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Our Sail to Cuba
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Sail to Cuba and Check-In
Gaviota
Gaviota to Darsena
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Marina Gaviota

Addison finished his check-in and left the marina to anchor out.  We were tied up at the transient dock next to Southern Cross and Albatross – another U.S. boat that had arrived a couple hours before us.  The dock was full of talk and laughter about the check-in process and the huge resort we were at.  It was the first visit to Cuba for all of us.

The guys walked up to the resort hotel to change some money into Peso’s.  There are two types of currency in Cuba.  “Nationals” and “Convertibles”.  Before the revolution in 1959, Cubans used the National Pesos internally and the U.S. dollar for visitors.  After the revolution came the Cuban Convertible Pesos or CUCs for use by non-Cubans in Cuba.  It sounds confusing but basically we had to work with CUCs which at the resort cost 1 U.S. dollar for .87 CUCs.  We now had some walking-around money!

For the rest of this document, I will do the conversion and all prices will be what things would have cost in U.S. dollars.

Gaviota is a huge resort with many European and Canadian vacationers.  We might have been the only U.S. citizens there because it was still very hard for Americans to travel to Cuba.  D and Don had us over to their boat for cocktails and munchies.  D thought the agriculture people told her she had to cook the eggs right now so she had hard-boiled 3 dozen eggs.  I like the philosophy of “When you are served lemons, make lemonade.”  We made a batch of deviled eggs!

This picture is Second Wind at Marina Gaviota just after sunset.  The American flag was very unusual in Cuba and many people came by to talk about where we were from.

Around 7pm we decided to go out for dinner and walked to the resort and mall where all the restaurants were.  Everything was empty!  We finally figured out that most Europeans eat dinner later in the evening so we were the only people around.  A Mexican restaurant looked good so we went in for drinks and dinner.  We were the only ones there.  Dinner was different but very good.  Drinks and dinner totaled about $15 per person.  What a deal!  After dinner we walked around a little then hit the sack early because nobody slept well on the crossing.

This picture is all of us at the Mexican Restaurant.  From left to right are D, Don, Bruce, Me and Laura.

After a great night’s sleep Don and I washed the salt off the boats and got them cleaned up a little.  Some marinas meter their water and charge you by the gallon or liter.  This marina did not charge for water so we could use all we wanted without paying more.  There was an extra charge for power to the boat and the total bill for the night was about $50 (US).

We had told the dockmaster that we wanted to leave around 10am for Darsena.  This was about a 20-25 mile trip around the point and down the coast.  We wanted to arrive in the afternoon before any of the officials left the marina.  Around 9am the dockmaster Jose arrived and took Don and I over to the marina office.  Here is a good example of Cuban officialdom –

Jose took us to the office and asked us to wait in the lobby while he went for our invoices.  He came back about 15 minutes later with another official, maybe the accountant?  The accountant sat down with us and pointed to each item on the invoice.  He didn’t speak any English so if we had a question, Jose translated.  After we approved of everything, the accountant took us to the cashier.  This older woman sat in a small office with a desk and a few file cabinets plus a great picture of Fidel Castro looking over a Cuban valley on the wall. 

Don and I each paid in US dollars because Jose told us we would get a good exchange rate.  I think we overwhelmed the cashier a little by both Don and I paying at the same time.  She had our invoices on her desk with our money on top of each one.  Several times she picked up the money and counted it.  It shouldn’t have been hard because we had each paid with four $100 bills!

I asked if I could take a picture of her and Fidel on the wall.  She said, “No.”  Then I asked if I could just get Fidel?  With a big smile on her face she agreed and I took the picture with my iPhone.

My invoice was a little more than Don’s because we paid for health insurance ($3 per day for each of us).  Don thought his US insurance would reimburse him for any health expenses so decided to take the chance and told the harbormaster he had insurance.  I thought this might be a little short-sighted because you really don’t want any hassle if you are heading to the emergency room.  Cuba has free healthcare for all its people and we were happy to pay the extra $100 to be part of it.

After rounding up change for us in $US, we headed back to our boats with Jose.  After dropping us off he said he would get the harbormaster and return for our checkout.  The harbormaster is the government official and does all the government paperwork.  He wears a uniform but more like an office suit than military. 

A short time later Jose returned with two harbormasters.  One came to our boat and the other to Southern Cross with lots of paperwork.  We sat down and reviewed what he gave us.  We had heard from other boaters that prices had gone up a lot in the past year because of the expected influx of US boats.  Our total bill for entering Cuba, visas for 1 month, health insurance, for 2 weeks, cruising permit for one month, and one night at the resort marina was $391.36 USD.  Seemed like a lot…

15 minutes later we departed the dock at Gaviota Marina with all the officials smiling, waving and saying, “Adios!”  We motored around the point and headed to Darsena.

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