Friday, December 30, 2011

Mozaic City

 Tables and horse for children
Just a short walk from Marina Hemingway is an area of the Miramar District where local artists have deocorated houses and walls with mosaic tiles as a tribute to Spanish artist Gaudi.As I walked through the area I was amazed at the work and time it must have taken to creats the effect. Quite surprising to see such artwork in a working class neighborhood.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Cuba continues to surprise everyday! I can say I wish I spent less time in the Virgins and more here in Cuba. The people are wonderful and the country appears to be well run with national healthcare and guarantees for the mortality of children. Not to say there are not problems but all in all things seem to be good for the average Cubano.

Habana is an amazing city with buildings dating to the 1500s. Many are run down but a reconstruction effort is underway with help from UNESCO and other governments. The city consists of avenues joining squares throughout the city. Around the squares are restaurants and shops and occasionally art galleries. Most areas are very clean as there always appears to be people cleaning up the areas. The small cafes located on the plazas make a great spot to sip a café con leche and people watch. The city is populated by a diverse population and makes for some very interesting times. Of course all the 1940-50s American cars are pleasant to see. We rode in a taxi that was a 1950 Plymouth with electric windows! Many of the motors in these cars have been replaced with Chinese diesels. Amazing to think they have been kept in such good shape in the salt air.

The city itself is situated inside a very good harbor that is protected from the trades. The Spanish built fortifications around the entrance that are still in very good repair. El Morro the outermost fort was started in the 1540s and was the signaling station for the day. A little further in was where the Spanish hung a large chain across the opening of the harbor to prevent ships sneaking in during the night. This opening is close to half a mile wide! Today the city fires cannons from the fort at 2045 to commemorate the raising of the chain for the night. I would have liked to see this ceremony as all the costumes are from the period but 845 pm is cruisers midnight and can’t seem to stay out that late.

We hired a car from a lovely couple and drove along the coast towards Cabo San Antonio and saw some of the interior towns. Very much like many of the communities I remember from Mexico. We crossed over the Rosario Mountain range and travelled to the town of Soroa. Had a great lunch then toured the Cascada. A series of waterfalls that is a common tourist destination. We took the Auto Pista(freeway) back to Habana and it looks as we will try to head West towards Mexico Thursday morning.

The old Teatro(theater)
Floridita Bar. Ernest Hemingway made this his hangout. Reputed to made the Mojito here.
Capitol Building. Copied fron US Capitol
A lot of nice old cars in Habana. This was a standout. 1956 Chevys everywhere in all sort of conditions. Most repowered with what ever motor available.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Alison's Blog

Alison is doing a very fine blog so click the link to get a different perspective on the voyage.

Key West to Cuba

 Wiily Ts in KeyWest on Duval. This bar was covered in Dollar bills a true fire trap
 Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson from sea.
 Inside the fort. The people we went on tour with
 A picture to give some perspective of the size of the fort
 Look back to the original steel lighthouse
 The arch between the gun embrasures where the powder monkeys would run between the guns
 Nice picture of the moat
 Bush Key . We walked around the key at surfline. Not allowed to move into vegetation because a bird sanctuary
Le Chat Beaute at anchor

December 12, 2011
We pulled anchor in Key West for the run out to the Dry Tortugas. Plan was to sail to the Marquesas Keys and spend the night there. About 25 miles west of Key West.  As the winds were out of the North if anchorages seemed difficult just dropping the hook on the leeward side of an atoll would be good enough for the night.
Just before the Marquesas is Boca Grande Key. It looked easier than the Marquesas so we decide to anchor for the night. The winds had been in the 10-15 range so the sail down from Key West, had been very pleasant and flat.
Up early for the next leg to the Dry Tortugas, about 50 nm with the winds NE. Very pleasant sail and we arrived early afternoon after sailing 6-7 knots the whole way.
The Tortugas are a national park and the approach from sea is impressive. The anchorage is sheltered by the fort and Bush key so is calm even when the winds are roaring. There were lobster fisherman and a couple of sailboats in the anchorage. We stayed on the boat the first night and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and adult beverages to toast the day.

In true cruiser style we waited to tour the fort after the daily ferry pulled in and we tagged along and got the free tour provided by a young woman on the ferry. It is called a ferry but in reality is a fast cat the people pay $168 from Key West and back. This includes breakfast and lunch. The ferry goers are on the island about 4.5 hours and about 4 hours travelling.
Fort Jefferson was started in the 1840s and construction was continued until 1874 when the advent of better projectiles made it obsolete. It was designed for round shot but when exploding ordinance was developed the walls could be reduced to rubble in a day. It took about 16 million bricks to complete and it employed some very advanced techniques involving sewerage and drinking water. Cisterns were built below the fortifications and rain water off the grass roofs drained into these cisterns and provided the drinking water.
A moat around the fort helped stop damage by waves and made it difficult for troops to attack from the ground. The moat also provided the sewer. Tunnels under the moat walkway allowed sewer water to drain out into the gulf with the tides. Unfortunately the tides here are diurnal and small. 1-2 feet so the moat tended to smell a bit when the 1700 soldiers and workmen were there.
A Union garrison was here during the Civil War but never saw any action. No shots ever fired in anger at Fort Jefferson. Truly a engineering feat to construct a fort of this size under adverse conditions. A great stop on the way to Cuba!

We left for Havana at 1600 and after working through the shoals to deep water we set a double reefed main and rolled out half the headsail. We were moving along at 6-7 knots which would make for a daylight entrance to Marina Hemingway, the port of entry for Cuba. Very fine sailing until we hit the axis of the Gulf Stream. The wind started to blow 20-25 and the seas were a consistent 6-8 with an occasional angry one for good measure. After sailing across the Pacific 6-8 ft seas are a good day, but the Gulf Stream stacks these seas and squares them off and reduces the period to about 5-6 seconds. Very uncomfortable and the bridge deck slap on the cat is unnerving. Before sun up the wind died to ten knots and the seas calmed as we approached the coast. We found the sea buoy and contacted the marina and they arranged for Cuba officialdom to be at the arrivals dock.
Cuba like a lot of Latin American countries is paper work heavy! We had seven men come aboard and a sniffer dog. The total process took 3 hours not counting time I had to go to money changer. American dollars are easily exchanged here but the rate is not favorable. Best with Canadian or Euros.
Cuba has been a very pleasant surprise as I did not know what to expect. The people are friendly and eager to talk. The marina staff is very helpful although some facilities are in need of repair.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crystal River to Key West

Have left Crystal River for points south. I spent the first night anchored off Egmont Key at the entrance to Tampa Bay. As the winds were NE it was well protected and good holding in sand. The next day I went into Venice and tried to anchor off the ICW, touched twice and headed for the marina to shell out $90 for a night. Ouch!
Left on the tide in the morning and had a fantastic downwind run in 10-12 knots. Arrived in Boca Grande and went up the ICW and anchored near 61. Up with the sun and had a great downwind run to Ft Meyers until about 2 hours out when trying to go around Sanibel Island, 20 knots on the nose. Rough going for the last 10 miles. Finally made it to Naples the following afternoon after a great sail with easterlies of 10-15.

In this part of Florida an easterly is superb if you sail in close to the coast, no fetch so a beautiful flat sail! Alison joined the boat in Naples so we spent a couple of days for her to recuperate from the jet lag from OZ. Naples is way up market. The best deal in town is the moorings. $10/night with access to showers and laundry. You are allowed to use the moorings for 4 days at a time with a break 8 days a month. After bour 4 days were up we went to the mouth of the river and made ready for the next day. We departed at 0330 for Key West. The wind was blowing 15-20 with a large north component. Not ideal for a course of 187 but we still did 6.7 knots and arrived in Key West before dark. About a 75 mile run.

 One of the four Schooners that ply the waters of Key West doing the sundown tourist gig.
 View from my mooring in Naples. After walking around town I KNOW where the 1% hang their hats in the winter. Fifth ave rivals Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills for opulence. I have seen maybe 2 Bentleys in my life up till now. I saw three parked next to another on one block.
 A funky shopping are of Naples on the water front is called Tin City. Arts and crafts and eateries make up the scene in this waterfront area.In a quilt shop this woman and her husband had pet alligators. This is a 3 footer. Very docile friendly critter.
 This is a 4 footer. This couple has a help the alligator fund going to help protect the reptiles. Floridians like alligator meat and hunting is allowed once a year.
 Old house in Key West. The architecture in Key West is a combination of many styles. The old house abound and with the overhanging foliage just walking around looking at the old houses is enjoyable.
Another schooner doing the Sun Down gig.