Log 23 covers May 12th to May 27th, 2004 as we make our way to Cuba and eventually to the capital, Havana. After a couple weeks we finally head off and make landfall in Miami, Florida.
|Our route from Belize to Cuba then to Miami|
We Really Want to Visit Cuba...By the time we are finished with Belize, we are really getting pushed for time if we want see Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, visit Cuba, get to the US mainland, and begin our Atlantic crossing before the real onset of hurricane season. The weather is still giving us strong northerlies when it's supposed to be east and southeast by now. On a small weather window, we pinch hard and sail for the very far west end of Cuba, skipping Mexico altogether. Mexico's great tacos will have to wait for another visit.
08:30, Wednesday, May 12th - Clearing into CubaAfter a rough 55-hour sail, we arrive at Cabo San Antonio, Cuba's most westerly outpost. It's close to dark as we pull near so we radio the Cuban port officials and ask if our tired and dirty crew can do the clear-in procedures in the morning rather than now. They agree but are all there anyway in their fresh-pressed whites to help tie Tioga up to the wharf as the sun sets. Not many visitors out here?? The next morning, we are all sleeping peacefully in bed when a 'knock, knock' is heard on the hull. It's 6:00 am…customs and immigration already?. We soon discover that we've come through a 2 hour time zone change - it's 8:00! We hop up slinging on our cloths as untold Cuban officials board Tioga: Customs, Immigration, Port Captain, Health Inspector, Veterinarian, marina administrator, assistants, forms and stamps... After about 2 hours of thorough inspection and form stamping we are officially cleared into Cuba!
|Cuba, where everyone is guarranteed a job!|
Cabo San Antonio May 13-15th - Waiting for WeatherWell, we are now on Cuba's western-most point. Havana would be about a 2-day sail if the winds were to cooperate.
|Outpost on most western point of Cuba.|
|This day Tioga is the only boat on the dock|
In the mean time, we get to know the locals. Sheila makes cookies and we all head up to the staff quarters with cookies and tea in hand along with our dominoes game, which we play with the staff who work and live here on their shift. They really enjoy the cookies! They have a place for hanging the banners and burgees from past visitors, so we give them a burgee from the Glenmore Sailing Club, which we all sign and write Calgary, Canada on.
May 16-20th - En route to Havana
|Joel busies himself with cross-stitch.|
Though we didn't plan on cruising the NW shore of Cuba, we really enjoy the 5 days it takes us to reach Havana even though reef pilotage is slow and tiring. The boys have many activities to keep them busy while we are underway and since the sails are not being used, Gerrit settles in on the mail sail.
|Gerrit enjoys a comfy spot to read.|
|Cayo Levisa's beautiful wind-swept beach|
Thursday, May 20 - the Final Push into HavanaWe are temporarily anchored in Bahia Honda. At 2:09AM we raise anchor in the dark and give a blast on the air horn to let the nearby Port Captain, asleep in his hovel, know that we are leaving as planned. We now must travel outside the reef's protection and in the Florida Strait. Early morning winds, though on the nose, are as light (8-12kt) as we could hope for to complete the last 38 miles into Havana's Marina Hemingway.
|Less fortunate vessel sits on entrance canal|
At around 9:30AM, we tie up at the custom's dock and once again are kept entertained for about an hour as officials go through our boat with a fine tooth comb, fill out all their forms, and seal off our portable VHF and GPS. After our dock assignment, we scout out the marina. There's a nice swimming pool and a handful of stores with a few supplies. We'll manage just fine.
Friday, May 25th - A Quick Tour and Some History (for you, that is)Today, we go for a tour with a horse and buggy around Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) to get a feel for the place. Yet, before we can even get going our driver has an accident with a parked car! He fires off some rapid Spanish at the parked car's nearby owner, shrugs and grins, and off we go.
|Horse-drawn buggy in Old Havana|
The monumental Capitolio Nacional dominates central Havana. Our guide book says it is similar to the US Capitol Building in Washington DC, but richer in detail. It was the seat of the Cuban Congress until 1959 and now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology. After a look around the stunning inside, we take a break on the huge steps out front. Suddenly out on the street, there is a yell, a man running very fast, then a gun shot. Policemen materialize from every nook and cranny to take the purse snatcher down - he doesn't stand a chance. He'll get 20 years, we are told by a local. Fidel does not want crimes against tourists. Tourism is way too important to an economy that is already way too fragile. $20 represents a month's wages to most Cubans.
|Capitolio Nacional - Cuba's White House|
|A polished chrome-and-steel Chevy|
The 'Granma' - Castro's Revolutionary Yacht
|Castros infamous 'Granma' - revolutionary transport!|
|The new Cuba has tanks in the streets.|
|Fidel & Che - Revolutionary Art|
This banner of a younger Fidel and right-hand man 'Che' Guevara (later killed by the CIA in Bolivia) adorns the wall of a building in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. Banners and murals that promote the political ideals of the Cuban government decorate a number of Havana’s buildings.
In October 1962, a major confrontation between world superpowers, the United States and the now very Cuban-friendly Soviets, over the issue of Soviet-supplied missile installations in Cuba. Regarded by many as the world's closest approach to nuclear war, the crisis began when the United States discovered that Cuba had secretly installed Soviet missiles able to carry nuclear weapons. The missiles were capable of hitting targets across most of the United States. The discovery led to a tense stand-off of several days as the United States imposed a naval blockade of Cuba and demanded that Cuba-bound Soviet ships return to the USSR and to further remove their missiles. After receiving secret assurances that the US would not invade Cuba, the Soviets ordered the missiles dismantled. Castro was not informed of the deal and did not find out about it until after the deal was done.
As the years rolled on, the Soviets heavily supported Cuba giving them about US $3 billion per year, half of the their 3rd-world foreign aid budget, which Cuba used to fund its social programs. With the collapse of the Soviet and Eastern bloc in 1990, 84% of Cuba's trade went with it - this hurt the Cuban economy terribly. With the Soviets out of the picture, Cuba was really left holding the bag. (Quiz - what are the origins of both the idioms used in my last sentence?)
|Regular Cuban people|
Today, with the US embargo tightening further and the rhetoric between G.W. Bush and Castro turning yet more venomous, the difficult times continue with the Cuban people caught in the middle.
In the Cuba we are visiting, we are overwhelmed by friendly and good-natured people . Everyone has a comment to share about the current state of affairs, whether good or bad, and hope shines through that things will indeed get better.
|Friendly Cubans, everywhere|
Tuesday, May 25th - Kids have fun while the winches get serviced.Well, back in our own life, the weather picture shows upcoming improvement with a long awaited break forecast for the wind and seas. It's been great for the boys to spend time and build boats with these 3 other Canadian boys also on the dock.
|Boat building team.|
|Getting the winches greased|
Thursday May 27th - Passage to MiamiToday, we get underway shortly after 9am, destination Miami. The seas are so much calmer than when we came in and the wind a nice 12 knots. Over the course of the day, the wind rises to about 18 knots maximum so we cruise along quite comfortably. We hit the Gulf Stream and the GPS picks up to show about 7.5 knots speed over the ground. The night passage is calm, just lots of traffic to watch out for…mainly cruise ships. On Sheila's first shift, the GPS shows 8.5 knots and then later Chris reports 10 kts., so the Gulf Stream is really pushing us along. Friday morning brings our first glimpses of the US as we pass the Florida Keys and with great help from the current, we make it to the Miami shipping channel by about 5:30pm!
|Miami in our sights.|
|What a different life a few short miles away.|
Join us in Log 24 as we prepare and cross the Atlantic ocean! Though we have endured a ton of bad weather and tough situations we have decided to go for it...we can't quit with Europe in our sights.