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Our Sail to Cuba
Planning
Staging
Sail to Cuba and Check-In
Gaviota
Gaviota to Darsena
Santa Marta and Varadero
Farmers Market Day
Trip to Habana
Bus Trip Day One
Bus Trip Day Two
Back to Florida?
Trip Home and U.S. Arrival
How was the trip?
   
 

Sail from Gaviota to Darsena

Southern Cross was leading the way as we motored on calm waters out of the channel.  One interesting thing that happened on this trip was we motored past a fishing boat that was anchored in the channel.  The current was pushing us toward him and we came a little closer than I planned – maybe 200 feet away.  As we passed, one of the two fishermen on the boat ran to the middle and picked up a 2-3 foot fish that looked something like a Mutton Snapper.  He held it up with a big smile on his face and said, “Cuatro!” which means 4 in Spanish.  Because I was fighting the tide and trying to stay in the channel, I assumed he was happily saying he had caught 4 of these fish.  After thinking through this later, I believe he wanted to sell me the 10-15 pound fish for $4.  At the time, I didn’t know that fishing and farming were nationalized in Cuba.  The fishermen and farmers work for the government.  The government pays their expenses (very limited I think) and the workers have to give 90% of their output back to the government.  They only get to keep 10%.  When the fisherman goes back to the dock, government officials are there to take their 90% of his catch.  So, selling me this fish for $4 would have been a great deal for him – money directly into his pocket – plus would have fed us for several meals.  I screwed that one up!

We motored on a flat ocean down the coast of Varadero to Darsena.  This is a resort area with lots of beautiful sand beaches and tourist.  Later, we found out that Varadero has a population of about 10,000 Cubans and 27,000 tourists.  This was not really the Cuba we were looking for.

As we approached the protected harbor in Darsena, I heard Southern Cross call the marina on the VHF radio.  No answer.  We entered the harbor right behind them and both of us called the marina on the radio.  No answer.  Not until we were in visual sight of the marina could we see officials on the dock pointing to where we would tie up.  Seems only the manager Ismale (sp?) spoke English well and he was off doing something else when we arrived.  The other workers just pointed to the slips and helped us tie up. 

Within 10 minutes of tying up, we were visited by the dockmaster (“sign contract please”) and the harbormaster (“papers please….”).  The marina contract for staying there was 6 pages – all in Spanish.  I had to sign every page (in triplicate) to show that I agreed with something I couldn’t read.  Too funny.

The Harbormaster asked for our cruising permit and we had to fill out another form which was the same as one we had filled out in Gaviota.  Does your boat have an engine?  What manufacturer?  What horsepower?  Do you have a dinghy?  Does it have an engine…..

A short while later the harbormaster returned with our approval for staying in the marina.  Yea!  We planned to stay here several days.

Here are Second Wind and Southern Cross tied up next to each other at Marina Darsena, Cuba

Laura and I decided to take a walk around the marina and ended up across the main highway walking down a palm tree lined small road.  At the end of the road we found a small neighborhood.  Not sure where we should go or were allowed to go, we kept walking slowly saying, “Hola!” to people we saw.  Everybody seemed very friendly and several horse-drawn buggies tried to sell us rides.  The neighborhood was very..  let’s call it rustic.  Houses (shacks?) were very close with loose chickens and dogs all over the place.  Many houses had pigpens in their front yard.  A short while later we came to the old, unused runway that is between the marina and Santa Marta.  We walked a short way then headed back to the marina.  Our first jaunt alone in Cuba.  Success!

Our friends on Southern Cross had been emailing a Canadian who lived on the dock here, Debbie.  About an hour after we were “legal”, Debbie came over with welcome packets that included maps of the local area.  She was a great help in planning our next few days.  Tomorrow (Saturday) she would give us a tour of Santa Marta and her favorite places.  On Sunday we would go to the big meat / veggie market (only on Sunday).  Monday, Debbie was going to see about having a local tour bus (Taxi?) drive us to Havana and Tuesday we would try to get on a 2-day bus tour of Cuba.  This seemed like rushing things a lot but we were not sure when we would sail west to Marina Hemmingway, our next stop.

But, before all that, we had to have a welcome-to-Cuba party!  We invited Debbie and Southern Cross over to Second Wind for cocktails and munchies.  Everyone had a great time.  Debbie was easy to talk to and we learned a lot about the local area.

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