What a place
Ralph
12/April/2010, Marea de Portillo, Cuba

We left Chivirico at around 8:30 yesterday morning and traveled another 45 miles west up the coast pulling in to Ensenada Marea de Portillo. (Two L's together make a "Y" sound) It looks like a small farming village with cows, goats, sheep and horses all grazing on the hills. Again the bay is fringed with coconut palms making it look pretty cool. We hooked a fish yesterday, but lost it a couple of minutes into the fight. I did not see it, so don't know what it was, but we were disappointed to not be eating fresh fish for dinner. Within a hour of anchoring, two officials were rowed out to our boat by one of the local ladies. They were also accompanied by a sniffer dog which they took all through the boat - again. They checked our paper work and wrote everything down - again. We had been told this is standard procedure, so we have been expecting it.

It rained for a couple of hours yesterday evening - it was good to have the boat washed down, but we could not open the hatches making for a 'stuffy' boat. We are traveling again today to Cabo Cruz, another 33 miles down the coast and we will probably spend a couple day there before moving again.

The picture is of Pedro and Rosa with their kids. Wonderful people.

What a place
Ralph
11/April/2010, Chiverico, Cuba

We left Santiago de Cuba yesterday morning and moved about 30 miles west to a small town called Chiverico. It is located on this small lagoon that is fringed with palm trees, houses and surrounded by mountains - quite spectacular. We are not allowed to get off the boat, so we were not able to join in the party they were having right beside us. They kept waving us over but we did not want to chance it.

We are going to move again today about another 45 miles west and I think we can get off the boat there. We have to get going soon, so I will keep this short.

What a party!
Ralph
09/April/2010, Marina Santiago de Cuba

We had a fantastic time at the part yesterday. We went over to Pedro's house in the morning to help prepare the pig - they had killed him already and I helped scrape the hair off. They roasted it over a bed of coals, hand turning the spit foe about 7 hours!

We got side tracked a little in the afternoon - The boat beside us is from Switzerland and they blew out their main on the way here from Jamaica. It is an in-mast roller furling and the sail was now stuck inside. The lady went up the mast first to try to pull it out, but she could not pull it out, so I offered to go up. I was up there for about 1 1/2 hours pulling and yanking on the sail to get it out. We finally had to cut the top third of the sail by the luff to be able to drop the main down. I now have these huge blister on the ends of my fingers from pulling on the sail.

The pig roast was fantastic - the other cruisers there were all from Switzerland or France, so communication was interesting to say the least. The food was fantastic with rice & beans, salad, plantains and of course the pork, which was delicious. After the meal Pedro gave a speech and talked about what their life is like in Cuba. All though they have all of the basics, he talked about how they have no choices. Given the chance they would like to leave. It was very sad and moving. His daughter sang us a couple of songs and she was very entertaining - you could just Pedro and Rosa beaming with pride.

All of the other boats here are from Europe - France, Swtzerland, England and Denmark.

I have to shrink the picture so that i can upload in a reasonable time, but because I can't check the blog, I have no idea how it looks.

We are still planning to leave on tomorrow for Chivrico, which is about 35 miles (7 hours) west up the coast. We can not get off the boat there, so we will keep heading west until we get to a place where we can.

Fiesta!
Ralph
08/April/2010, Marina Santiago de Cuba

We took things a little easier yesterday. We had planned to tour around the area and we had requested to be taken to see the farms in Cuba. But when we went over to Pedro's house, They had heard a government official was coming to Santiago and they were concerned that there would be lots of police and check points, so they did not want to go. Which was just as well as I was still tired from the previous day. Liz and Allan came over for some drinks in the afternoon and then Carlo, took to the Fort that is at the entrance of the harbor. We first checked out the lighthouse which was spectacular. The light house was 180 years old and was in pristine condition. The fort was also very impressive and kept in very good shape. At 7, they shot off a cannon, which was kind of cool.

Today we are going over to Pedro's house for the fiesta. In fact we are going over shortly to help "prepare" the pig - it is currently alive in his cage. It should be a lot of fun interacting with his family and the other cruisers. Communication will be interesting as everybody will be speaking either spanish or french. Liz and Allan speak a little spanish and Liz if fluent in french.

We are planning to leave on Saturday for Chivrico, which is about 35 miles (7 hours) west up the coast. I will not be able to post any pictures on the blog until we get some internet access and I have no idea when that will be. They have told us there is an internet cafe in the city center, but we have not seen it.

Thanks Tyler & Jill for sending us the comments - Mucho Gracias

Jug of Rum!
Ralph
07/April/2010, Marina Santiago de Cuba

The weather has been fantastic since we have arrived. Because of the mountains there are strong katabatic winds that blow every day. In the morning it is calm but by 11:00 an on-shore wind starts to pick up and we get a nice breeze all day from the ocean. In the evening the wind shifts to an off shore breeze and keeps us cool through the night. We have really been enjoying touring around and checking things out. Yesterday morning, we met Pedro, who lives across the street from the Marina. Pedro is the guy that cruisers use to get what ever we need. We gave Pedro a list of things we would like to get, like fruits, vegetables, rum, beer etc, and then he told us how much each item would cost, and if we agree, we give him the money and he goes out to purchases the items for you. The fruit and vegetables were very inexpensive, especially compared to the Bahamas and the rum is excellent for about 4 dollars a bottle. The rum came in a 5 litre jug! Pedro also arranged for a car to drive us in to town and then come back and pick us up for $10 cuc - a taxi would cost 10 cuc each way. We have discovered that is very easy to overpay for things here and money has been flying out of our wallets. The dinner we went to last night cost us $76 cuc - the other three had shrimp and I had fish. It was good but when a monthly salary is 10 cuc, that seems pretty expensive. We also went to hear some local traditional music last night and it was fantastic.

We are going to take it easy today but tomorrow Pedro has arranged a Pig Roast for the cruisers - it should be fun.

We just came back from Pedro's house and we gave them some pencils, paper and some bouncy balls for his children. We also left some some of the baby clothes we brought, with Pedro's wife who is going to distribute them to some families in the country that have nothing. Thanks Philip for giving us these clothes to give to these people who REALLY need them. We gave some of the clothes to the people where we had dinner last night and they were ecstatic.

We are starting the think about our next port of call and may be leaving on Saturday to travel 35 miles up the coast to our next stop. Moving around here is very controlled and you have to check in and out of each place you stop.

We are using the Nigel Calder Cuba guide and it is very good, but I do not agree with his description of the Santiago Marina. He describes it as a very run down and dirty place, but we have had no problems. There is a power generating station close by that makes some noise and smells when the wind is from a certain direction - but it really not a big deal. All of the other boats here are either French or Swiss. I was expecting to see a lot of Canadian boats here but we are the only Canadians.

Because we can not get internet access, we do not know if any comments have been left on the blog. I had sent out an email recently to explain how to send us emails to our Sat Phone address, so PLEASE feel free to drop us a note. We are missing hearing from people from back home!

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