Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mas de Cuba

More from Cuba -

There was so much to do and see in Cuba but because Americans are still restricted by the US Government on how much time you are allowed to spend in country - we had a short time to do it.  It is also hard to describe in words all of the things we did, people we met and experiences - it would take years to document so I've stuck to the highlights.

After the first few days of arriving, we settled into a groove and decided to make our way back to Havana Viejo to visit the Castille del Morro .  This castle has a long history in protecting the harbor of Havana.  The views of the city as well as the passages and weaponry in the castle were unique and spectacular.

We also went back to the Hotel Nacional and while we were on the lawn checking out the canons pointed into the harbor, we found our way to a small, discrete exhibit of the bunkers used during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  What we found was a guide who invited us in and locked the doors behind us.  He took us into passages and tunnels used by Fidel Castro to secure the harbor if the Americans invaded.

Havana is also full of artistic culture.  We were able to visit Hammel's Alley where we attended a rhumba street party celebrating african culture and religion and its evolution and Spanish influence.  Of course, they served a unique drink called The Negron - basically a lemony version of the mojito.  When in Cuba, you can be sure you will find a mojito or variation thereof just about everywhere.
Another artistic display was in a neighborhood near Jaminitgs called Fusterlandia, where Jose Fuster has created a mosaic village along city blocks and down streets in the middle of his third world neighborhood.

Who can think of Cubano music without visions of Tito Fuentes playing drums and a cuban horn section? So we spent a night at La Guajirito listening to the Bueno Vista Social Club and its living legends.  The music was invigorating and definitely entertaining.  Five or more singers ranging in age from early thirties to eighties would sing and dance different selective pieces - I was even embarrassingly picked out of the audience on more than one occasion to dance with more than one singer - it would have been rude to decline.  It was a great time and highlighted a piece of Havana nightlife.

Being able to experience Havana's art and historical monuments gave us more insight to the island and helped rid us of any preconceived notions of the Cubans and their culture.
Castille del Morro with Havana Harbor in background
A bridge between fortresses - there is nothing below the wooden fenced section - I'm not sure the US would allow people to walk across it.
Cannons, cannons, everywhere...
More cannons...and their embrasure
A really old cannon
Reading about the history of the fort
The chapel
On the flag tower
Steep cool
The jail in the Castle - the picture on the looker's right shows Fidel Castro and Che Guevara having a press conference here in the 1960s.
The lawn of the Hotel Nacional - aka above the secret trenches and bunkers
Going underground
Checking out the phone tied straight to the Kremlin - I usually don't post blurry pics but this shows how dark it was in the tunnel
A street corner in Havana - they love Che...and the 1950s American cars
Bartenders in Hammel's Alley making "The Negron"
This parrot talked to me about his day - he was a happy guy
La Guajirito and members of the grammy award winning Bueno Vista Social Club
Hammel's Alley before the rhumba party with our taxi driver, Frank
Learning about santeria and african culture expressed through artistic murals and dance

Corner of 5th Avenue in Jaminitas
Jose Fuster's house
Terrapin on canal #1 at Marina Hemingway


Friday, April 28, 2017

You Say You Want A Revolution - Well, Ya Know...

One of the most exciting things we did in Havana was the Museo Revolucion (Revolutionary Museum).  It has three stories of displays and information about how Fidel Castro helped save the Cubans from Bautista and how the Castro government has provided education and better lives to all Cubans through reforms and programs, which they didn’t have under Bautista.  The information also explains how the US was working in conjunction with Bautista and has continually tried to take over the island.  There was information that I’m not sure was accurate such as the Americans stealing 14,000 Cuban children (Operation Peter Pan), or that Americans brought dengue fever to the island with the intention of killing the Cubans – something we read even said that Americans sprayed mold on their crops.  It is very interesting how perception can be very different than reality. 

Cubans (at least the ones we met) don’t hate Americans and they are proud to be Cuban.  The people who remained on the island have suffered hard times – after the Revolution in 1959, the US and its allies placed an embargo on Cuba – which in itself was not devastating since Cuba could still trade with USSR and other smaller countries.  However, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, they had nothing – and it was one of the worst times in the islands history.  Now that the relationship with the US has started to change, it could help the Cubans and their posterity,  However, there is a new administration in the US, so who knows how that will play out and the Cubans still have Raul Castro in power, but there will be an election next year when it is rumored he will step down. 

I have always thought that money and greed can ruin people and cultures so I hope that Cuba can reduce it’s poverty as well as maintain its strong culture and pride and not be corrupted by the money and materialistic society of the US and it’s allies.  The island is the largest in the Caribbean and could be a major force in the world as it once was under the Spanish and the British.  (Incidentally, after the British defeated the Spanish and gained control of Cuba,  they soon enough traded Cuba back to Spain in return for England to have Florida as a colony – which the British then lost in the American Revolution).

On the 2nd floor of the Museo Revolucion - In front of me under the banister are bullet holes where students unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Bautista before the revolution.
Che Guevara - Many Cubans treat him as a hero
The Revolution Museum used to be the residence of Bautista - it had beautiful architecture and was once decorated by Tiffany's of New York

The three main leaders of the Cuban Revolution - Fidel Castro, Camile Cienfuegos and Che Guevara
Taking a ride with Ray...Cubans who are taxi drivers have to have a license from the government...sometimes you can get a cheaper ride if you find someone who may or may not have a license.
Bunkers under the Hotel Nacional - these were used by the Cuban military during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Canons were pointed into the Havana Harbor (over my left shoulder) and then a tunnel system was used as protective cover.  There was also a phone that was connected directly to the Kremlin and periscope tunnels so the army would not have to come out from below ground.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Que Paso

About an hour after checking into Cuba, we talked to other Salty Dawgs and were soon on our way to check out Habana Viejo (Old Havana).  We hit the hot spots like Plaza Catedral, Hotel Nacional, Bodeguito del Medio, and the Floridita.  We learned about Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars, his participation in “inventing” the daiquiri, and how dignitaries and celebrities spend their time in Cuba.  It was quite the tour and a great introduction to the city.  That evening Marina Hemingway welcomed the Salty Dawgs with a fun reception party that included mojitos, cuba libres, and traditional Cuban appetizers.  By time we made it back to Terrapin, we were exhausted – Baxter had been up since his watch that morning at 3:30am.  We slept well with the occasional waking and wondering where you were (after an 8-day passage, it is normal to wonder in the middle of the night why the boat’s no longer moving, or is it?)

The next day we set out to learn more about Ernest Hemingway so we took a trip to Finca de la Viaga, the house he lived in from 1939 – 1960.  It was originally built in 1887 and after his death in 1961, the house was preserved exactly as he left it.  It was very cool to see the architecture, the collection of 9,000 books and where he entertained his high profile friends and associates.  On the estate, Hemingway’s boat, the Pilar has been stored.  The black oak and bronze are beautiful features and you can just imagine reeling in a huge marlin as you sit in the chair. 

From there, we went on to Cojimo, Cuba which is the fishing village Hemingway would keep his boat in the water with quick access to the ocean. In fact, Gregorio, who the character the “Old Man and the Sea” is based after, just recently passed away at age 104 and his family still lives in this village.  It was exciting to see the children and families who are still fishing and living in this town in probably the same way they did 100 years ago. 

Dinner that evening was at Santy’s - a “paladar”.  A paladar is a home that opens as a restaurant but is not a traditional restaurante.   Finding Santy’s was an adventure in itself but once you were there, it was amazing food and great company with our friends Dan, Francine, as well as Peter and Elaine on “BOB”. 

Then it was back to Terrapin – full, happy and exhausted.  It was hard to believe we had been in Cuba for two days and had so many great adventures with more on the way.

Plaza de Catedral
La Bodeguita del Medio - EH hangout
Newspaper with information regarding the death of his wife in a plane crash.
EH Desk
EH Boat - "Pilar"
Hemingway International Yacht Club - we are now officially yachtistas

Monday, April 24, 2017


Our friends Dan and Francine arrived in the BVI, after traveling 24 hours from Wisconsin.  We picked them up at Beef Island airport in the dinghy and then sailed over to Leverick Bay to wait for a weather window to Cuba.  Unfortunately, a LO near the Bahamas interfered with the trade winds and caused the wind on our route to be on the nose or non-existent so we waited…and had lots of fun until the day finally arrived to head out. 

When we left the BVI, the wind was still from the northwest, but it would eventually be clocking around to the east within 24 hours.  So we were close hauled for about 10 hours and then it was a downwind sleigh ride for the next 1,000 miles.   By the third day, as we were settling into our passage groove, it was time to fly our asymmetric spinnaker.  Since we knew this would probably be a downwind sail, we had the spinnaker ready to go, so half the battle of bringing it on deck was already completed.

The nights went by, with the southern cross bright in the southeastern sky on a dark moonless night.  The days continued with either the spinnaker flying or if the wind came from directly behind (dead downwind), and picked up over 15 kts, we would go wing-on-wing with the jib poled out (the spinnaker pole attached to the clew of the jib holding it away from the boat so it could “catch” more air).  One of our biggest challenges was that we were so downwind that we would go in the lee and occasionally have to gybe either the wing-on-wing (I like to abbreviate it WOW) with the jib poled out or gybe the spinnaker.  The first time was pretty intense as we were avoiding the shoals of the out islands of the Bahamas on the north and the delicate 12-mile border of Cuban waters to the south (boats are not allowed to enter Cuban waters without contacting “Guarda Frontera”).  As the gybes continued, it became routine and actually fun.

One of the exciting moments came as we sailed along the northeast coast of Cuba – about 30 nm north of Guantanamo on a clear, bright sunny day.  In the distance, I heard a thud-thud-thud and looked up and a helicopter was coming straight for Terrapin.  With no other vessels around us, it was peculiar.  As it came closer, we realized it was a US Coast Guard airship, with the door open.  It circled our mast, and then went away as fast as it had appeared.  If there weren’t other people in the cockpit, I would have thought I imagined the whole thing.  Our best guess is the USCG picked up our AIS signal identifying the boat and they came along side for a visual and to make sure all was good.

As we neared Havana on the northwest tip of Cuba, we had adverse current from the Gulfstream that helped us time our entrance to Marina Hemingway for first light on Thursday morning.  We contacted Marina Hemingway and they sent out a power boat to escort Terrapin to the Customs dock.  For the next two hours we were boarded and interviewed by nurses, customs and immigration, the dock master, and agriculture.  Once we finished all of the immigration requirements, we were officially taken to our slip along the canal wall and welcomed to Havana!

We had a great time sailing here and the fun had just begun!!
When you're on watch by yourself, you can spend time taking lots o'selfies.  The jib is poled out (notice the pole from the mast to the end (clew) of the jib.
The Deep Blue Sea

Glad to be on Terrapin instead of the enormous cruise ship in the background (2 miles away)
W-O-W! (Wing on wing sail plan)
Flying the spinny
Cuba - here we come!
Arriving Canal #1 in Marina Hemingway - raising the country flag

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Where would you get the best rum and cigars in the Caribbean?

Guess we'll head to Havana!

For our passage to Cuba, you can track us on the Ocens site here: You’ll need to type in SDRCuba into the Group Name (on the left) and pick the current dates (see the photo attached as an example). 

You can also track our progress on our blog under the “Where Is Terrapin” Tab here: 

Terrapin in Leverick Bay
Rig inspection before we head west to Havana

Sunday, April 2, 2017

More Exploring

After we left Cooper Island, we headed over to Leverick Bay to meet up with other Salty Dawgs.  We were waiting for our friends Dan and Francine to arrive and while we were waiting, we explored reefs with Onapua (click here for video) and worked on our drone skills (click here for view of Onapua) is so extremely good and we are so thankful to have these experiences.