Cruising Cuba (Pt 1)

We left the Bimini Islands and the skipper decided our first stop at Cuba was going to be Havana. There are other ports we could have entered before Havana coming from the east but we couldn’t stop everywhere. The sail was easy and with a distance of about 250 miles was only one night and a day. We left early morning meaning we could easily arrive during the following day.

Hemingway marina is situated about 10 miles west of Havana but it’s the main port of entry. We radio’d a few times and finally got in touch with somebody who would be waiting for us. The approach is very narrow marked by some channel markers but the waves were crashing in on the sea front. Go either side of the markers and you would run aground very quickly !

Hemingway Marina –

Once full of boats and people now empty due to ongoing issues with the USA.

We were met by the Port Captain and his staff, we had a few formalities to go through which was made easier by some of them speaking basic English. It took a couple of hours I guess before we were shown to our mooring.

The marina was apparently built in the 1960’s in a joint venture between the Cubans and some err………Italian organisation and money. It didn’t really look like it had been modernised since.

Talking to some local people hardly anybody had been there for a while. Obama had opened up the route again, Trump had closed it. We were a little early in the cruising season but we were the only foreign vessel transiting through. Another boat joined us a couple of days later but the place was lifeless, very strange. The staff in the cafe/bar worked 24 hours a day, 3/4 days a week. They got paid so didn’t care whether it was busy or empty – but no tips I suppose !!

Having no local cash we needed to get some fast, we found out that there were in fact two local currencies. The CUP (Cuban Peso) and the CUC (Convertible Cuban Peso), as a traveller you will use the CUC more often.

We met a guy in the parking area who was able to change money (had a feeling he had done this before), the official rate was apparently 0.87 to the dollar but he would give us 0.90. The port captain also offered to change money for us but it had to be a minimum of 500 dollars. We later found out when we went to a bank that it’s a 1 to 1 exchange rate, although I think some of the tourist resorts charge 0.87 rate.

We changed some money with our new friend George and found out he did this kind of thing and helped boating folk out where he could (for a fee obviously!). We used him over the next couple of days to take us into Havana and on one day gave us a tour in his old 59 Chevy car.

George’s 59 Chevy car in very original condition –

Traffic light Grand Prix – another old car pulled up next to us with this guy smiling !

Out on tour with George – the Jose Marti memorial a national hero of Cuba. It’s the largest memorial to him any where in the world, it consists of a star shaped tower, a statue of Marti surrounded by six columns and gardens.

Always plenty of cars to view wherever you go, saw this little Ford Prefect which was in great condition –

Ford prefect

Even had a sporty exhaust –

Ford prefect

Stopped for lunch and had to try one of the local beers, this is the Bucanero. The most popular beer seems to be Cristal, you can get this everywhere (personally I think it’s a bit better to).

Bucanero cuban beer

More car spotting, these were parked down near the sea front, think they were all for rent.

Out on tour with George in his Chevy –

This bar is apparently where the Mojito cocktail was first made ! Now obviously a famous landmark in Havana. Many famous people have frequented the bar and their pictures adorned the walls.

La bodeguita bar havana

It was certainly a tourist hot spot – too busy to even think about getting in.

La bodeguita bar havana

This is their own little White House – modelled obviously on their friendly neighbours White House. Only recently restored it was their new National Capital building – very impressive it was too ! The Congress was previously housed in the building but was abolished and disbanded following the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the building fell into disrepair.

The three amigos- Jose Marti, Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra.

Can’t remember who this fella was but he had a prominent position near the Revolution museum !

Always many American cars can be seen at every junction.

The Revolution Museum – ‘come and see what happened during the revolution brothers !’. This was once the Presidential Palace but became the Museum of the Revolution during the years following the Cuban Revolution.

A Soviet tank destroyer on display outside the museum.

We spent a couple of hours in the museum but we were starting to get hungry so left to find a restaurant. We went to the old Havana area and found a hotel that had a great terrace which was in front of the Havana Cathedral.

The Havana Cathedral – one of eleven Catholic cathedrals on the island and completed in 1777. It is located in the Plaza de la Catedral in the Old Havana area. Nice place for a spot of lunch to in the square !

Havana Cathedral

Ripe for restoration and your next tourist taxi ?!

Our day touring around Havana had come to an end and George took us back to the marina in his trusty Chevy. We had another 3/4 days in the marina mostly trying to find supplies. Food shops were quite often empty or had aisles of the same food, one supermarket we found had shelves and shelves of Hellmans mayonnaise- I never realised that there were so many different types !!

This was the supermarket in the marina – shelves of the same types of biscuits, also sold liters of cooking oil and bags of rice if my memory serves me right. All rather depressing at times !!

We got the boat ship shape and left Hemingway marina to head further west and around to the south of Cuba.

Cuba Pt 2 to follow shortly – Adios !!

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