 miles east of where we had been heading. Several VHF
calls later checking and rechecking we sighted the entrance to the marina. A
narrow entrance between two breakwaters of broken concrete blocks.
And there on the bank on the side of the channel into the marina was the man we had been talking to
on the VHF frantically gesturing to us where to enter.
 With his help Andreas negotiated perfectly with both engines at full speed at the right moment on top
of a wave and we whooshed into the calmer waters of the marina.

Written by teoranga

September 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

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Onwards to Cuba … but snagged

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We have finally loosed Calusa from the grip of USA. It took some doing
even the USA customs did not want to clear us out because they discovered that
a little piece of paper was missing from the original marine sales, transfer of
ownership and registering of flag documentation had not been filed at the time
the documents were done late 2009. We had paid a small company specialising in
this type of documentation back in 2009 to do all our documents. I know the
lady got her nose out of joint when I said I would do the registering of Calusa
under the New Zealand flag myself ( thereby saving us close to $US 400 ) and
obviously she did not follow through everything else to the end and she nastily
did not tell us that there would be another document to file.

It was a form for USA statistics concerning export sales – the boat being categorised as an
export from USA. A simple enough form to fill in on line,

if you were and American and had an American tax number, but, as we
were to find out, impossible to do if you were a foreigner so we have had to
pay someone else another $150 odd to do that now.

We had had to travel 40 miles to Key West to “clear” out and had rented
a car to do that so were very angry when the customs officer came up with this
little surprise. I was going to have to work out how to do it, where to go ,
etc (they don,t help you in any way at US customs to do this) it clearly was
going to take a day or two to do and we had only a couple of days left before
our personal three month USA visas expired and Calusa’s cruising license ,

a license which  allowed the boat to be in Florida without paying sales tax, expired.

However the customs man did a very reasonable thing. He signed us out
and gave me the clearing document but asked that I ring him and verbally give
him the number that completing the missing form online would generate. At the
time he and I did not know that I would not be able to do that myself because
we did not have an American tax number.

In the end we left USA without
ringing the customs officer on the day our visas expired and that we were dated
as clearing but I emailed the company doing the document and asked them to ring
him and give him the number when it came through and to email me a copy. I only
hope that this has happened.

We slipped out of the marina at Marathon late in the afternoon, fuelled
up, filled the water tanks and anchored off overnight then left early in the
morning on the last day we could legally be in America.

It all felt a little bit deliciously naughty because really we had had
enough of Americans, their delays and their money fleecing ways.

Written by teoranga

September 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

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Florida … favourite photos

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Written by teoranga

September 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

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Marathon – It’s Time to say Goodbye

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The boat has now been outfitted with a radar,
AIS, a new Garmin chart plotter and a VHF with a DSC capability

Mostly small things are being tidied up now like
getting an expert in to retension the shrouds – one was quite slack- cleaning
and regreasing the winches, sorting out why the boom locks not locking
properly, props to reclean, because there are many many barnacles living in
this harbor, the propellor shaft bearings to check and annodes to replace when
Andreas finally does don his wet suit and go under the boat!

The last major job is building an aluminium frame
and fixing 4 x 225 watt solar panels to the boat, having them connected, and
then GO…. when the weather permits.

10 January 2011

super busy with last minute ( weeks) work.. We are
moving off in the direction of Cuba in early in the morning  (we both think Cuba is the most
interesting of places to visit at the moment socially and scenically and it will not be
overrun with American tourists of course, as the rest of the Bahamas and
Carribbeans are right now. ) Shortly – in less
than an hour – we are leaving our mooring and going to anchor off shore for a
quick start in the morning.

I will write more at length when we get near
internet again — whenever that will be I am not sure – but we have a
satellite phone – number 870776419512 – very expensive for you to ring us though
but if there is panic your end well ring it …we should be at the other end of
it loud and clear – even in Cuba !

Written by teoranga

September 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

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Marathon.. Xmas now

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The weather is rotating predictably now, Florida / Caribbean winter style. Every 7 to 10
days a cold front comes by. Strong wind for about 36 hours,a little rain, then
the wind drops and it turns cold for about 3 days – really quite cold I have to
put my winter woollies on.

27 December 2010

We did spend the best part of Xmas day out sailing.

As we left the Marina and motored down Sisters creek to the Ocean
side I heard a very squeaky noise and was trying to work out what it was. Eventually
I looked up to the top of the mast thinking it was the weather vane up there or
something like that squeaking but then a little black bird stuck his head over
the side of the top of the mast . He was very agitated, squeaking and
squawking. He obviously did not know what to do. He knew his roost was on the
move. He travelled a good kilometre with us squeaking and squawking and finally
abandoned ship as we went out the mouth of the river into the ocean. I hope he
has been able to find his way home. I do not know why he took so long to go.

 

We went sailing between the
lobster pot floats. One would not normally choose to do this because it really
is no fun trying to avoid them and sail to get the maximum speed one can out of
the wind, but we are practising and in fact this was our first day out alone,
so a BIG step, and nothing went wrong but things continue to go wrong with one
of our Yanmar engines.

To begin with we found that 2 of the 4 coupling bolts ( coupling
the mains part of the engine to the propeller shaft ) had broken

off and were in the bilge and the other two were so worn they were about to do the
same. They were replaced, but there were still problems.

The transmission was leaking oil. Andreas removed it and we took
it to the authorised Yanmar mechanic in Marathon to have the seal replaced.

Then we found that the engine mounts, which should have been

2 X 200 one side and 2 x 150 the other, were all wrong.

Instead we found 2 x 100 one side and 1 x 200 and 1 x 150 on the
other side)  This will have caused the coupling bolts to break and the transmission to leak oil.                      Then the mechanic found that the bolt holes into the part the coupling fixes to were damaged .                       He could not supply a replacement part so in the meantime we have to live with two
stretched bolt holes.

Andreas has fitted
everything back together again but now it is looking like the engine will need
realignment, again!

Around and around we go and somewhere in this loop of things we should
have also gone for a swim to check and see that the propeller shaft is straight
– not moving from side to side on the outside… in case that is contributing
to the vibration problems too.

But the harbour is not the place you would want to swim, as I have told you
before, and when we out in the sea yesterday Andreas backed down on going over
board to check it because it was too choppy.

So fun, fun, fun, thanks to irresponsible, unprofessional previous maintenance.
I tell you do not buy an ex- charter boat off The Moorings.

Do not lease your boat to The Moorings to be chartered.

The other engine is fine so far but occasionally won’t start

off the key so Andreas has to go in and start it with a screw driver.

Written by teoranga

September 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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Marathon ….. sailing sailing sailing

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We are sailing, we are sailing ……

Well not exactly yet, we are in trials &
training mode.

For example we had a great day out sailing
yesterday testing the new spinnaker / parasailor for the first time. It was a
work of art to behold and made 3-4 knots in the very light 3-4 knots apparent
wind.

On Saturday we were sailing beam on in 20 – 25 knot
apparent winds and doing 7-8 knots under normal sails in big rough and rocky
seas – unfortunately I got seasick, first time ever.

On Friday we went out in normal seas in 15 knot
winds and the boat averaged 7 – 8 knots then beam on.

So all in all Andreas is pretty happy with how it
sails and I am now learning all the practical know how now…I can man the
helm, negotiate it through the mooring field in the marina and out the river to
the sea. I can pull up the mainsail with the help of a special attachment on a
heavy Milwakee drill, I can reef the sails and sheet the sails. And we can
anchor the boat; me at the helm and Andreas on the anchor controls and we lift
the anchor as a team too. The anchor is a new NZ made Rocna 25 kgs.

By early January this 1st mate should be pretty
competent in things to do with sailing this boat.

Dolphins joined us today, big ones and we saw a
turtle swimming in the sea grass which was floating in drifts on top of the
sea.

 

We particularly enjoy the Pelicans. They are incredible
to watch, flying in unison inches above the waves and anticipating even the
upwards air pressure movements of the waves. They fish and dive in tandem
often, perfectly matched. They dive and dive and dive and one of the downstream
effects of this diving long term is they often go blind. We had a squadron of
about 12 fly at mast height over us over the marina recently and one of them
had to swerve to dodge the top of a neighbouring mast. He must have not seen it
till the last minute. Another strange thing is despite being fined tuned to be
able to work so closely together they cannot judge the depth of the sea bed
very well. Another common injury is split and broken bills.

We are sailing on Xmas day – it will be fine, quite
calm and flat – parasailing I think !

Written by teoranga

September 18, 2011 at 6:57 am

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