In Marti's Shadow
11 February 2010
So, having spent two days at the Marina in Marathon and with little prospect of getting a mooring in the foreseeable future, we have to think whether we'll squander our niece's and nephew's inheritances on dock space or find an alternative. The anchorage is quite congested and our boat moves around a lot so this is not a great prospect given the continued high winds predicted. There is a creek off of the main harbour called Sisters' Creek which is somewhat like our recently visited Snake Creek. It is reportedly deep and mangrove lined. I take the dingy out and indeed, it looks like a great place to hunker down while waiting for the mooring list to abate and one become available. There are some homes here and there but for the most part, it appears to be a serpentine creek with only mangroves on each side. We do note, four very high towers on the north east side but don't them much mind. We do wonder, however, why there are not more boats here.
It's blowing quite hard as we snake our way into this creek and find a nice spot after a boat called Frosty's Fantasy. Judy does a good job bringing the boat, "head to wind" just in the right place and I deploy the anchor. After the second attempt we hook and get settled down. Not long after, a dinghy comes along and tells us that he had anchored here a few days ago and that those towers I mentioned earlier appear to be emitting huge amounts of "stray current", to the extent that he measured 50 volts coming up his anchor chain. I go below and my electrical panel is flickering and lights which I do not have on are lighting up. It's unnerving but here we are and it's secure. I don't think it'll do much harm except that our sacrificial anode (here I go with these fancy terms again), a hunk of zinc, which is less noble than our prop and shaft and which is designed to erode rather than the aforementioned shaft/prop, will be eaten up very quickly. I'll have to get a diver to replace it in a few days, once we hopefully get to our mooring assignment.
So, what are those towers? Believe it or not, these four towers are one of several installed to broadcast, "accurate and objective news and information on issues of interest to the people of Cuba [from an American perspective]". This directional four-tower antenna array and two 50 kilowatt (kW) transmitters operating on 1180 kHz (medium wave) as well as a power combiner system that allows the station to transmit a more powerful 100 kW signal during daylight hours. The broadcast signal is sent by satellite from Miami to Marathon Key. Radio Marti also broadcasts on a total of four separate shortwave frequencies each hour from Greenville, North Carolina, and Delano, California.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) was established in 1990 to oversee the operations of Radio Marti and TV Marti. Now located in Miami, Florida, Radio Marti broadcasts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, on shortwave and medium wave (AM). Broadcasts include news, music, and a variety of feature and news analysis programs. Audience reports based on interviews with Cubans arriving in the U.S. indicate that Radio Marti is one of the most popular radio stations in Cuba despite the Cuban government's effort to jam it.
So powerful is its signal that not only is my electrical panel squirrelly, but my radio will only play Radio Marti no matter what channel I put it on and one of my two marine radios will only play Cuban music. It's a bit out of the twilight zone.
Our boat neighbours are delightful folks from Oklahoma on a boat called Frosty's Fantasy; Connie a retired teacher and Jim a veterinarian. It doesn't take long for Judy to press Jim into examining a recently detected lump on Chopin's paw. Jim assures us that it is not a worry (he has a complicated medical name for it) and while we should check it now and then to ensure it doesn't grow, it should not be a problem. Thanks Jim!
There is a very pretty beach about three minutes by dinghy from where we're anchored and while it's cold, the beach is pleasant. This will be a fine place to spend a few days waiting for a mooring. In the meantime, we'll enjoy the beach and spruce up on our Spanish thanks to Radio Marti.