Sailing and travel tales

Sailing Tales of Calusa – in chronological order. Cuba

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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.

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.

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 30, 2011 at 7:44 am

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