Saturday, May 26, 2012

90 Miles and All That

Our story, mostly in pictures.

Austin's arrival in Key West called for another bike from Dink

Then Mary came...

And we played around waiting for a weather window to open up. 
90 Miles!!!

Finally the right day, winds 5 - 10 knots, seas 2 - 3 ft. Its 5 o'clock somewhere and we're off! 

We sailed through the night scanning the sky and the horizon for the USCG.



As we approached we saw 10 to 12 neumáticos, now mostly on floats instead of inner tubes. Their only power, a pair of swim fins on their feet. They are fishing the waters in front of the Melacon hoping for a snapper to sell. Praying they don't get washed away by the current.
Marina Hemingway 
We were assigned a slip with electricity. Water didn't work - glad we had plenty aboard. Checking in, what an interesting process. First came the lady doctor, then 2 guys who checked our freezer and fruits and vegetables, plus lots and lots more. My favorite was the inspector with the drug sniffing dog, a lovely cocker spaniel named Carla. Everyone was very friendly. It felt like a party with Mary, Austin and I offering Sprite and goody bags; Roy offering $5 bills. 

Our first night we went to a chinese restaurant that was walking distance from the marina. The whole area seemed like a resort compound, maybe from the Russian period. We made contact with Nelson, the guy recommended by Dink and Mike, our Key West buddies. He proved invaluable as we were about 30 minutes outside Havana. He provided knowledge, transport and lots of political views plus a big help on the Spanish language angle. 

Austin, Nelson, Dale, Mary
Our first full day he picked us up for a drive to La Habana Vieja. Getting there we got to drive through Miramar, a suburb that is filled with posh homes from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Most were "liberated" during the revolution and now serve as embassies or homes for officials.

La Habana Vieja, Old Havana, is one of the 15 districts of Havana. It was founded in 1519 and was enclosed by chains across Havana Harbor and high walls surrounding the city. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and money is coming in to help with restoration. We saw lots of work being done and loads of tourist from around the world. Money from China, Venezuela and Spain is helping to prepare Cuba for the end of the US embargo. The city is beautiful. Not having made it to Venice, it still felt like what that city must look like (minus the canals). There are so many very old, beautiful buildings that are just crumbling to dust as the tropical weather takes its toll. Many facades are being restored but inside is another story. We wondered through one doorway and followed a passage to the courtyard and up some stairs to be rewarded by a large empty room with murals on the walls.

These 3 are from the home of the Spanish governors from about 1600 - 1850

Y'all are probably more interested in this one, La Bodeguita Del Medio, once a favorite bar of Hemingway and where the Mojito was invented. Good Cuban food and music - check out all the tourist. Like being at K Paul's. We didn't make it to El Floridita, home of the daiquiri.

 But we did spend a night in town at this hotel, La Friers Hostel. It was once a private home. Here's  Austin with one of the friers and the interior courtyard, open to the sky.

We got to watch this Cuban 2nd line. Seemed to be for a bridal couple.

There are 3 forts guarding Havana. This picture is from the oldest, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, built in 1588, to guard Havana Harbor from pirates. Spanish Galleons were kept here as they waited for a flotilla to be made up in order to cross the Atlantic to Spain. Across the river is Morro Castle, built in 1589 and the San Carlos de la Cabaña, much larger and built after the British left in 1762.

Watch tower with Roy, Austin, Mary

Havana was filled with art. Here's a whimsical group of elephants parade through a modern office/hotel complex.

          Main Havana Cathedral in Cathedral Square, one of 4 squares that Havana Vieja is built around.

Che Quevara's office - Morro Castle is on the left.
(and where he wiped out the members of Batista's government that hadn't left Cuba)

And then some of us just went native.


Finca Vigia

We took a drive outside the city to visit Finca Vigia, Hemingway's home in Cuba with Martha Gelhorn, purchased in 1940 after his divorce from his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. (For those of you that are keeping score or have just read "The Paris Wife")

Entrance steps

Covered Walkway
Living - Dining rooms - notice the book stand

Writing room
Balcony outside writing room


The Travelers


The iconic image is really everywhere. But now those who own one know what they have and are justly proud. Many of the cars are used as special taxies for tourist but others you just see on the streets as... well a car.


Mary thought we should leave our mark. Here's what she designed and she and Austin painted. 

                        Getting weather reports, deciding about leaving - all of that was very difficult. Very few people have internet. Wired internet is sometimes available in the hotels. You must buy a card with 30 minutes on it and then use the computer set up in the hotel. Its very expensive. Cellphone simm cards are also closely monitored. The night we stayed in town Roy & I went to 4 different hotels looking for a card. No one had any. Nelson took me to the only hotel that had WiFi. Here we were able to check on weather and pick a day to leave. Our original plan was to take a couple of days and anchor out along the northern coast on our way to Los Morros on the Western tip. Los Morros is one of only seven marinas that you can check in or out of. However, the dockmaster told us that its illegal for cruisers to just anchor even though we had a "Cruisers Permit". That and a very small weather window sent us 166 miles west in one long run, about 25 hours. Luckily the weather didn't break down until just as we were getting in.

North West Coast is filled with reefs and there's a series of lighthouses all along the coast.


   We were so glad to finally make that last turn, though figuring out how to get in to Los Morros was difficult. No answer on the VHF at all and we had very little information other then what I had gleaned from some of the cruising forums. But once we were close the guys on the shore helped us in and we ended up rafting up to one of the fishing boats. The dock was just a concrete strip with only about 150 feet of usable space on one side. There were three fishing charter boats there, two rafted and one other, So we were invited to tie on to them. 
Not much there, a little bar, 5 table restaurant, tiny store and customs. Up the road was a small hotel and a beach. Everyone was so friendly! A perfect foil for Havana. We traded life vests for lobster. Check out that snapper.


Here they are, our fishermen friends.


And if it was hard getting weather in the city,  in Los Morros it was nearly impossible. Until one of the fishermen offered us his cellphone and we were able to contact Chris Parker who does weather forecasts for mariners. We had tried and tried on SSB but don't seem to have that figured out yet.

Thursday morning the wind stopped, the mosquitoes came out and Chris said it was the day. So around 1pm we headed out to cross the Yucatan Straits, 21 hours and 128 miles across the incoming Gulf Stream to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. 

Close encounter with a freighter.

Waypoints and Mileages
Once out of Key West we followed a heading of 206 True for about 90 NM to our
Hemingway Marina Approach 23 05.45N   82 30.68W

Hemingway to Los Morros 161.55NM 
We sailed outside of the reef line along the northern coast to
Golfo de Guanahacabibes turn 22 12.13N  84 50.47W
Los Morros Marina 21 54.23N  84 54.42W

Los Morros to Isla Mujeres 124.80NM
To avoid reefs and obstructions to the West of Los Morros we went North then West before turning South to pass the Cabo San Antonio Lighthouse at which point we finally turned to the West.
Los Morros N   21 57.89N  84 54.33W
Los Morros NW   21 57.76  84 54.33W
Lighthouse   21 50.45N  85 01.14W

A heading of 251True took us to our 
North of Isla approach   21 16.44N  86 45.18W
These waypoints got us in to the lagoon and our mooring at El Milagro
Isla 1  21 16.21N  86 45.49W
Isla 2   21 15.49N  86 45.31W
Isla 3   21 15.36N  86 45.07W