TORBEN: Berit and Ove left yesterday in a private taxi to Havana organized by our new Mr. Fix it Guy, Daemon. Berit really wanted to take the bus for safety after the last outing Daemon arranged for us, not wanting to ride all the way back to Havana in a 1952 Chevy driven by Tony Soprano! Yep, we actually did go to the Colonial city of Trinidad with a guy who not only looked like Tony with his big cigar, but acted like him too. The Chevy was powered by a British diesel engine, Russian manual transmission and Tony had no problem chugging a beer driving and at the same time point out on a map where his house was. Mind you, the roads are pretty narrow and while there is not a lot of traffic, you do have to negotiate the odd tour bus, smoke belching farm tractor or - more often - a horse wagon or a few cowboy's riding along.
Trinidad was great, we stayed in a private home arranged by Mr.Fix for $ 25 per night, had an awesome dinner in our Casa for $ 10, listened to some good music, did an outing to the beach, checked out an old sugar plantation and climbed every structure in sight, including a 130 foot tower that was used to keep track of runaway slaves a few decades ago.
JUDY: Oh My God, it's so amazing how two people could share the same experience yet have such a different take on how it really happened!
First of all, Mr Fix it is a hustler. We we accosted by him out in front of the Marina one morning before leaving for Havana. He spoke some English so Torben took a liking to him! We arranged , we thought ,to drive with him, in a big car to Trinidad. The car came as promised. and on time. Mr. Fix it, as Torben called him, ushered Torben, I and his sister and husband into a 1957 Chevy. Yes it was roomy, (being the youngest, I had to sit on the hump.) but after a short while, Ove and Berit were soon sitting with me or rather, on top of me, because the seats slanted inward. No biggie. It was cool riding in this car on a two lane/one lane road with a guy who chewed his cigar and spoke nothing but Spanish to Torben who was riding in the front seat. The problem was Soprono would turn and look at Torben while talking. Things got dicey when Torben asked Soprono where he lived and asked him to point it out in his small scale map printed in the tour guide book. I thought his sister's eyes were going to pop out of her head!
Trinidad was beautiful, that much is true. The casa we stayed at was great, though we had some trouble getting past the owners mustache who happened to be a woman! She was a great host and wonderful cook but would benefit from a little MMA. (mustache, management anonymous) her food was awesome and hairless, thank goodness, which is more then I can say for the pork rinds that we bought from a street vender. Torben and Ove gobbled them up but saved me one piece to try. I reached in the cone made of newspaper, pulled out what felt like a large pork rind and low and behold, there between by thumb and fingers was a pigs ear that still had the hair attached! Torben said that's by design, you use that to brush your teeth afterwards!
Cuba is wonderful. The people are friendly, the Officials are official but friendly after they are done officiating. They boarded us yesterday while Torben was up in the dumpster and wanted to see our passports yet again. They then took pictures of all our portable gear. Computers, GPS, SAT phone, hand held VHF, then made us put them in a cabinet which they sealed with some tape! We're still confused why now when we've already been here for ten days!. You get the feeling they make up work as they go along.
TORBEN: OK, that's it for Judy, she is off to have another dream....Now that Berit and Ove are gone we have started getting ready for the next leg, exploring the deserted cay's of S. Cuba - we have a couple of weeks to go SE for our rendezvous with Ross, who will be flying in to help us get the boat up to Puerto Rico - more about that later. T&J
01/02/2012, Cienfuegos, CU
Got back from a 4 day trip to Havana yesterday, we went on the bus without having a place to stay but tru a connection in Cayman met up with Raymon who got us fixed up in an apartment with that was pretty cool. Spend a few days touring the city and eating out in private restaurants and homes with sister Berit and Ove. Spend a whole day hanging out at the pool at the hotel Nacional rcouperating from a really bad back ache that somehow wandered down into my leg and pretty much made it impossible to walk ( except up the 104 steps to the lighthouse). We got a private car to drive us back to Cienfuegos yesterday - it is a 250 Km trip, cost was $ 110 for the 4 of us, pretty reasonable. Tomorrow we are off to explore Trinidad and Ancon for a couple of days, thanks Kim for the recommendation. Internet is very difficult to come by, so we are sending out stuff via SSB email.. BTW, one highlight from today was taking a taxi - bicycle that is- from town out to the marina.....we got in and the guy had a Samsung celphone hooked up to a car stereo and belted out Eagles "Hotel California" on the way. T
"Bienvenidos Socialista" is the first thing we saw when we entered the channel into Cienfurgos Bay. It did not need translation! Our sail from Grand Cayman was pretty much like our last passage from Panama to the Isla Cayman, only we didn't have Mikie with us and we failed to put up the cutter sail before it got dark and the wind kicked up. Torben felt pretty certain the wind would die but it never did. Tivoli did fine with a partially rolled up jib and double reefed main, a bit less stable and flat as with the cutter sail but comfortable. It was a short over nighter, only 180 miles in twenty eight hours. That's seven Lightship races in Torben language!
I have to tell you, we were both nervous and excited to arrive. Our entry into the bay was made easy. We just followed an incoming ship. We failed to reach any official by VHF to request permission to enter, even though we made several attempts. We thought this to be a bit strange but proceeded with gusto to the marina. The Marina, also refused to answer our hails. We even called it by its multiple names given in the cruiser's guide, depending on which one you were reading. It even had multiple weigh points listed! But they never acknowledged. At this point we weren't sure if we should shrug this off.
To our relief, when we pulled into the Marina we were greeted warmly by the dock master, who took our lines, saw the US flag and said," US? No problem, we, like Americano's." (We've been buddies ever since. He even dropped off fresh baked bread in our cockpit this morning!)
We were immediately boarded by:
1. Medico x2, because we didn't get the quarantine flag down quick enough!
2. Agricultural inspector
3. Custom official
4. Immigrations (who took our passports, which made me VERY nervous!)
They then requested us up to the offices of the Harbor Master, back to immigrations', back to Customs and then back to the Harbor Master! This is when they gave us back our passports and requested a fee of $20. They were all super friendly, efficient and courteous.
Torben and I took a short walk into the town of Cienfurgos this afternoon. Unbelievable! The town is clean, the colonial buildings somewhat run down but so well preserved. The town was alive. Kids playing baseball in the streets and teenagers looking cool in their jeans and aviator sunglasses! Taxis are either a wagon pulled by a horse or carriage pulled by a handsome Cuban on a bicycle! It's this unique mixture of the past with the present that makes it's luring and very charming.
Tomorrow, we leave for Havana by bus. Not sure how that is going to go. Torben's back is giving him trouble. We'll check back in later as our tour continues.
Have a Happy New Year!
12/26/2011, Georgetown, Cayman Islands
Cruise ship crowd snorkels coral next to Tivoli
The folks on the Cayman Islands has got to be the friendliest folks on earth, maybe because they live in Paradise.
If you even looked like you would one day have a question, someone would cross the street and come over to ask how they could help.
We had a great time here, swimming off the boat every day, snorkeling with 4-5 foot reef sharks, touring the island by scooter and celebrating Christmas.
By chance Di and Roger Frizzelle of S/V DI's Dream were visiting their daughter who lives in the Islands, so they graciously invited us over for brunch for Christmas morning.
On Christmas Day at 5 PM some smiling officials from immigration and customs came into the office to clear us out, so as soon as the darkness goes away on this Monday morning we are off on the next leg, 180 NM across to Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas.
May your dreams for 2012 all come true.
12/22/2011, Grand Cayman
A few weeks ago Ricky was asking " What do you think about me getting a scooter to get around town?"
Good parents as we are, the answer was.........Are you Crazy, Scooters are the most dangerous vehicle on the road - wheels to small, and you are a target for every bus, car, tram etc.........don't even think about it.
So today we went down to the scooter rental place. They asked what cruise ship we were on, and we told them we were on a private yacht and had sailed here from San Francisco. That called for not only raised eyebrows but also a phone call to the owner to see if they could rent a Vespa to someone not on a cruise ship! She also looked at us and questioned if we had the experience to ride......had to tell her about my last long ride on a moped which was in Sweden in 1968 - reluctantly they handed over the keys.
So off we went, helmets and all, doing a 30 mile exploration of the N. end of the island. Richmond Yacht Club membership card in the wallet we searched out the site for the Cayman Island Yacht Club to have lunch. Unfortunately they got washed out to sea in the last hurricane to hit the islands.
At this point we felt pretty good about scooter riding and discussed the fact that adults like us can do well on 2 wheelers - Ricky should still not get one as young kids do stupid things like go on the freeways on them!
Well low and behold, after our third "round a boot" we found ourselves off the side road, now driving on a four lane highway that really looked a lot like a Freeway! Eventually we figured out that going as fast as possible would mean less trucks passing close by, so by the time we got to Rum Point for lunch, we had the thing at pretty much max speed. (Actually at one point getting passed by a MC going about 90 MPH, someone said "We can get him")
Anyway, with 7 minutes to spare before the rental place closed at 5 PM we had covered 160 Miles, gotten new keys made for the companionway, found a place to purchase a needed chart for Cuba, had our noses begin to peel from excessive sun, and to boot we were walking like cowboys bowlegged.
What a day!