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Our Sail to Cuba
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Sail to Cuba and Check-In
Gaviota
Gaviota to Darsena
Santa Marta and Varadero
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Bus Trip Day One
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How was the trip?
   
 

How was the trip?

If you have been paying attention, you might have noticed that what we did and where we went in Cuba was quite different from our original plan.  We knew that doing any “coastal cruising” in the two weeks we had would be very dependent on the weather and, as we’ve learned in the past 10 years of sailing, we keep our plans flexible.  When sailors on small boats get in trouble, it is frequently because they make commitments or firm plans and “have to be there.”  It is much safer and more comfortable if you just take what the weather gives you.

Also, when you travel with two boats, you give up a little freedom of choice for the huge benefit of having someone to help if you have problems.  Where to go and what to do are now a group decision.  It was all fun and we greatly enjoyed the places we saw and people we met.  Would we have done some things differently if we were by ourselves?  Maybe, but probably not.  The high winds kept us in Darsena longer that we had wanted and took away our plans for the west coast.  Laura was able to get to the beach in Varadero a few times so it wasn’t a total loss.:-)

Here is a picture D took of the beach in Varadero.  Can you see why it is so popular with tourists?

One thing our bus tour guide told us made me think about how different life is in Cuba – “Cuba is not a consumer based society.  The government and people live by the maxim, ‘Buy only what you absolutely need and hold onto it for as long as you can’.”  Can you imagine how different your life would be if you lived by those rules?  Cars and toilet seats are luxury items.  In Cuba, there is one car for every 25 people because they have very few imports and cars are very expensive.  A 1984 Yugoslavian, “Lada” with maybe 500,000 miles on it sells for more than $15,000 (USD).   Keep in mind that most Cubans live on $200 - $300 a month but 80% are employed by the government so they get some assistance like free or very discounted housing and everyone has free health insurance.

That said, the Cuban people we met at restaurants and on the street seemed happy and content living a much simpler life than most Americans would want.  If you walk by someone on the sidewalk and say, “Hola!, you will be rewarded with a big smile and a, “Hola!”.  You could almost always hear up-beat, happy music playing somewhere.

Our cruising guides mentioned that Cuba was one of the safest places to travel in the entire Caribbean.  Many of the things we heard and saw would support this.  For example, I saw several young women hitchhiking.  The tour guide told us that both men and women hitchhike but women get picked up quickly because almost all the drivers in Cuba are men (there are not that many cars and most are over 40 years old so you have to fix it when it breaks down).  The women get a free trip and only have to listen to the macho man brag during the ride. If you were a young woman in the U.S. and wanted to get a ride home from work, would you feel safe hitchhiking?  Also, there was a partially sunken boat in Marina Darsena.  Laura asked Debbie if Cubans come and scavenge parts off the boat.  Debbie looked like it was something she didn’t understand then finally said, “Why would they do that?  The government would put them in jail!”  In the U.S, that boat would have been stripped bare in a couple days.

We both feel that our trip was a good (for us), “taste test” of Cuba and the Cuban people.  If the U.S. policies changed and we could go for a longer trip, we would definitely think about sailing south from The Bahamas to the east end of Cuba then down the south coast.  There are many nature preserves along the south coast along with isolated islands where we could do more swimming, snorkeling and exploring.

Overall, the trip was very interesting and well worth the time and dollar investment.  I highly recommend it if you want to see some place “different”. 

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