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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 !!

East Coast USA

As the weather had become chilly and with no real heating on my narrowboat, the cruising season had come to an end. I should have gone back to work over the winter to earn some much needed cash. With this in mind I returned to my mothers house and thought about what I could do over the winter months.

I was about to contact a previous employer when I glanced upon an advert on Crewseekers. Crewseekers is a website where boat owners advertise crew vacancies on their boats. They are travelling somewhere and need assistance to sail their boat, sometimes a short trip, sometimes a long trip. I saw an advert which sounded familiar, a trip on a new HH55 catamaran.

The new HH series of catamarans are a bit special. Made entirely of carbon fibre they are incredibly light and strong, and therefore fast ! You normally have a luxury boat which is packed of heavy appliances and utilities and is a cruiser, or a fast boat which has most of the luxury items missing !

The HH catamarans are both luxurious and fast. They use the latest design techniques with C shaped daggerboards, T shaped rudders, lightweight carbon fibre hulls,etc,etc.

HH55 Edgewater

The advert was from a guy who advertised for a position before when the boat was being built in China. Unfortunately the boat got delayed and other things transpired against us so we never met up. He had already had a season on his boat and sailed around parts of the Caribbean. He had moved his boat up the east coast of the States to avoid the hurricane season. To comply with your insurance companies terms and conditions your boat needs to be out of the designated hurricane area. Because of this most boats head up to the inland waters ways of the east coast.

HH55 Edgewater

The boat had been moored in a marina in Edgewater, Maryland, just south of Annapolis. It had recently appeared in the Annapolis boat show. I flew into Washington and met the owner and another crew member in the airport. We travelled to the boat and got settled in, there was still a few jobs to be done and there was a guy onboard completing the last few winter jobs.

View from our mooring –

I witnessed some great sunsets from the marina –

After a few days we set sail and left the safety of Edgewater, our next planned stop was to be Savannah Georgia – some 650 nautical miles away.

Edgewater

There were some grand houses on the way out of the river. I’m sure some very influential people from Washington live around here !

After3/4 says at sea we approached Savannah Georgia. The trip had been trouble free and even coming around the Cape Hatteras headland was uneventful. The Cape Hatteras headland is known for its treacherous waters and being a bit unpredictable. In fact its known as the ‘Graveyard Of The Atlantic’ and over 600 ships have been wrecked here. Imagine our surprise when we approached and just carried on sailing with no noticeable difference in sea or wind conditions. Phew – what a relief !

The city of Savannah laid over to the left of the river –

It took us some time trying to find a place in a marina that could take us. Most places seemed to cater for smaller river type boats than large sailing yachts. We finally managed to find a place at a golf resort on the Savannah river. The river is actually the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia. To be honest it might have been better to find a place on the Wilmington river slightly further south as there seemed to be more marinas there.

This is The Westin Savannah Harbour Golf Resort and Spa. Apparently quite well known in golfing circles a lot of players practice and stay there on the lead up to tournaments at Augusta. As we were moored outside we had access to all the facilities, the mens changing area had saunas, spa, showers, free soaps and shower gel, everything ! And when you were all, finished you made a call to a driver who would come and pick you up and drive you back to the hotel complex.

Westin Savannah harbour golf resort

To get from the golf complex to the center of Savannah we had to catch a river ferry to get us to the other side. These left regularly and operated up to about midnight.

Water fountains in the centre of Savannah-

The is the well known Marshall House hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Savannah. Originally built in 1851 by Mary Marshall it served as a hospital for soldiers toward the end of the civil war and during two yellow fever epidemics. It has been a hotel on and off up until 1957 and then reopened after renovation since 1999.

Marshall house hotel

Apparently this church appears in the opening scenes of Forrest Gump. Not sure how true this is as I haven’t re-watched the film recently !

Typical type of house in and around the streets of central Savannah –

Proud to have the flag flying over their porch –

Just when you think you’ve found the perfect house someone creates a subway car par in front of it……

Some of the tree lined avenues are AMAZING ! They are apparently oak trees I was told but completely different to UK oak trees.

The old Chatham County Courthouse in the centre of Savannah, built in 1889 and used until the 1970s when a new courthouse was built.

Chatham county courthouse

I enjoyed our few days in Savannah, fortunately it coincided with a college football match, a marathon event and live outdoor music at the weekend ! Savannah is one of only 3 places in the States that has an ‘Open Container Policy’. This means you are allowed to drink and carry a beer around with you ! The other two places are New Orleans and Beale Street in Memphis. The weather was great, met some new friends, enjoyed Savannahs outdoor lifestyle but had to move on.

We left Savannah and headed further south to Ft Lauderdale with a quick stop in Cape Canaveral.

Cape Canaveral seemed to be a place where the cruise ships stopped to change passengers and re-stock their supplies. There were many in port and in the evening one of the biggest ships left. This was the ‘Anthem of the Seas’ leaving at night-

Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the seas

We spent a couple of nights in Cape Canaveral and witnessed some spectacular lightning storms. Always a worry when you are on a sailing boat with a big mast and lightning is striking above you !!

We sailed south towards Ft Lauderdale and as it was so soon after that years boat show we had great difficulty in reserving a space. We persisted with many phone calls and finally found someone who could give us a berth for a few days.

Approaching the entrance to Ft Lauderdale-

Waiting for the main bridge to open –

Ft Lauderdale

From memory the bridge opens on the hour every hour during the day.

Ft Lauderdale

I went for a walk over the bridge and as I was coming back alarm bells were ringing and flashing lights started.

The traffic is stopped and the bridge opens for the larger ships, quite impressive when you are close up !

View from the bridge –

After a few days spent in Ft Lauderdale getting some repairs carried out it was time to leave the USA. We re-provisioned the boat, filled up with fuel and completed custom and immigration clearance.

Bye bye Florida and USA, next stop the Bimini Islands, Florida.

This trip started at the end of October 2019 – I’m a bit late updating my blog !! The next update will include the Biminj Islands, Cuba and Grand Cayman.