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 …..



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 “ClĂąb Nautico InternacĂ­onal 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….


 

 

 

Want to go to Cuba on your Boat? Like saving money ? Read on ……

Want to go to Cuba on your boat? Don’t want to spend $800 on a race or regatta ? How about $200 ? Here’s how….

 

 

 

 

 

When I initially began to research a trip to Cuba it seemed the easiest way to go was as a part of an $800 race or rally….which doesn’t include dockage or customs fees / cruising permit….so make that bill more like $1500……and I didn’t want to pay for a bunch of trophies I wouldn’t win and part of a banquet, so the “system working” part of my brain kicked in and I began to research it……

Then when I announced we were going to Cuba and a lot of people sent me messages asking “how are you doing that?” …or….”we sent paperwork in months ago and never heard anything back?” …..or…..”Did you know someone?” I began to think I discovered something……

A lot of people roll the dice and just go, but I’ve heard the horror stories if you get caught….heavy fines or vessel forfeiture, so here’s how we did it……

This information is obviously subject to revision by the USCG and is based on what I was told by representatives of the USCG…and contacts are current as of March 2019…….Your experience may vary slightly……also, it is predicated on a willingness to join the Hemingway International Yacht Club, a cost of $200 for the initial membership and about $25 a year thereafter to renew if you choose to do so. But we HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS METHOD.

Joining the Yacht Club is cool for a host of reasons…..here’s a few……
A) it’s the one and ONLY Yacht Club in Cuba……with a one of a kind shirt and burgee you can’t buy elsewhere.
B) you can eat and drink your fill at the club for about $20 a night for three people……
C) if you want to save the $600-$800 on US based races or regattas you have to become a member to participate in the local regatta anyway, so why not ?
D) the people at the Yacht Club are the friendliest and most pro America / sailing / yachting folks you’ll meet anywhere.
E) you get 15% off your dockage but be sure and ask for it when you pay out…that alone saved us $70
F) You will be supporting a great cause and a grassroots effort by the Cuban people to improve US and international relations and facilitate improvements to the Cuban government’s view regarding private business enterprises.

So…..Here’s the scoop on Cuba made easy……for the purposes of this post I won’t muddy the waters with ALL the ways to go to Cuba…..there are between 9-12 “license programs” at any given time that you can go under, but you only need ONE…….I’m just going to give you the easiest and fastest way to get the approval…….
If you’re a U.S. flagged boat and/or U.S. Citizen and you want to be able to return to the United States without facing massive fines you have to get permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. You and the boat can only stay two weeks. You can go on to Mexico or the Caymans without returning to the US, but overstay Cuba at your own peril.

This method involves submitting a form 3300 and a letter for each crew member describing your crew and what is called your “OFAC license”( which stands for the Office of Foreign Asset Control”) aka the reason you want to, and are allowed to, go to Cuba.

The easiest and fastest way is to go under the “Cultural exchange through sport” commonly referred to as the “participation in an amateur athletic event” which, in this instance, is a local regatta.

So, step #1 is to contact the offices the Hemingway Yacht Club at Marina Hemingway.

Here is the Commodore’s email…..his name is Juan Miguel Diaz Escrich (please don’t overuse it) and remember all email in Cuba is routed through government servers so don’t be political.
yachtclub@cnih.mh.tur.cu

 

 

Inquire briefly what local events might be occurring during your proposed window of travel or ask for a calendar of scheduled events. Make it clear your want to join the Yacht Club upon arrival….feel free to mention us……There are usually two in April, one in May and one in June which is the annual fishing tournament not a regatta but still an athletic event. This year it was the Castillo del Morro regatta March 16 and the Torreon de Chorrera regatta March 23. Both are essentially boat parades that go from the Yacht Club and into Havana Harbor (which private vessels are strictly forbidden to enter, so that’s a treat) and a friendly race back to the Yacht Club……you will get a very cool, unique, locally made participation prize for this regatta, and you’ll probably be invited to the race banquet as a guest of the Commodore anyway, so don’t skip it. In November of 2019, the official 500th anniversary of the foundation of Havana is occurring so that would be an amazing regatta in which to participate. Pick a date and the The Commodore will send you a letterhead, stamped invitation to the regatta…..attach that to your form 3300 you print in Step #2 below.

Step #2 is to get the USCG form 3300…..

Here’s a link to the form ……
https://media.defense.gov/2017/Oct/18/2001828966/-1/-1/0///Hqs-nas-t-001/cg-6/CG-61/CG-612/Forms%20and%20Reports%20Management/Forms%20to%20be%20Posted/CG_3300.pdf

Print the form and simply fill it out by hand…..the USCG prefers fax for some reason (because it’s 1998) …..use the dates you get from the Commodore and his staff……..the form is pretty self explanatory…..name…address …DOB…..boat description……
Use these coordinates in block #2 for where you’ll enter Cuban waters….23.18N 82.04W

Block #4 is important …..
My purpose for the voyage is “To participate in the XXXXXX regatta and subsequent boat parade, a cultural exchange through sport”

My OFAC license is “general and see attached”

My Commerce export license for this voyage is “see attached”

Step #3 is to add an OFAC letter (which stands for Office of Foreign Asset Control) for each member of the crew and describe their position aboard and the reason for going to Cuba. The rest of the language is boilerplate, so just copy and paste, changing the name, passport number etc…….. Our total application was 6 pages.

Here’s a sample of the letter……just adjust the language slightly based on whether you are the Captain or crew

John Q. Sailor
Passport #
Deckhand/Tactician/Navigator/Captain (pick one for each crew)
SV Boat
Documentation # 1111111
Home address
Phone number
Email address

TO : United States Coast Guard
Re: Travel to Cuba INSERT DATE OF TRAVEL HERE

My OFAC license for this voyage is provided by general license in 31 CFR 515.567(b), allowing travel to Cuba (and travel related transactions) for participation in amateur athletic competitions.
My associate and Captain of the SV NAME HERE, CAPTAIN NAME HERE is in receipt of an invitation for me from the Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club (also known as the Club Nautico Internacional Hemingway de Cuba) located at the Marina Hemingway, Cuba. This invitation is for myself, him and his vessel and crew’s participation in an amateur sporting event (a sailing regatta and boat parade) being hosted by the Hemingway Yacht Club beginning REGATTA DATE HERE. I have attached a signed and stamped copy of the invitation.
Our arrival is planned for PICK A DAY THREE TO FIVE DAYS BEFIRE THE REGATTA. That will provide time to prepare for the regatta “INSERT REGATTA NAME HERE” organized by the Hemingway Yacht Club and the subsequent boat parade both of which Cuban citizens are welcome to participate and observe.
I agree to maintain records of each and every transaction related to this voyage for five years, pursuant to 31 CFR 501.601, and to furnish them upon request by the Director, Office of Foreign Asset Control, pursuant to 31 CFR 501.602.

My Commerce export license number for this voyage is provided by a rule exception, listed in 15 CFR 740.15(d)(6)(i)(c). The temporary sojourn is in connection with travel authorized by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control (see above), and under no circumstances will the vessel remain in Cuban waters for more than 14 consecutive days.

Sincerely,

Name of crew member

BE SURE TO SEND THIS FAX IN AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE…..MORE THAN TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO THE EVENT WILL MAKE YOUR ODDS OF APPROVAL MUCH BETTER.

You can remove crew but can’t add any after approval so put as many as you think will go and do an OFAC letter for each one.

Next..after about ten days follow up your fax with a respectful email inquiring about the status of your request to
Nicolas.Rodriguez@uscg.mil
ME1 Rodriguez is a Maritime Enforcement Officer (Petty Officer) with the USCG and is a very nice gentleman. He can give you a rough estimate if your approval date. Or call the questions number at the bottom of the form.

Once you get your approval via email all you need is a weather window……if you have to change dates, don’t do it more than once and only if absolutely necessary……

Next time……we share our hook ups for cheap CUC exchange (the tourist currency), where to go and with whom, Rum, Cigars, Tours and more……

A Season at the Dock ……Part 2

As we left things in the last post…..we were still at the Florida dock making repairs to the boat.  We were hoping to have the month of June to spend in the Bahamas and time was ticking down.

One of the issues we had as we were leaving the Bahamas last June, was that our refrigerator stopped cooling.  Thankfully, I had refrigeration gauges (thank you John Nihiser!!!) and a leak detector on board.  We found the source of the issue which was a leak in the copper tubing that leads from the compressor to the evaporator plate near the plate.  Our fridge box is heavily insulated, so we were able to put five blocks of ice in it and keep it at 40 degrees until we returned to Florida the following week. Quick tip…. If you want to save a lot of money on refrigeration diagnosis and repair in the long run, I strongly suggest getting the gauges and leak detector, learn how to use them and how to charge your system.

 

Below is a simple diagram of how refrigeration systems are laid out.  Our system runs on R-134a gas which is a commonly available coolant used in automotive air conditioning.  The compressor pressurizes the R-134a, and it becomes a liquid under this pressure and is pumped to the evaporator plate (which is the grey three sided lining inside the blue box).  Once the liquid reaches a place it can expand, in this case, inside the plate it “boils” converting back to a gas.  The boiling process allows the gas to rapidly absorb heat, in some cases lowering the temperature of the plate to around one degree Fahrenheit. The gas is then recirculated to the keel cooler ( the gold line and plate on the outside of the hull) and then back to the compressor where the process begins again.


Our system had a leak in the line at the evaporator plate.  These plates come with the tubing factory installed, so the plate and line had to be replaced as one piece.  The plates and tubing are about $495.  Fortunately, I was able to remove the old unit and replace it without professional assistance.  I did hire a local refrigeration tech to install a filter dryer and solder the lines where that filter was installed. That only cost about $80.

Next on the list was the issue with our alternator.  The alternator had begun to generate a lot of dust over the last few years.  It had also been performing oddly during our last month in the Bahamas. I had replaced the belts but it seemed that the dust situation never got any better.  I began to suspect it was an alignment issue between the alternator pulley and the main engine pulley.  It turned out that I was right and our alternator was severely out of line with the main engine pulley.

First, I pulled the alternator and took it to a local shop for a complete rebuild.  That ran about $180.  Once it was back, I bought some chromed alternator spacers that could be cut to length from Autozone and began the reinstallation process.  The alternator was set about 1.5″ too far back and it took a few trial fittings to get it right, along with replacing the mounting bolt.

The new alternator foot spacer….on the bottom of the alternator mount …..

 

The new alternator head spacer…..at the top mount with a longer mounting bolt.

While I had all the belts off I also realigned the high pressure pump for our watermaker so it was ready for test and usage in the Bahamas.

Last on our list was an issue with our wind instruments.  They were failing to display the wind speed and direction on the screen where a combination of data is usually available (water depth, windspeed, wind direction, and speed through the water) I was concerned that our sensors at the masthead had been damaged by the Ospreys that love to sit up there every chance they get.  On the day I was certain I would have to go up the mast, I decided to experiment with the display for a little while first.  To my relief and surprise, there were just some display settings that had somehow become changed and once adjusted the unit began working again…..that only took two hours of experimentation.

The I-70 display…..

I also changed our oil and filter and since I usually spill a few drops on the engine block I made this apron for the filler opening…..

 

Next time….we make it back to the Bahamas …..

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 !!!

 

 

10 things

Someone (Jan) suggested writing a list of ten things our friends wouldn’t think were true about living on a sailboat……it was a little difficult because our blog followers cover the spectrum of experience when it comes to sailboats …..but here’s my attempt……

1. The Sailing part is easier than you think (except for raising the mainsail…that sucks)

2. Maintenance is a harder and bigger part than you might think

3. Our boat can store six months of food (plus) and you wouldn’t know it because it doesn’t look cluttered

4. Fresh water can be considered a luxury

5. When anchored out, shore access is easier/more frequent than people think and anchoring out is WAY better than being in a marina.

6. Also, when anchored, If the weather is bad we spend 2-3 days (or more) at a time on the boat…we play a lot of Yahtzee and Farkle (thanks Barb and Doug for that introduction !)

7. You can read 30+ books during six months in the Bahamas during your down time

8. Less than 500 square feet (maybe closer to 400) can be a comfortable living space for two adults plus occasional guests and they won’t kill each other.

9. Official showering is really only necessary once a week or so…..we spend a lot of time in the water and you have to rinse off on the swim platform anyway (Kim’s personal record is ten days before you knew it)

10. The weather runs your life….good, bad or ugly, you check it twice a day at a minimum and it decides when you go, when you stay, and other precautions/preparations you take.

that’s it for this month……hope this one wasn’t too boring…..Jan let me know what you thought……

P.S.

I’m adding this line because a certain someone gives me grief about never mentioning him…..Gary Lee Peace …..there ….done…ya’ happy now? Hahaha

 

Shop Amazon Devices- Fire Tablet Starting at $39.99

 

 

The Top Visitor for April….and a prize !!!

 

 

During a recent update to our analytical software for our blog we discovered that a listed feature began to function in a more useful manner.  In the home page for our “dashboard” where it lists all the plugins and behind the scenes software that make the blog run, there was always a field that said “Top Visitors”.  There usually wasn’t any data in that field or it was simply an IP address.  Apparently, the creators of that function have improved it and now it lists the subscribers by name, assuming you are a subscriber when you visit.  In recognition of this development we have decided to give a prize away to the #1 visitor for April…….and that person is……(drumroll please)..

BARRY BRIERLEY!!!!! Congratulations Barry and thank you for your continued support of our blog !!!!….

Barry, send me a PM on Facebook and I can give you some choices for your prize….they do sell Cuban cigars here and there is a brand of Cuban rum available also, I think that’s called Havana Club !!!

Here’s Barry…I’m sure he’s reading our blog on his phone right there !!! And maybe recruiting his couch mates to subscribe too !!!

 

Here’s the view of the analytical page that generates the stats….better luck next month Jan, Dave, Kevin, Emerson and K Flick !!!

Kim and her friend the Manatee

These videos take a while to upload and are somewhat tempermental…..I’ll try and load the others….the longer the video the harder they are to upload…..grrrrrr

Just a girl and her Manatee….

Here’s a link to the video…..

trim.C61B7540-E5A2-4932-B758-CA4094235D52

 

Kim was convinced the manatee was about to give birth due to extra girth and slow movement…..they don’t call them sea cows for nothing…..no manatee baby sightings yet

A new Amazon feature ….

It’s no wonder that Amazon has become the powerhouse it is today.  They have the best marketing programs of any online system we have looked into for our blog and they are always looking for ways to make it better and easier for people who operate a blog. Unlike that other company (rhymes with Oogle) we use (which ironically, one of their ads will appear somewhere in this post also) ….Amazon actually encourages people to use the links they provide us…

This month they are offering us a bonus for anyone who uses this link ……

and signs up for a thirty day trial of Amazon music…..we have used it and it is amazing how many songs are available…..we spent an afternoon trying to stump it and couldn’t do it……so, enjoy a month of free unlimited music on us !!!