Madcap Sailing

06 April 2016 | Riverside Marina, Ft. Pierce, Florida
23 March 2016 | Riverside Marina, Ft. Pierce, Florida
20 March 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
16 March 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
12 March 2016 | Key West, Florida, USA
07 March 2016
06 March 2016 | Key West, Florida, USA
06 March 2016 | Key West, Florida
05 March 2016 | Key West, Florida
04 March 2016 | Marquesas Keys, Florida, USA
03 March 2016 | Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA
28 February 2016 | Puerto Isla Mujeres Marina, Mexico
27 February 2016 | Puerto Isla Mujeres Marina, Mexico
13 February 2016 | Teotihuacán, near Mexico City
12 February 2016 | Mexico City
11 February 2016 | Mexico City
07 February 2016 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
05 February 2016 | Puerto Isla Mujeres Marina, Mexico

Our First Cuban Exploration - Holguin

25 March 2011 | Holguin, Cuba
Beth / 90's

On Friday morning, the rental car man picked up John and Jackie, Jim and me at the Marina and delivered us to the office where we did the paperwork (again, extensive and time consuming but pleasant and with a man who spoke excellent English). That done, we were off! The four boats in from the Bahamas split easily into 2 groups - Chris and Tom (Polar Pacer) and John and Julie (Amazing Grace) travelling together and John and Jackie (Camelot) travelling with us. We did many of the same things but on different schedules.

Our first excursion was to Holguin - the nearest city of any size (265,000)- and it was the perfect introduction to a Cuban city. We drove along the main highway to the turn-off and stopped to ask directions. What followed was the first of endless encounters with helpful, friendly Cubans. There aren’t a whole lot of tourists in Holguin so we kind of stood out. The fellow we spoke to motioned his friend over. With a big smile, he pulled out his cell phone and showed John a picture, saying, “Amigos?” It was the two people on the boat next to Camelot - they had stayed at this man’s mother’s house the night before! He then hopped on his bike and motioned us to follow, and so we did - along the road into the city - past horses and carts, past dozens of bikes and pedicabs and people on foot, around corners and over bumps right into the middle of the city. Jackie had wondered how we would ever manage to go slowly enough to stay behind a man on a bike, but it was no trouble. These were busy streets!

We stopped in one of the many squares in Holguin and he pointed out where the shopping was, where food could be found, and how to find our way back out of town when we were ready to leave. We tipped him a couple of CUC’s and started wandering. We had read in the Lonely Planet Guide book (our favourite) about Cuban street food and we started in on what was to become a continual love affair with street food. Not far down the first street was a window where people were lined up. Of course we craned our necks to see - and what we saw was pizza. We joined the line and soon had 6” rounds of cheese and tomato pizza in our hands - for the grand sum of 5 pesos each (20 cents!!). Farther down the street, we bought fluffy white buns filled with freshly sliced roast pork, a slice of tomato and a leaf of lettuce - another 5 pesos. I bought tiny little balls of coconut and honey dipped in a crunchy sugar coating for 1 peso each.

It is useful to get some CUC’s changed into national pesos at the earliest opportunity and then to carry some of each. It takes a while to get the currency figured out and it is complicated because there are two currencies operating here simultaneously - available to both Cubans and tourists. 24 national pesos = 1 CUC which is roughly $1.00. For ease of figuring, we counted a peso as 4 cents - although who needs to think very hard about it at that amount? Most of the restaurants and stores want CUC’s but street vendors, local food markets and some small restaurants charge in pesos. They are all called pesos and until you get a feel for it, it is important to always ask, “Is that national pesos or convertibles?” (One is worth 4 cents, the other is worth $1.00) I kept pesos in one pocket and CUC’s in the other so I always had them available.
Holguin was the most wonderful place to see the old cars that we all associate with Cuba. And they were there by the dozens. Fords and Chevys, Pontiacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles, the occasional Studebaker and even some Ladas from the Soviet era although these are not as plentiful. ’52 and ’54 and ’56 and all the rest from that pre-revolutionary era. For the most part, they were in wonderful shape. Jim laughed when he saw a ’52 Ford (same year he was born) and he thought it looked to be in as good a shape as he is! Unlike in Santiago and Havana, where most operate as taxis, many of these seemed to be private cars and they were lined up proudly on the streets surrounding the main square.

The stone buildings had been grand in their day, with ornate facades and intricate wrought iron railings and brightly painted woodwork, but they are suffering badly from lack of funds for upkeep. The parks are filled with benches and statues and are clearly places for conversation and relaxation. Holguin is arranged around several squares and we strolled along several streets joining a few of them. Art has so clearly been a significant feature in Cuba - from the frescoes and carvings, to murals and statues (not all of them political), to the very design of the squares.

We wandered through a department store that sold clothes and shoes and appliances along with soap and perfume, napkins and toilet paper. We had been told that these are in short supply in Cuba and wondered at them being here until we found that they are available, but are very expensive for Cubans. Jackie looked at some lipsticks but the only colour was dark brown. In another shop we checked out nail polishes - again the colours were very limited. In the clothing sections, lycra and denim prevailed. We found Cuban women to be dressed very well - clean and smart - and not exactly current with North American fashions. Lots of colour - especially yellow - and lots of form fitting styles. We saw many many Canadian T-shirts and hats on people we met - from sports teams and cities. Jim even spotted an Old Ottawa South soccer shirt on one fellow! (that was the neighbourhood we lived in for 10 years - I went looking for him to take his picture but I never did find him). A wedding party went around the square, horns honking and with the beautiful bride seated on the back of the convertible.

We stopped for beers in an outdoor cafeteria - Crystal and Buccanero are the Cuban beers - about 1CUC each - and enjoyed more people watching. We had been told that pens and soaps are good items to have for giving away and that proved to be true. There were some people begging - no more than in any Canadian city - and they were generally very happy to be given a pen or cake of soap. When I ran out of those, I gave pesos. Cuba is the only place I have ever heard the recipients say a heartfelt, “Gracias.” (well except maybe Halifax - we have polite beggers too :-) For sure, Cuba is the only place I have had my hand kissed in return for a bar of soap.

At the end of the afternoon we made our way back out of town. Once again, we encountered more horses and bicycles than cars. We passed tiny rundown houses with laundry hanging off the porches, and others that were freshly painted with flowers and well tended gardens. We went by open doors where we could see people at sewing machines and men fixing bikes and motors. We passed horse drawn carts with water tanks on the back, and others with wood, and still others loaded with people.

We exchanged waves and “Holas” with everyone and arrived back at the marina feeling like we had gotten a taste of the Cuba that tourists don’t always see. Having a car to travel with made it easy to get around, but one can also take buses for another bit of adventure.
Vessel Name: Madcap
Vessel Make/Model: Bayfield 36
Hailing Port: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Crew: James D Bissell (Jim) and Elizabeth Lusby (Beth)
About: Beth and Jim have spent the last several winters sailing southern waters on s/v Madcap. They love Halifax in the summer, but plan to spend the winters exploring warmer places - currently the Guatemala, Belize, Honduras area.
The Madcap crew left Ottawa in 2007 to go sailing in the Bahamas. After a highly successful year, they returned to Canada, settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in the fall of 2009 they left to do it again! Journey #3 (2010/11) took them back to the Bahamas and then on to Cuba for several weeks [...]
Madcap's Photos - Mad Cap Sailing (Main)
11 Photos
Created 6 April 2016
13 Photos
Created 6 April 2016
5 Photos
Created 6 April 2016
6 Photos
Created 9 March 2016
11 Photos
Created 9 March 2016
23 Photos
Created 25 February 2016
18 Photos
Created 21 February 2016
31 Photos
Created 20 February 2016
4 Photos
Created 20 February 2016
20 Photos
Created 19 February 2016
7 Photos
Created 9 February 2016
51 Photos
Created 24 November 2015
12 Photos
Created 28 October 2015
16 Photos
Created 9 October 2015
24 Photos
Created 3 December 2013
our Oct/Nov 2013 trip to New Zealand
36 Photos
Created 22 November 2013
9 Photos
Created 20 January 2013
Guatemala pics starting Nov 22, 2012
43 Photos
Created 6 December 2012
54 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 8 November 2012
trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park (via Las Vegas)
23 Photos
Created 4 November 2012
20 Photos
Created 1 November 2012
18 Photos
Created 12 February 2012
43 Photos
Created 29 January 2012
62 Photos
Created 19 May 2011
21 Photos
Created 19 May 2011
76 Photos
Created 19 May 2011
8 Photos
Created 19 May 2011