Bike security while cruising….. or anywhere

Unfortunately, bike theft is a reality of life. While cruising we have used a steel cable security lock but recently I have seen how easily these are cut using pocket sized ratcheting cable cutters.

We decided to upgrade our bike security to the Kryptonite model 785.  They are relatively inexpensive at $30….and come with a theft protection plan that will replace your bike or motorcycle if the lock is defeated or cut.

here’s a link where you can get yours…..

 

 

 

 

If it wasn’t this ……it would be something else…..it’s like “This Old Boat”

So, after forty years or so, even the most sturdy among us often needs a little TLC and refurbishing.  I had noticed some softness in the aft cabin sole under the stairs and finally decided this was the season to see what was going on down there.
As you can see, at some point there was water penetration and some WDO’s  (some wood destroying organisms i.e. fungus, termites and other various destructive elements at work here at some point over the last four decades).  I went to work with an oscillating tool equipped with a cutting blade and a pry bar.

The port side bulkhead next to the stairs had some interior damage, so I stripped all of that out and treated it with Coppercoat to prevent any future growth or infestations. I was fortunate to be able to find the extent of the damage and replace it all.

The starboard bulkhead, that makes up part of the nav station, was lightly damaged along the bottom edge so, I removed that section, treated The remaining wood and replaced the damaged section.

New pressure treated wood was installed to support the subfloor…….no more WDO’s here !!!

I had to drive theses stainless steel lag bolts by hand…..quite a forearm workout

 

Then,  I ”double treated” the pressure treated wood with Coppercoat…..

 

I discovered that shiplap fit perfectly into the gap created where I had removed the damaged bulkhead section.

I had to hand trim and fit the new subfloor sections to fit the curve of the hull on the starboard side under the nav station.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t use pressure treated plywood because the epoxy used to attach the final teak and holly veneer wouldn’t adhere to that.  I was able to use exterior grade plywood. I liberally soaked the edges and undersides with Coopercoat however.

Cutting the same style hatch board to match the original wasn’t too difficult…..

A local friend made the matching width teak and holly veneer for me…..Now to experiment with some stain colors to match…..

Next time I’ll post some finished shots after the trim, stain, and urethane are applied….

Twilight Zone Part 2

This past season we had hoped the big news for the blog was going to be a trip to the Ragged Islands.  Since the lockdowns and protocols in the Bahamas were ever changing and at times contradictory we stayed put in Long Island for about eight weeks and then made the run back to Florida. It wasn’t a great season for photos as we were restricted to the boat for about 1/3 of the cruising season, but here’s what’s left of what we got …..

Kim’s bird friend

Gun Cay  lighthouse at the south end of Gun Cay 

Hungry Rays

that cloud looks like a giant cruise ship Barry the barracuda 

Lighthouse at the south end of Gun Cay
Inside the Gun Cay lighthouse

A bit of a waterspout

Hoping we all have better luck ……And a better year next year ….

A Season From The Twilight Zone Part 1

So…..we left Florida just before New Years Eve, sacrificing our partying opportunities for a weather window to get down the coast and make a run for Bimini.  Our weather forecasting service wasn’t all that optimistic about the chances but we decided to go for it and see what happened.

We left Merritt Island and made it to Ft. Pierce that afternoon and anchored near a nice trawler named Diesel Duck (who we saw in the Bahamas much later in the season as they were anchored in George Town).

The next morning we departed Ft. Pierce and headed down the coast, trying to time our arrival for either an entry to Biscayne Bay if the weather was bad, or a turn toward Bimini the following morning.  As luck would have it, we were able to make the turn to Bimini just south of Miami and arrived there before 4pm for the outgoing tide so we could dock with some current against us and make it easier.

The below image is a screenshot of our track as we entered Bimini…..it was humorous that the dock hands didn’t mention that the channel had shifted about 100 yards to the south after hurricane Dorian.  If you take a close look at the green line, which was made as I was following our old track from the last few years you’ll notice we had to turn around and try again after we hit bottom!!!! The response on the radio was “oh ya mon we forgot to mention that”

 


We spent about two weeks in Bimini and I was able to enjoy my first ever bout if vertigo …..woof……don’t try that at home……I spent about four hours on a beach chair unable to even stand much less walk…..and then had two lighter bouts of it before it subsided and I haven’t had any issues since.

We helped out our friend Aaron at his bar The Hy Star Lounge for a few days and somewhat of a celebrity stopped by, if you are familiar with the Bravo TV show “Miami Million Dollar Listing”


That guy is apparently a multi millionaire and made it all on real estate in Miami after moving there from Ohio…….

After a couple of weeks in Bimini, as the weather cleared, we decided to make a run for the Exumas…….We made a jump for New Providence where we spent a night in West Bay and then made the ten hour jump to Norman’s Cay.  That was an adventure once we got there …..but more about that next time…..


I must have been hungry I already have my fork……

Havana….the last of the Mojitos (aka the walking tour….)

 

When we last saw our intrepid explorers they were making their way through old and New Havana……it was a long day.

We stopped at a few random spots to snap some pics before we stopped for a cold Cubata…..be the first to name the ingredients of that drink in the blog comments (not on Facebook) for a chance at a prize !!!!)

here we are at the Police Station…..voluntarily….

Bad boys ….bad boys….whatcha gonna do?

 

Our new “friend” …who was a bit of a stiff…..Antonia Gades….a famous Spanish Flamenco dancer

 

A message in a bottle ……from the maritime museum inside the fort…

 

on to the rooftop bar for a break…

It’s time for a ”Cubata” which is a dark rum and coke as opposed to a Cuba Libre which is white rum and Coke…

 

Jose’ Marti…..one impressive fellow….

Jose’ Marti, “The Apostle of Cuban Independence” who has statues everywhere, seems to be the true hero of Cuba.

Marti, (January 28, 1853 to May 19, 1895) was a poet, essayist and political activist.  He was considered an important revolutionary philosopher. Through his writings and political activity he became a symbol in Cuba’s bid for independence from Spain in the 19th century.  He was killed in combat at the battle of Dos Rios.

Below is a bronze statue of a woman who is surveying the horizon to her north and is located on top of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza in old Havana, Cuba. (If you’ve been paying attention, you already know what that is !!!)  The local Cuban people claim that this bronze statue is a depiction of Dona Isabel de Bobadilla and it is suggested that it was placed there to honor Inès de Bobadilla, who is said to have watched every day the return of her husband. She is also graces the label of Havana Club Rum !!

The fort….at the top of the dome you can see the statue “La Giraldilla”

 

 

Mike runs off with a new tour group ….

 

So you weren’t allowed to take photos inside the fort museum….oops…

A forbidden photo op from inside the fort museum….
An up close shot of La Giraldilla …..



Our Walking Tour of Havana

Spreading outward over time, Havana has become a sprawling city, but the scope of this growth can be hard to understand for those who don’t live in, or study, the area. As an effort to display this growth, a scale model of the city was created and offers an interesting and insightful view of the city and if you can get there it is something that you will not want to miss.

In 1978, the historical center of Havana and its system of military fortifications dating back from colonial days, were declared a National Monument and in 1982 were included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Old Havana, covers an area of 2.14 square kilometers.  This primarily consists of two distinct areas: the old walled city and the surrounding strip that was developed following demolition of the walls from the mid-nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth.

The Scale Model of Havana was designed to provide a clear look at how the city was originally laid out and how it expanded over time. The model is color coded according to the age of the buildings and landmarks, making it easy to understand how and when growth occurred.

Cuban artist, Orlando Martorell, his wife and a team of modelers were the creators of the Old Havana Scale Model, a work that took them 3 years to complete and it was built to at a scale of 1:1500.

Among Martorell’s work is also the scale model of the historic center of Alcalá in Spain.

 

The Scale Model of Old Havana also features a beautiful lighting system that simulates day and night, sunrise and sunset, the lights and shadows of the city. This system also integrates sounds like the singing of birds, the authentic sounds of the city, the murmur of the waves of the sea, the bells of the nearby colonial churches, and even the noisy genuine sound of the firing of the canon at 9pm. The canon was originally used to signal the closing of the city gates, which stayed closed until dawn, it is the only way to experience what the city looked like over the centuries.

 

The harbor….

In 1890 there was a serious explosion which destroyed a hardware store in Havana….this is the text from the newspaper article from the Los Angeles Herald ……

THIRTY-FOUR PEOPLE KILLED AND ONE HUNDRED INJURED

“A Barrel of Powder in a Burning Hardware Store Was the Agency of Death.

Terrible Effects of the Explosion.

Havana, May 18. —During a fire in a hardware store last night a barrel of powder exploded. The whole structure was blown to pieces, and twenty-two persons killed. Among the dead are four tire chiefs and the Venezuelan consul, Seiior Franciso j Silva, who happened to be in front of the building at the time of the explosion. In addition to the killed, over one hundred persons are injured. The explosion caused the wildest excitement throughout the city, and thousands flocked to the scene of the disaster. The municipal authorities were promptly on the ground, and did everything in their power to aid the injured.” Several houses adjacent were damaged by the explosion. Later—The number of dead up to this morning was thirty-four. A gang of men is at work on the debris. Many human limbs have been taken out. The relatives of missing persons are gathered on the spot, and as the bodies are brought out the scenes are distressing. The proprietor of the hardware store has been arrested. It is feared that several more victims are in the ruins.”

The powder had been stored there illegally and the owner, despite being at the scene, did not warn the volunteer firemen who rushed in just before the explosion.

 

The monument to the volunteer Firemen…..

 

On a lighter note, there is a mysterious brass statue in what is called Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza).  A woman sits atop her big, feathery rooster mount, completely naked except for the stilettos on her feet. A massive forks rests on her right shoulder. The rooster, stoically gazes ahead.

No one seems to know what the meaning is behind this statue. Some tour guides say it is a tribute to the history of prostitution in Havana. The sculptor, Roberto Fabelo, installed the piece at Plaza Vieja in 2012 without explanation or context. The artist, who won the country’s 2004 National Arts Award, frequently features nude women with birdlike features in his work.

 

Downtown is filled with amazing architecture…..

 

A statue of a protective monk and an indigenous Indian boy at the Church of St. Francis Assisi and Convent…..and a random woman in the bottom left corner….

 

 

 

The church….

 

 

Below is a statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo, who was a Cuban revolutionary hero. Cespedes, who was a plantation owner in Cuba, freed his slaves and made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started the Ten Years’ War, which ultimately led to Cuban independence.

Havana…… ooh nanana 🎼🎤🎹

As promised here is the start of the Havana pics…..

a couple of interesting street shots to start off….

One side of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba…originally designed as a casino in the 40’s the hotel was nationalized after 1959…..

 

 

A little history about Havana ……

Founded in 1519 (this year is the 500th anniversary of Havana) as a city of the pirate age, and the even more frequent naval attacks by other countries, the area known as Old Havana was at one point a walled city.  The city and bay were stopover points for the treasure laden Spanish galleons returning to Spain from South and Central America.  In 1555 the pirate Jacques de Sores burned Havana while sacking the city in search of treasure.  He destroyed the existing fort in the process but he didn’t find much. After that incident, the Spanish sent soldiers, built a wall and a new fortress (the Castillo de la Real Fuerza) which still stands and is now a museum.

Castillo Real de la Fuerza

 

Let me just move this cannon out of the way ….ouch…those cannon shells are pointy


As the pirate and a military naval warfare age faded the wall became obsolete  and was slowly removed as the city expanded.

 

This is one of the remaining corners….

 

Mike reaches back in time …..and breaks a rule by touching the wall….


 

A different type of warfare in 1961…..remnants of the weapons supplied by the USSR ….the small SAU-100 tank which was used by Castro to fire shells at a US Naval vessel during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

 

And now….Hemingway’s former haunts in Havana ……Sloppy Joe’s and the Floridita (home of the original daiquiri)…….

Sloppy Joe’s was originally opened by Jose Garcia as the Rio Havana in the 1930’s and was allegedly nicknamed Sloppy Joe’s because of the constantly wet floors from the melting ice in the seafood cases.  The house sandwich also adopted the name and was made of Ropa Vieja, a slow cooked wet beef.

Garcia came to Cuba from Spain in 1904, moved to New Orleans, and returned to Havana in 1919. Garcia was a career barman.  As a barman it was obviously difficult to make a living in the US during prohibition.  The building was a grocery store and warehouse before Garcia opened his bar. Hemingway recommended the name Sloppy Joe’s for a bar owned by his friend Joe Russell of Key West in honor of Garcia. Russell, a bootlegger and speakeasy operator, ran the Key West bar under a few names before he took Hemingway’s suggestion.   Hemingway had an apartment on one of the upper floors of the Rio Havana prior to 1959 when the bar was closed by the government until 2008.

Hemingway’s favorite spot for a daiquiri…..

 

An interesting angle of the original Bacardi building…..the Bacardi family left Cuba in 1959 and relocated to Puerto Rico.

I once read an article in Sail magazine by someone who took a sailboat to  Cuba, but elected to stay in a rented apartment in Havana for the duration of their visit???? The author whined throughout the article about the air quality in Havana due to the poorly maintained old cars throughout the city. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Finding Fusterlandia

I know I promised Havana photos but I forgot about Fusterlandia.  No, it’s not an amusement park.  Something you don’t expect to find when you visit Cuba is a small neighborhood that has been slowly converted over a decade, or so, into a giant mosaic abstract art exhibit.  You feel like you’re in the Beatles movie “Yellow Submarine” as you walk down the streets.  I’ll admit….this style really isn’t my thing.  It was an interesting novelty though.

Jose Rodriguez Fuster was born in 1946 and attended the National School of Art in Cuba.  His work has been primarily in oils and ceramics.  He allegedly still lives in this neighborhood in Jaimanitas, though we never saw him.  Jaimanitas is a small fishing/surfing village just east of the Hemingway Marina.  When you ask the locals what he’s like you usually get the comment “well….he’s a bit of a Communist” ….I wasn’t certain how to interpret that so, I didn’t ask any follow up questions.

Jose’ Fuster

 

Don’t visit this place under the influence…..of anything…..


 

“The best friend”……..


There might be a small prize for the first person who comments on the blog page (not Facebook) with the movie reference on which the title of this blog post is based.

And I promise next time will be Havana pics…..

 

First Round of Cuba Pics !!!

GRRRRRRRRR !!!!This is Mike your growling tour guide…..

You will see the same 5 or 6 photos of Hemingway with Castro….they get a lot of mileage out of those…..this  was  their  first,  and  last, 30 second meeting.  Hemingway left Cuba, his home for 20+ years and never returned.  Check out that white  knuckle  grip  !!!!

 

One of the first things  we did was join the “Clùb Nautico Internacíonal Hemingway de Cuba” aka the Hemingway Yacht Club.  It is the one and ONLY Yacht Club in Cuba.  Yacht clubs were deemed to be “elitist” and banned in 1959 after the revolution. Since the Club was allowed to reopen it has been an uphill battle for the Commodore (Juan Escrich, pictured below with some motley crew) to keep the club operating free of interference or complete forced closure.  Membership dues from foreign members help them keep the Cuban nautical tradition alive. The Yacht Club, founded in 1992 after the USSR pulled out of Cuba, (and ending their annual subsidies) gave former Cuban naval officer Escrich a way to keep the nautical dream alive for Cubans. They also host the second oldest fishing tournament in the world!!!

 

The proud new members…..

American made cars (models prior to the 1959 revolution) are everywhere and generally very well maintained.

 

Next time ……Havana highlights….


 

 

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Arrive in Cuba…Part 3 of the Cuba Series

 

So, there’s been a few changes to the U.S. administrative aspects for visiting Cuba. That doesn’t mean the visits are completely over. People from the US have been visiting Cuba for decades before some restrictions were eased in 2010. The important thing to remember is that nothing lasts forever. You could, and still can in some instances, visit Cuba without supporting the Cuban government. There has been a blanket policy instituted prohibiting private vessels and aircraft from visiting but this has yet to be tested. It seems a bit discriminatory, to me, to allow guided tours by companies and yet prevent private citizens from visiting for the same licensed purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my conversations with the citizenry, the Cuban people are weary of their government running every aspect of their lives but live in fear of being jailed for speaking their minds.  Visits to Cuba and the expenditure of foreign dollars at places controlled by the government (i.e. Cruise ship areas and many of the tourist traps in downtown Havana) only perpetuate the system that oppresses its own people and supports similar systems elsewhere.  Cruise ship fees go directly to the government and military.  Almost all the shops and attractions around the cruise ship ports are government controlled.  We were very cautious to only visit private businesses, which are only the very small family run style and the individual owners keeps the proceeds. Marina Hemingway is controlled by a private group and is the only marina where you can currently clear in when coming from the US.

Cuba is the only country I have ever visited, where, despite the constant touting of their healthcare system by some, you continually meet adults with completely treatable conditions which they are not “permitted” to have surgery or other remedies to correct.  The most notable was an otherwise perfectly health young bartender who had suffered from frequent infections of his tonsils since he was a small child.  He was frequently unable to speak for a week or more.  The only treatment he could obtain was a constant supply of antibiotics which will eventually lead to bacterial resistance and a host of other side effects. He was also not allowed to leave the country for surgery.

I’ve read a lot of complaints about the tightening of the visitation regulations.  Most seem rather selfish and short sighted. Imagine if the employees at any business were denigrated, oppressed, threatened, denied healthcare, and generally mistreated by the management ? Would you still patronize them and line the pockets of their oppressors? If Europeans and Canadians were allowed to go, and went, at times supporting such a system, would you use that as an excuse to visit through that form of tourism anyway ?

US Travelers can still visit Cuba, subject to specific conditions:

Family visits
Official U.S. government business
Journalistic activity–you must be employed full time by a recognized media outlet….unfortunately bloggers don’t qualify
Professional research and meetings
Educational activities (like those from U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools)
Religious activities
Support for the Cuban people—this will hopefully be the license that allows private vessels to visit again.
Humanitarian projects

If this program doesn’t work out we will have to wait till the tide turns and we can more easily visit Cuba again (without supporting this current Cuban government) let’s still be ready……

You’ve done all your research, you have the USCG permit email in your hot little hands, the boat is ready to go and there is a weather window approaching right on cue.  Why are you so nervous then?

Over the decades there has been a lot of misinformation floating around about Cuba, some even correct information attributed to the incorrect source or cause.  Some people believe it is crime ridden, dirty and unsafe. I have always judged places I visit by the character of the people and not the spit and polish state of their buildings and streets.  By this metric, Cuba could not be a better place to visit.  It certainly has infrastructure problems. Sidewalks are broken and usually poorly maintained, if still usable.  Roads are potholed, some are dirt, some (most) have horse drawn wagons on them, even the interstate.  The people are kind, honest and humble.  Cuba is more than Havana, as the US is more than NYC.  Some think Cuba must be like any American Cuban neighborhood they may have visited.  It seems that Cuban/American culture has become so commingled and diluted by American culture that it has become unique. The lack of similarities were surprising.

Back to arrival preparations…..be sure and take a stack of $5 bills for tips, I took about $100 in fives.  You will meet Marina attendants and other employees who will expect small gratuities.  Don’t change any money until after you are fully checked in and don’t go to the hotel or the bank when you are ready to change it.

If you like to trade things, take some MLB hats or shirts, some American beer, some bourbon or other American products that aren’t imported to Cuba.  They make great gifts when someone really helps you out or just to trade and save a few bucks.  We traded a case of Budweiser we bought for $15 stateside for a case of Cristal Cuban beer which was $24 a case. We gave away hats and MLB shirts to people we made friends with around the marina. That didn’t hurt when it came time to stock up on rum, coffee and cigars as we were pointed to the best sources.

As I previously mentioned, the entrance to Hemingway Marina is tricky and exposed to North winds, so you’ll have to time your arrival appropriately.  The channel is a bit narrow and there was a sunken boat on the east side of the channel in about 15′ of water when we were there.  If it’s your first time it will look a little confusing as you come into the inlet.  The markers are on poles rather than the more traditional buoy.  That makes them hard to see from a distance to be sure you are lined up. The last green mark before the turn to the customs dock (the dock, actually just a wall, is painted blue and I marked it with a blue line in the image below.) the last green mark is actually on shore and obstructed by some large growth.  The seawall on your port side is the edge of the channel, but I still wouldn’t cut it too close. The channel appears to drastically narrow and in truth the last red mark does narrow it slightly but it’s not as bad as it looks. It would have greatly reduced the stress had I known the last green was on the corner of the land by the Customs dock, rather than just being confused about where it might be lurking.

 

Once you round the corner and tie up on your port side, the Customs officials, who were all much younger (early 20’s) and friendlier than we anticipated, come aboard.  A Nurse comes aboard with Customs for a few minutes to take temperatures and generally check the crew for communicable diseases.  The process was quick and the search was very, very minimal.  The customs officers won’t accept or expect a tip, although some might accept the offer of some coffee or a soda.

Keep in mind these canals were dug out and poured in the 40’s or 50’s the concrete must have escaped from the forms during pouring and there are some large extensions that extend into the canals by 5-6′ in places at depths of 3-5′. Stay as close to the center of the canal as you can until you’re ready to tie up.

If you can, it’s a good idea when you make your reservations to request the first canal and the berths along that wall are numbered in the 100 range.  We were in slip 124.  The restrooms and a small snack bar are located where you make the turn into that canal, so wifi and restrooms will be convenient.

Speaking of wifi….you have to purchase wifi cards, similar to the old prepaid phone cards in the US.  You can get the cards at the snack bar, the Chinese restaurant, the Yacht Club or the Mexican restaurant.  Then you go to a place with wifi access, the snack bar, the Chinese restaurant, which is very good, or the Yacht Club and log in.  You get an hour for $1.50CUC.

As you approach the wall in the canal, the dockmaster will probably be there to meet you.   The dockmaster will hint around for a tip. I found that giving out a few $5 tips when appropriate makes later interactions much easier and the people you might need help or guidance from are obviously much more willing to help.   The marina electrician has to plug your boat in and it’s a good idea to give him a small tip because you will have power outages and he will be the one fixing the power pedestal.

Next the agriculture officer will come around to inspect your food stores and make sure you don’t have any risky vegetables or meat.  A Doctor from the health ministry will come aboard to verify your holding tank is closed off from discharge (they just ask but don’t inspect).  After the paperwork is done both of these agents will say “we would appreciate a small tip if you’d like to give one but it isn’t necessary”, we tipped them both and they checked in on us three times during our visit to make sure we didn’t need anything.

After that you are all checked in and ready to see Cuba !!!

The store, marked as the “Ship’s Chandlery” on the satellite image is the best place to change money.  You can get .9 CUC for each dollar rather than .87 and paying any other penalties and if you have Cuban CUC’s left at the end, Jose the store manager, will buy them back. Jose is also a great resource for meeting other people who sell rum, cigars, coffee, souvenirs and conduct tours at much cheaper prices than the stores and other organizations.  Plus you’ll know your money is going to the person and not the government.

There are two currencies in Cuba.  The CUP, the peso, is for Cubans.  The CUC is the tourist currency.  One CUC is equal to 24CUP.  Tourists are not legally allowed to have or exchange in pesos.  All businesses accept both.  Some, that charge in pesos will charge tourists in CUC one for one.  Most will adjust the exchange rate and you can eat and drink very inexpensively.  One afternoon three of us had lunch and beers for about $8.

Next time we get around Cuba and buy some goodies……