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.


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……

 

A schedule of events for the Hemingway Yacht Club, Cuba

I know I said this time would be the rum and cigars post, but I thought this might be important for anyone trying to plan a trip soon.  I received a list of events for the Hemingway Yacht Club…Some have passed but it can give you a good idea of what will be happening again in early 2020 if you plan to go next year…..

 

SOME OF THE NAUTICAL AND ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES IN GREETING TO THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA FOUNDATION

NOVEMBER 2018 – NOVEMBER 2019

1. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE 500 ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA FOUNDATION.
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 15
PARTICIPANTS: 70
DATE: November 18th, 2018

2. NAME: ST. PETERSBURG – HABANA REGATTA
ORGANIZED BY: St. Petersburg Yacht Club
BOATS: 30
PARTICIPANTS: 153
DATE: March 16th – 23rd

3. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF
HAVANA AND TORREÓN DE LA CHORRERA REGATTA
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 40 (vessels participating in the in the St. Petersburg-Habana Regatta and
vessels of HIYC of Cuba)
PARTICIPANTS: 200
DATE: March 23rd

4. NAME: X CONCH REPUBLIC CUP REGATTA
ORGANIZED BY: Key West Community Sailing Center and the Key West Yacht Club
BOATS: 35
PARTICIPANTS: 120
DATE: From April 28th to May 5th

5. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF
HAVANA AND TORREÓN DE LA CHORRERA REGATTA
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 30 (Participants in the Conch Republic Cup Regatta and HIYC of Cuba)
PARTICIPANTS: 100
DATE: May 4th

6. NAME: CUBA RALLY 2019 KEY WEST TO HAVANA.
ORGANIZED BY: Florida Yachts Charters and Stock Island Marina Village
BOATS: 50
PARTICIPANTS: 240
DATE: May 5th -8th

7. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE 500 ANNIVERSARY IN GREETING TO THE XXXIX
INTERNATIONAL TOURISM FAIR (FITCUBA 2019)
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 30 (Participating in the Rally Key West-Havana and Hemingway
International Yacht Club of Cuba)
PARTICIPANTS: 150
DATE: May 6th

8. NAME: LIGHT SAILING REGATTA 500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION
OF THE VILLAGE OF SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LA HABANA.
ORGANIZED BY: The Cuban Sailing Federation and Hemingway International Yacht Club
of Cuba
BOATS: 100
PARTICIPANTS: 150
DATE: May 11th

9. NAME: RALLY KEY WEST-HAVANA IN GREETING TO THE 500
ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA
ORGANIZED BY: Key West Yacht Club
VESSELS: 10-15
PARTICIPANTS: 60
DATE: June 6th -8th

10. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE 500 ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
VESSELS: 20
PARTICIPANTS: 80
DATE: June 7th

11. NAME: KYTE SURFING FESTIVAL 500th ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA¨
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 40
PARTICIPANTS: 60
DATE: July 6th (forming part of the start of the summer season in Havana)

12. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE OF SAIL AND MOTOR NAVAL MODELS AND
EXHIBITION OF CUBAN MODELS IN GREETING TO THE “500
ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba with the support
of the office of the Historian of Havana
PARTICIPANTS: 100 Cuban Modelists
DATE: August 9th -12th

13. NAME: “FUTURE SAILORS WORKSHOP”
ORGANIZED BY: National Aquarium of Cuba and Hemingway International
Yacht Club of Cuba.
PARTICIPANTS: Children and youngsters
DATE: (July and August one or two weeks each month)

14. NAME: SHORE FISHING TOURNAMENT IN THE MALECON OF HAVANA ¨500
ANNIVERSARY OF THE VILLAGE OF SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LA HABANA¨
ORGANIZED BY: Cuban Sport Fishing Federation and Hemingway International Yacht
Club of Cuba
PARTICIPANTS: 500 anglers
DATE: August 31st (Forming part of the closing season for summer in Havana)

15. NAME: INTERNATIONAL COLLOQUIUM ¨HAVANA AND THE SEA IN ITS 500
YEARS¨
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba, History of Cuba
Institute and History of Cuba Academy
PARTICIPANTS: 50 to 80
DATE: September 5th – 7th

16. NAME: MARITIME PROCESSION OF THE VIRGIN OF REGLA, PATRON OF
THE BAY AND HAVANA PORT
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba and the National
Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Regla, Archbishopric of Havana, Yoruba Cuban
Association
BOATS: 100
PARTICIPANTS: 500
DATE: SEPTEMBER 7th

17. NAME: XXXIII GENERAL ORDINARY ASSEMBLY OF THE INTERNATIONAL
FEDERATION OF MARITIME AND NAVAL LEAGUES AND ASSOCIATIONS
(FIDALMAR)
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
PARTICIPANTS: 100 – 150 (Delegations of 15 – 20 countries)
DATE: October 27th to November 2nd.
​​​​
18. NAME: NAUTICAL PARADE ¨500th ANNIVERSARY OF HAVANA FOUNDATION
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 40
PARTICIPANTS: 200
DATE: November 15th

19. NAME: GREETING TO HAVANA FROM THE SEA ON ITS ARRIVAL TO ITS
500th ANNIVERSARY.
ORGANIZED BY: Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba
BOATS: 80
PARTICIPANTS: 200
DATE: Night of November 15th.

So, you got approved for Cuba, now what ? Part II of the Cuba series…plus some pics

 

 

So, the Coast Guard sent you the approval email…..how exciting !!! But now what ???

Don’t forget the clock is ticking and you probably only have a week, or less, before your approved departure date arrives.

 

Our courtesy flag flying !!

 

Hopefully, by the time the email arrives you will already have a Quarantine flag, a Cuban courtesy flag, a cruising guide or two, (I had read our cruising guide once or twice before we even applied) and charts. If not, you can order them here…..

 

Mike taking down our “Q” flag after we cleared in.

 

In addition, you should have an appropriate supply of spare parts, provisions and done some sort of shakedown trip to bebug any known or unknown issues you might have. You can buy food in Cuba but it’s more fun to explore and try out the local spots than to have to shop, parts would be VERY difficult….parts from the US would be almost impossible.

First things first…..start checking the weather…..this will be the most limiting factor for your passage and may force you to adjust your departure date with the USCG, so watch it closely. Before we left for Cuba we met a nice gentleman in a local Marathon bar. We overheard him say he owned a Hunter 35 (which was the same model Mike previously owned) so a boat conversation promptly erupted. He asked where we here headed and we said “Hopefully Cuba!!” He said he planned to leave for Cuba and keep going south as his boat was his only possession and he had no family to keep him in the states. Since he didn’t plan on returning he wasn’t going to bother getting a permit from the Coast Guard. He planned to leave near the end of March and we told him we would see him there.

Once we arrived in Cuba there was an extended period of moderately heavy to heavy North wind. It was so bad that the St. Pete to Havana race was almost cancelled. They delayed the start of the race by a day and a record was set in the spinnaker class for completion of the trip. That boat shaved about seven hours off the old record if that gives you any idea what the winds were like.

Once the North winds exceed 15 knots for a certain amount of time the Hemingway Marina stops allowing boats to enter or exit as it becomes quite hazardous. The entry channel is bordered by shallow rocks on either side and between the countercurrents from the Gulfstream (which at the time was very close to the north shore of Cuba) and the wind it can be difficult to avoid broaching (being turned sideways from wind and waves on the stern) and crashing into the rocks. Plus the North shore of Cuba is mostly Reef, rocks and shoals, then add to that, the depth goes from 1000′ to about 50′ in less than half a mile and it can be very dicey.

After the St. Pete racers arrived and departed the North winds again increased. We heard a story about a sailboat that had apparently exited the Gulfstream to the east of the marina channel and had attempted to work it’s way back West along the shoreline to the channel. The winds had again become pretty heavy, the swells out of the North were still very strong, the boat was unable to sail or power away and the boat was pushed up onto the Reef. Upon returning to Marathon in the Florida Keys we learned that it was the man we had met in the bar just before we left. His boat had been trapped on the Reef for a few days and then a series of heavier swells had pushed it into a deeper pocket between the outer and the inner Reef. Unfortunately, there isn’t a channel or passage out of this area so his boat was damaged and then trapped in a pocket of deep water inside the two Reef areas. We haven’t heard anymore updates but it seems his boat will be a complete loss. Even if he had insurance, American based insurance companies offer no coverage in Cuba. Until March of 2019, two companies had offered special riders for Cuba coverage but they ceased to offer that citing “declining diplomatic relations”. Just before we departed Cuba, a second boat, a catamaran enroute to Key West from Mexico, was forced into Havana harbor by rough seas and high winds and later relocated to Marina Hemingway once the winds subsided. So, it’s weather, weather, weather….and make sure your engine and drivetrain are up to the challenge should you end up with a Lee shore and need the power to make a getaway.

You hear a lot of odd stories about what to take to Cuba if you’re interested in giving gifts away. We have heard people say that “hygiene products” were popular gifts as they are difficult to obtain in Cuba….or some sort of perfumes or other toiletries for women were in demand……..we didn’t see, or hear of, that. Some of those stories also came with sort of an underlying, unseemly motive for those types of “gifts”, so avoid that.

Cuba has changed quite a bit. Cellphones and social media are common. Personal items may be slightly more expensive but are readily available. Wifi, while usually available at parks or restaurants by the hour, isn’t overly common at residences. Even at a park or other location with wifi you have to buy a wifi card and then it’s $1.50 CUC (the tourist currency) for an hour of usage. Funny side note…most Cubans pronounce it “wee-fee” so the traditional pronunciation can lead to some confused looks.

I asked a few people we befriended if there were any items that we, as Americans, might take for granted that were difficult to obtain in Cuba today and they said no. What we did find was that American products that don’t get imported to Cuba are interesting as a novelty. We took a few extra bottles of bourbon which we gave as gifts to some people, a case of Budweiser we traded for a case of Cristal beer and we had some baseball shirts and extra hats on board that we gave away to some of the people we met who had kids involved in baseball. They were very grateful for the gifts as they love American sports teams in Cuba.

this one’s for Barb Lienhard ….Happy Birthday !!!

 

There’s also a lot of talk about what kind of currency to take with you. People often exchange US dollars for Euros in the states to avoid some of the penalties charged at official outlets when exchanging US currency. Save your time and just take US dollars. You can tip in USD until you get your exchange finished. Take plenty of $5’s for the tips. Customs and Immigration won’t ask for a tip, or expect one, but the dockmaster, the electrician (who has to connect your shorepower), the agriculture officer and the health inspector will all say “the fee is $X and if you’d like to include a gift we would appreciate it”. Plenty of people laugh at them and give nothing but the goodwill was well worth the small price. We got plenty of visits from people asking if we wanted or needed anything and we saved about $300 on the stuff we bought to bring back (rum and cigars). In the next post we will tell you where to go to get the best exchange rates, pay 0 penalty AND get a better rate. Plus if you go to the right spots to eat you’ll be paying the lesser amount for food in pesos which is $1USD to $25CUP (the locals currency) as opposed to $.90 USD to $1CUC. Three of us had lunch and beers one day at a local place for $8USD.

What about the language barrier? English is taught in Cuban schools, but like any second language taught anywhere, if it goes unused it is lost.  A lot of Cubans in the marina area speak English very well.  Download an English to Spanish dictionary to your phone, buy a copy of Spanish for Cruisers and learn some key phrases.  Almost every menu is in Spanish….it helps to know what Cerdo, a chuleta and a pescadore are and how to get directions helps……We made some cheat sheets to review and assist the crew.  I had a few years of Spanish in high school and fortunately a lot of it stuck with me…comprehension is easier and after a few days I can carry out  a decent conversation.

Last, but not least, is route planning. Hopefully, you’ll have moderate east or west winds, we had light south winds, in between bouts of heavy north winds, so we ended up motoring the whole way. If you have the time, or the inclination, I would go as far West as you can before leaving the Keys. If your weather window is big enough, go to Dry Tortugas for a day or two. There’s a blog post for Dry Tortugas for any newbies.  That way you will already have made some distance to the west and then join the flow of the Gulfstream, rather than fighting it, and make your final part of the ride smoother and faster. When we left, we left from Key West and we planned to turn at N24.95.840/W082.34.186 to a course of 177 degrees T and then end up about 6 miles east of the Marina entrance, turning back along the coast outside of the Gulfstream. Once we got out there the Gulfstream was further south so we got an extra ten miles West before turning south and were able to head straight for the marina entrance avoiding the risks of the north shore arrival and subsequent westerly backtrack. The Gulfstream was VERY close to the north coast of Cuba at that time. It was about a 25 hour crossing.

Next time…..how to get the “hook up” in Cuba for currency exchange, tours, rum, cigars and more…….

It just raises and lowers the anchor….how complex can it be ????

It recently occurred to me that our windlass could probably use some attention.  After all, it has served us well for a few seasons and hasn’t received any TLC. Our prior boat was much smaller and didn’t have a windlass. Since I didn’t have any experience with any sort of windlass maintenance, I turned to YouTube.  Imtra, the company that manufacters the Lofrans Tigres Windlass we have, has a channel with a detailed six step maintenance tutorial.  All seven videos were a total of about 30 minutes….easy peasy, right ?

It seemed simple enough, so the next day I dove into the disassembly, cleaning and regreasing. In the far left side of the diagram, on the end, you can see the Circlips, which are small circular washer type safety stops to prevent an item on a threaded shaft from falling off if you loosen it too much or it vibrates loose. Those were missing, so I found and ordered some from Grainger.  It seemed that the end of the driveshaft had been damaged at some point and the slot for the clips was bent closed……40 minutes of filing later, the groove was fixed.

So, working our way inward, once the clutch release is spun off you can remove the outer clutch cone, lower the chain stripper out of the way by removing the aft mounting bolt, remove the chain gypsy and the inner clutch cone. Our inner clutch cone was deformed and jammed on the driveshaft.

So, our inner clutch cone wouldn’t come off.  In the video it slipped right off for cleaning, greasing and replacement, not so much in the real world.  At some point in the history of our windlass it must have had a lot of stress on the chain without a snubber line to absorb the force. It was bent and slightly split where the keystock fits into the driveshaft.  The stainless steel shaft was also slightly bulged, deformed and the keystock was bent.  So…out comes the Dremel….90 minutes of careful cutting and the clutch cone was off…..plus ordering a new one for $74 and waiting for delivery…..plus a new gasket for the motor housing $22….

I found a great new source for parts…. https://www.pleasureboatmarine.com they were quick to respond and the parts arrived in two days.

Once the new inner clutch cone arrived I had to file the driveshaft to remove the bulges.  That was another hour of fitting the bronze cone, and filing and fitting, since bronze is softer than stainless it made yellow marks on the shaft where it made contact which made it easier to know where to file.

After that was greased and installed the rest went back together pretty easily with the addition of the safety clips on the driveshaft.

Next, I removed the motor housing cover.  This is held in place by two threaded rods that fit into the main body of the windlass secured by acorn, or cap nuts on the outside of the cover.  Our cover however, had a bead of caulk around the edge making it extra difficult to remove….so add forty minutes to the process…….

It appeared this caulk was necessary because the nitrile cord gasket had been installed backward and the raised edge was in the groove of the cover rather than facing outward toward the main body of the unit.  This removal process was made slightly more difficult by the proximity of the standing rigging for the staysail.  I had to loosen the acorn nuts, pry the cover loose, then remove the rods and then take the cover off at an angle and use a rubber mallet to “encourage” it.

Since the housing is aluminum and the bolts and acorn nuts are stainless the cover should have plastic “Delrin” washers to keep the metals from touching as they will interact and cause corrosion.  Those washers were also missing.

The motor housing was in good shape, the wiring was run properly under the motor and the terminals were clean and secure.   I cleaned the motor and applied a light coat of oil to inhibit corrosion.

 

Once it was reassembled, I tested the rope rode drum side (far right in the diagram), the manual override (where the vertical handle is) and we loaded our new, 250′ of anchor chain into the boat.

 

need one ?

The 30 minute videos turned into about 4 hours of actual labor and a few days of waiting for parts…boat life !!!

As an added bonus, our windlass remote control has stopped functioning in reverse mode so that’s next on the list…..

Winner winner ….Kalik beer fishing shirt….(I’m a terrible poet)

Congratulations to our most recent prize winner….and long time subscriber, Dave Uhles !!!!! Dave is an extraordinary pilot and was the best sailing student I’ve ever had the privilege to teach….what a natural !!!  He piloted the boat all day on Brookville Lake while I drank beer…..Dave likes to fly fish so I hope this shirt saves his skin from any unwanted sunburns……

Dave won this prize for correctly identifying the corresponding crew member based on our Jaws themed monogrammed custom napkins quiz on Facebook this last June.

Don’t forget to encourage friends to subscribe….any month we add ten or more subscribers we have a random prize giveaway…..it’s like automatically increasing your chances to win !!! And your odds are MUCH better than with the powerball.

On an unrelated note……Christmas is coming…..a lot of people use online shopping these days for that……I received a few questions on how the program we advertise in posts works …… if you use our links to access their site and you order anything or buy a video or music, or sign up for a prime or kindle trial we get a small commission and that doesn’t increase your cost at all…..I hope that helps answer any questions…..thanks !!!

AND ……

Congratulations Dave !!!!

 

 

 

Where should we go ?


So…we find ourselves nearing the time when we need to decide where we will go during this next cruising season.  We have a couple of choices and thought it might be fun to see what our readers thought. Keep in mind these aren’t actual navigation routes…..just general areas we would depart and arrive…..

This first route is what we did in 2016-2017…..it covers about 1,000 nautical miles (nm) and while we didn’t hit every Island we hit quite a few…..

This second, partially new, route covers what we did in 2015-2016 (Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas) plus adds Cuba, Isla Mujeres, and some hops down that coast that would end in Guatemala. Which is also a good place to be for hurricane season next year.

Courtesy of Google Maps

So….let us know what you think by voting below !!!! Feel free to leave some comments too !!!

 

A season at the dock…..Part I

We were hoping to make a late December getaway to the Bahamas since November was preempted by some return trips to visit and support family,  but on December 26th I was paid a visit by the kidney stone fairy.  I’m very glad we weren’t in the Bahamas as this was my first time dealing with one of these.  On the pain scale of one to ten I’d give that experience a 12…..I was told by the doctor that I had two more waiting in the wings so we thought it might be a good idea to take this opportunity to fix some things that we had been putting off while we were staying put for a while.

We had a few projects……..Our watermaker had stopped working in the Bahamas, and that required diagnosis and repair…..we had some wood work that needed repair from some very old water damage,……our alternator needed a rebuild and realignment……the adjacent engine driven, high pressure watermaker pump also needed to be realigned……our refrigerator and freezer compressor had originally been wired in the same circuit which I thought was interfering with the performance when both units tried to start up at the same time,….. our wifi range extender was on the fritz,…… our new outboard was due for it’s ten hour service and our backup, new to us, outboard needed some work as well, and our masthead wind instruments (which supply the wind speed and direction to our instruments) stopped sending data to our cockpit display for some reason and finally our refrigerator evaporator plate needed to be replaced. Keep in mind these projects were tempered by trips to the beach, happy hours and visiting friends !!!!

First a quick tutorial on watermaker function.  We take in seawater and filter it to remove any large contaminants.  Then the water is pressurized using a “low pressure” pump at about 17psi.  That pump maintains the pressure to the high pressure pump which operates at hundreds of pounds of pressure.  The water then travels through two tubular membranes (filters).  The seawater is highly pressurized and travels along the outside of the membrane and the freshwater is pushed through to the inside of the membrane “cylinder”.  That freshwater goes to our tanks and the remaining briny seawater goes overboard. Sounds simple right ? Here’s a diagram ……

Our watermaker was a two fold issue.  Our low pressure pump, which feeds the high pressure pump wasn’t moving any water.  It is an intermittent duty (i.e. 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off) pump and required a cooling coil to keep the temperature down and extend the duty cycle.  Unfortunately, the cooling coil couldn’t make 100% contact with the motor so it suffered from some efficiency issues.

I had initially assumed that the motor was burned up.  I removed the pump and was about to order a new one.  I had hoped there had been some advancement in  pump design and we could get a continuous duty pump, but apparently there haven’t been any advancements in this type of pump design.  I thought we were destined to replace the pump for $395.  As I was taking the pump to the trash, I decided to try something and I attached the leads to the battery in our van and the pump ran !! So, I found a local pump repair shop and got it rebuilt for $65…although, it took over two weeks to get the parts.

Once the pump was rebuilt I began to investigate other ways to cool the pump and extend the duty cycle.  I discovered that Shur Flo pumps makes a 5″ heat sink that fits the motors on a variety of other manufacturers pumps.  I get the feeling the motors are all made by the same company and relabeled for the “manufacturers”.  I consulted with a friend who was an aerospace engineer for ideas in cooling the pump motor and he recommended “Thermal Grease” under the heat sink.  This makes the contact between the sink and the motor housing 100% by removing air gaps and the grease has metal particles in it to transmit heat more efficiently.

http://www.steam-brite.com/shurflo-34007-heat-sink-cover-inch-continuous-pump-longer-life-cool-clip-p-11287.html

I added a 138cfm cooling fan like you’d have on a large computer and fabricated a support from a PVC bus hub and a rubber reducer coupling and ended up with this …..we flushed the system and the motor was as cool as a cucumber !!!

 

The “woodwork” turned into tearing out 60% of our port settee and replacing the entire seat and a small section of the outboard bulkhead that separates the storage area.  I used marine grade plywood and treated it with Copper Coat which is a 9% copper solution that prevents future mold, mildew, rot and insect infestation.  I also increased the size of the access hatches so we can store dive tanks under the settee.  The biggest challenge was matching the shape of the board that was glassed into that area which would not come out in one piece…or even six !!  A lot of the outer edge had to be ground out of the fiberglass.  I took this opportunity to run some extra 0 gauge wire forward for the addition of some  electrical items down the road. I was tempted to remove the washing machine during this process, but decided we could do that later.

Next time…alternator….masthead instruments…..pump alignment….fridge/freezer…..etc….etc….etc

An interesting new product we discovered….”Sugru”

On our boat we have a lot of essential electronic equipment.  Some of these devices have remote handsets you can use to control and/or monitor the device like the Autopilot, VHF radio or windlass.  These handsets have coiled, rubber coated cables that run from the control head to the plug.

Recently, our autopilot control head cable began to deteriorate.  This was pretty concerning since our autopilot was manufactured by a European company called “Cetrek” and they have been out of business for a few years.  Since a new autopilot would be around $1500 for just the equipment, we were tying to come up with a way to repair this, and future, cables.

I found a product online called “Sugru” and it is described as a “moldable glue”.  It is billed as being waterproof (including salt water), UV resistant, flexible, electrically insulating, heat/cold resistant and shock / vibration resistant.  This was readily available on Amazon so I ordered a multi pack.  It comes in various colors but for our purposes black matches our cords.

 

I applied the first section as a test and in 24 hours it was fully cured and seemed to live up to it’s sales pitch.  I plan to cover the rest of the deteriorating cord and we will post an update in a few months when we can fully evaluate the wear it stands up to during our travels. I also suspect that Sugru will be a good replacement for caulking around spaces like those around our chainplate through hull openings on the deck combing which need to be recaulked every few years or they leak.  This may be a permanent fix for that issue!!!  It was a great improvement over the electrical tape wrapping I was trying to use on the cord. It was easy to use and not messy at all.

The new Sugru wrapping …..

The old, ugly, sticky tape wrapping ……

You can get some Sugru for yourself right here using this link !!!