Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 4~5 - In Cuba

After a good night sleep, it was interesting to wake up in Cuba on the 4th of July.  The previous day we had met one of the locals named Jorge.  A very nice family man looking to help visitors/tourists and make a few bucks on the side.  We hired him for the day to drive us around, show us the tourist spots as well as the actual Cuba.  I did manage a few minutes internet access to post that we were ok.  The internet was highly restricted and posting took a bit of effort.

Typical Cuban boat port
Jorge drove us into Havana proper, pointing out things along the way and answering our numerous questions.
Havana was about 8 Km from the marina and an interesting drive.  They have different speed limits for different lanes but from what I could tell, speed limits were just recommendations and the horn is applied quite liberally. Enjoy the pictures we took around Havana.

We parked near the square and walked around.

Countdown until green

Remainder of Green light time left

Many of the buildings are undergoing reconstruction but according to our "guide" they only make the outside look good while the interiors of the buildings are untouched and have not been updated since the mid 50's.
Many of the cars on the road are Russian, Korean, Japanese and of course enough old mid 50's american cars to fill many museums.  Most of the american cars have been converted to diesel and look great.  The people here really take care of their cars although given the environment, many are more than half bondo.

We stopped at a local eatery for lunch and were entertained by a live band.  The food in Cuba was very good and inexpensive.  Lunch for the five of us including a pitcher of Sangria was about $30 us including tip.  Cuba has to import most of its products and this makes them expensive.  Most of the grocery store things are either local or from Mexico, including Coca Cola.  There were many "US" products available via Mexico so, for a price, you could get almost everything you wanted except boat parts.  The Cuban people can not own a large boat, the boats pictured in the Cuban port is about the biggest available.  These vessels are good for about a mile off the coast, any further and the occupants would be swimming.  In order to get out to sea from the ports, you have to pass a military post and the customs office.  Without clearance, I don't think you would make it too far.  We were also informed that all along the coast, the government employs "watchers" which are people in towers that constantly scan the water for traffic. 

After Lunch we continued our walking tour.

All the people we came across were very nice, respectable and friendly.  We were obvious tourists but Jorge kept us safe and delivered us back to the marina.  I contracted Jorge to bring me some gasoline to ensure we would have enough to make the crossing to Mexico.  He would bring it the next day.  J & J got some "fresh" lobster tails from one of the locals and J grilled them and we ate lobster and hush puppies on the boat.  

Tuesday -  J, J and I worked on Mahola Nui while Beth slept in.  We located the first of the radio issues quite quickly as the antenna cable was too close to the exhaust manifold and had burned it through.  After making a temporary repair, it still didn't test well so we continued looking and found another burned spot further back so we rerouted the wiring and made permanent repairs.  The radio was fixed and we spent the day getting ready for our departure in the morning.  We went to see the dock master to get our total for our stay so we could change USD into CUC as he could not accept american money.  We were short about $200 CUC so I took the bike out attempting to find someplace to exchange money without having to return to Havana.  It was an interesting bike ride and asking for directions along the way was a challenge.  That coupled with the late hour and the two thunderstorms I got caught in, it was an unsuccessful journey.  I figured I rode about 10 miles and by the time I actually found a money exchange place, it was after 5 and it was closed.  I returned to the marina and went to the dock master to explain our predicament and he said he would call someone and take care of us.  About 10 minutes later, Jorge shows up and offers to exchange money for us, and at the bank rate.  He drove off with $250 USD promising he would be back in about 20 minutes.  About 20 minutes later, he returned with CUC and J and I went to the dock master to settle our accounts.  We were cleared out of the country, next stop Mexico.
We all went to the nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner and enjoyed traditional Chinese fare at reasonable prices.  We returned to the boats to ready for departure in the morning.

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