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08. Feb, 2011

Havana Cuba

Havana Cuba

A couple pics from our time in Havana Cuba, awesome city! Man, i love these cars! The city is definitely the cultural heart of the country and we had a great few days exploring its streets, listening to live music and even going to the ballet!

02. Feb, 2011

A little lesson…

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We were anchored in a beautiful ‘tranquilo’ bay alongside a fishing boat with some friendly fishermen who had generously given us some wonderful lobster.

In the morning as we were all setting up to leave, I noticed some little song sheets floating past our boat. “Wow, this is so nice, they were all singing together last night’, was the first thing that came to my mind. So…I grabbed the boat hook and scooped the little leaflets out the water and hung up them up to dry, hoping to return them to the fishermen before they left.

When Adrian came outside, I proudly showed him my find. He looked horrified…”Oh Nix, that is their toilet paper!” Lesson learned…When anchored DON’T scoop up anything that floats past from other boats!!

30. Jan, 2011

Floating Bushes

Floating Bushes

The last couple of weeks have been spent with some fantastic new crew on board, the Bush seniors! The journey started in little colonial town of Trinidad with a good day sail to Cienfuegos to test the new crews sea legs. All went swimmingly with a steady offshore breeze and flat seas, but the real test for everyone on board was yet to come!

After a couple days in Cienfuegos, at a dirty marina with filthy toilets (and some equally dirrrty city taxi drivers), there was a general consensus that it was time to hit the open seas and head for the offshore islands of Cay Largo, a 12hr night sail away. All started off well with some delish SA wine (the first we’ve had in months!) toasted as the sun set on our voyage out of the Cienfuegos bay, with a good breeze to get us on our way.

Unfortunately before long, as we headed further offshore, the sea became very confused and we started an uncomfortable roll for most of the night. In a series of ‘rail grabs’ followed by associated retching the Bushes began to fall, seniors and junior alike. The only Bush left standing was the liddlest of them all, yup, the master marinero Liddle Bush herself was left to take care of the giddy crew!

It was a sunrise like no other as we tucked into calm waters in the lee of Cayo Largo. The days that followed were however bliss, and well worth the ‘runway model dieting technique’ we tried on the way over. The days were spent exploring the surrounding islands, snorkeling, drinking more fine SA wine, feasting on some excellent boat meals and enjoying great company!

14. Jan, 2011

A Cuban Christmas

A Cuban Christmas

We had wonderful whirlwind experience of Santiago de Cuba, the musical capital of Cuba. As we sailed into the harbour in Santiago we passed the majestic huge fort of the hillside, quite a sight as you enter in at first light. The city was a big frenetic city with lots of people, a melting pot of different cultures, afro-cuban music and great vibe.

We decided to retreat to the tiny beautiful Chivrico (about 30miles from Santiago) for Christmas. What a perfect amazing spot (I could have spent weeks there!). A little hairy entrance as we negotiated coral reefs on either side of a very narrow and windy channel that took us into a tiny protected lagoon. The tiny town is magical, set on the beautiful beach, with a central park and a small village centre.

We celebrated Christmas eve in a traditional Cuba way at a tiny local restaurant on the beach with a BIG pig on the spit (No one talks of eating pork here, you eat pig…say it as it is:). We arrived at 6pm and drank Cuba Libras until the piggie was finally ready just before midnight.

Christmas day was a real blessing in Chivrico. After feeling quite homesick and thinking of all the family celebrations at home, we made our way into the small town and were approached by a lovely elderly man who asked us if we celebrated Christmas and invited us to visit his church. We weren’t sure what to expect but decided to take up the invite and visited his tiny church service in a little house. We were warmly welcomed by the church community and prayed for and felt very loved on Christmas day – a wonderful Cuban Christmas experience.


Our Christmas pressie was as we left Chirvro to set our for our long sail to the islands, a family of dolphins joined us and played in our bow wake as the sun went down…this is what cruising is all about!

11. Jan, 2011

SPECIAL: Norwegian Guest Writer!

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So, if you thought African time was bad, Cuban time is even worse. And our two South African adventurers have truly adapted to the local environment and rocked up one week late in Trinidad. After weeks of communication with Cubans I was told upon arrival in Havana that it is not legal to transfer people at sea so my dream of sailing in Cuba has to remain a dream, for now. Havana was a cool spot, but getting out of Havana and exploring the Vinales wally was amazing. It’s know as a great climbing spot, but I explored it by foot and horse together with other travelers that I met waiting for the bus or going home from salsa class. Then I took a taxi together with five Polish tourist to Trinidad. The female taxi driver didn’t leave my legs much space, but as punishment she got a speeding fine. I booked a hiking trip in Trinidad and got a horse back ride…Great adventure to a beautiful waterfall, but my body didn’t quite manage to find the right riding technique to avoid a very stiff back and buttox. Then finally out South African adventurers arrived at the harbor and we met up at a humongous, tacky hotel at the beach. Great to see Nicky and Adrian again!

Got invited to stay at Pako and got served amazing lobster and whatever was left of the dry food in the boat with a good bottle of white wine. They are great hosts, so if you just manage to meet up with them I really recommend making an effort! Sadly we only got two days together before I had to leave for Norway, skiing and no sun. But hopefully I have managed to talk them into coming to Norway for their next adventure.
Thank you for amazing days in Cuba! Jannike

10. Jan, 2011

Lost in Jardine del la Reina

Lost in Jardine del la Reina

Feliz Navidad & happeee new year! The blog has been a challenge the last couple weeks as we have been in the remote offshore islands off the Cuban south coast, called Jardine del la Reina (Garden of the Queens). The descriptive name of the islands definitely relates more to the underwater gardens than the topside, as they are largely mangrove islands with a couple deserted beaches. Very beautiful and remote, and amazing diving and fishing… yup, we are still managing to catch fish, the luck continues and we have been eating nothing but fish and lobster for the last couple weeks (with the odd tinned food meal thrown in for variation)!

Our first impressions of the islands was not the finest though. After a two day sail from Santiago de Cuba we had to tuck into a small mangrove cay which is used as a local fishing station and weathered a strong ‘norther’ wind for two days in a terrible narrow anchorage. Woke up in the wee hours of the worst weather day to notice our anchor had dragged and we were very close to running around! The only saving grace was the two lonely fishermen posted to this outpost who showered us with lobster and fresh fish daily, expecting nothing in return but a little company!

The islands got progressively better as we worked our way north (Cayo Cuevo, Cinco Bales etc.) with highlights definitely being the amazing snorkeling, diving & fishing. We lucked into doing an amazing scuba dive with a diving charter that happened to be in the area (one of the only boats we saw in 2 weeks) that ended with about 20+ silky sharks (some very large!) circling us as we surfaced from the dive. We tried to play it cool but unfortunately Nicky got a badly-timed flipper cramp on the way up and was making like a flailing fish… so we beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the boat!

After running out of fresh water and rations we are now back in ‘civilisation’ in a beautiful old colonial town called Trinidad, meeting the folks who have come out for a visit. Tonight we are spending our first night in over 2 months on land at a local ‘casa particular’ (B&B) in a bed that does not rock, feasting on anything that we do not have to kill, gut and cook and taking a much-needed long HOT shower! Aaah, the small pleasures… such softies!

27. Dec, 2010

Impressions

Impressions

(Dodgy internet so more pics to follow shortly when we can upload, sorry!)

We have met some interesting and wonderful people and wanted to share some initial impressions of this fascinating country.

Music:
Music is everywhere, its wonderful. No matter what time of day there is always a variation of music… blaring out of big speakers, or someone playing guitar gathering groups of singers and dancers around them. Every night there is a selection of places to watch live traditional music, beautiful!

Initiative:
Half way up the steep, long trek to the top of the El Yunque mountain, in the middle of know where, a local farmer had set up a fruit stand where he cuts up delicious tropical fruit and you pay 1CUC (R10) for an all you can eat buffet on the way up and way down! Genius! A cuban typically earns only about the equivalent of R150 a month! So the tourist $ is highly prized!

Revolution:
The revolution propaganda is everywhere in Cuba, even though the revolution took place over 50 years ago! It seems to be the way the government keeps the local population loyal… this is not just a revolutionary house (aah, Malema you beaut), but a revolutionary country!

Cuba Living:
Although people are not wealthy, everyone has free access to health care, education and basic food and it is amazing to see the equality this has created on the surface in cuban society. Tourism brings in another dynamic where some are starting to earn considerably more than others so the government tries to control this as much as possible. Some interesting facts: education: apparently every citizen in Cuba knows how to write and read. Cuba has 70000 qualified doctors, the whole of Africa has only 50000, health care: infant mortality rate is 5,3 per thousand and life expectancy is 75,2 years (vs. SA?).

Rural, subsistence life:
Fisherman take tiny dingy (almost the size of Pakotini!) into the big open ocean (respect!). We need to be careful not to go over any fishing lines and nets when sailing and on a couple occasions we have had to take drastic steps to avoid a tiny vessel that literally pops out of nowhere! The below boat came closer and closer just to say hello, with lots of waving and pointing at the Cuban courtesy flag we have flying. When we brought out the camera the one fisherman dived down into the boat and came up proudly displaying their catch.

Speaking Spanish – its how you say it!
We have been putting our Spanish into practice and doing reasonably well. People have been really accommodating and helpful and willing to speak veeery slooowly. I wanted to buy eggs and couldn’t understand why when i asked, people gave blank slightly confused stares. Maybe I’m not allowed to buy eggs? But I sure we saw eggs for sale in the village? I asked in the street, at the gas station and kept getting the same blank stare. At the market I tried once again and finally reverted to doing a chicken impression and laying an egg! After much laughter they said ‘aaah, huevo’, i had been saying hueve which sounds like Thursday in Spanish! Its easy to buy eggs but not so easy to buy Thursday!

24. Dec, 2010

Cruising Cuba

Cruising Cuba

(Dodgy internet so more pics to follow shortly when we can upload!)

We had never been so happy to see a sheltered bay as we did when arriving in Baracoa. The 14hr overnight sail down the windward passage was definitely the worst conditions so far… howling winds, lightening and steep breaking waves, not fun at all! To top it all off in the early hours of the morning there was an amazing meteor shower in the night sky… felt like end of the world, apocalypse stuff!

We were happy to see that the human race (and ourselves!) had survived when arriving in Baracoa and were greeted by the usual Cuban welcome party of stern faced officials and drug-sniffing Spaniel in tow. We have learnt that cruising Cuba can be frustrating with certain ports being ‘prohibito‘ and while you can anchor you are not allowed on shore! We held our breath not knowing what to expect but as it turned out we were warmly welcomed and given a helping hand onto the dock.

Anyway, after the hectic voyage we had a great few days in Baracoa, a typical old run-down colonial town (the oldest in Cuba est. 1511). Baracoa is the home of cocoa and coconuts and has breathtakingly beautiful lush green mountainous surroundings. There were endless exploring opportunities… boat exploration up the exquisite Yumuri Canyon, hiking up to the top of the El Yunque (the dramatic anvil shaped mountain and landmark of Baracoa), swimming in crystal clear rivers and more scooter exploration of this amazing area.

17. Dec, 2010

Hola Cuba, we made it!

Hola Cuba, we made it!

After braving the elements, sailing on very rolly seas for two full days and two nights, two very weary and quite sick sailors arrived on the coastline of Cuba!

Seeing the lights from afar was really exciting, we had finally made the crossing and arrived in Cuba at 3 in the morning. It was quite eery sailing into a little bay in the dark. We anchored in the dark and waited to see what the morning would bring.

We woke up to see we were surrounded by lush forests and in the most beautiful bay, it was like waking up to find ourselved in paradise.

And then the checking in procedures began…we were guided into a place to anchor where the doctor would meet up before we could go to the marina. After the doctor (which took about two hours), we had a string of officials entering our boat from agricuture, veterary, customs, immigrations and harbour master. Checking in took about 8 hours, but was all very friendly and welcoming. When we got our final clearance forms, the offical said to us “Welcome to Cuba, you can now get off your boat” !! YAY:)

Exploring around little Baia de Vita was wonderful, being in such a lush, green beautiful surroundings. We rented a scooter to get to the town of Holgin and loved experiencing the feel of life in Cuba. It like being in a time warp, where time has stood still for the last 50 years.

15. Dec, 2010

Last of the Bahamas

Last of the Bahamas

Last few days in the Bahamas were spent checking out Long Island (yes, they are very original with their names…) Some beautiful scenery and old churches. Highlight was definately the ‘blue hole’, deepest in the world at 600ft. Its the spot for freedivers trying to break diving records… each to their own! Check out www.verticalblue.net

We waited for weather period to travel down the Ragged Islands, which unfortunately never came, so it turned out to be a straight overnight run to Duncan Town for the crossing to Cuba!