Ten. Thousand. I almost can’t believe it myself, but that’s my number. 10,025 to be exact. I’ve been keeping track and when Phillip and I sailed our gallant Niagara 35 back into the Pensacola Pass on our recent return from the Bahamas, it was not only a fantastic feat successfully completing another offshore voyage, it was also a pretty cool milestone for this little sailor, who began sailing only five short years ago.
Headed off on my very first offshore voyage: April, 2013
Captain Annie at the helm, returning from the Bahamas: April, 2018
Ten thousand … This calls for a ditty, no?
Five years, 5oo HaveWind posts, and one captain’s license later, and I dare say I just might call this little gal a bluewater sailor.
When Phillip first planted the seed, “I’m going to buy a boat and cruise around the world,” I immediately, without hesitation, heartily agreed! “Not without me!” was my creed.
Our very first photo at the cockpit together during our first voyage.
So, we started boat-shopping and, little did I know, the many, many new, exotic places I would go! In the bilge, in the fridge, “Get down in the engine room,” he said.
So down I went, bumping my knees, my knuckles, my head. On that boat, I’ve cursed, and sweated, and bled. There are so many, many things, you see, that have to be fixed, cleaned, fixed again, and re-bed.
But the good news is, as long as her hull, keel, and rigging are sound, you can work on her while you sail her anywhere, as long as you don’t run aground! Because the worst, absolute worst, thing you can do to a boat, is to leave her sitting stagnant, unkept and going nowhere, just sitting afloat.
Not our boat, oh no! Our beautiful Niagara, with her magnificent thirty-five feet. She’s often cast-off, sailing away, on a gentleman’s (or perhaps not-so-gentle) beat.
That wise, seasoned boat has taught Phillip and I so much about both her and the sea. Because out there, and you may not believe me, but she feels really rather small to me. The time that she grows, seems unwieldy and impossible to stop, is only when we are approaching a treacherous dock.
But out there, in bluewater, while romping and running, she seems so agile and nimble. Like a horse at the derby, impossibly stunning.
That’s where she and her crew love most to be — moving, gliding, slipping under sunsets at sea.
My heart and courage exposed, this amazing man and boat have challenged me, to push myself, try harder, learn more, travel further, set myself free!
So I did. I changed my career, my address, my focus, all so I could head out to sea. And the rewards have been limitless: Cuba, the Bahamas, Mexico, France, the Florida Keys!
All connected by big, brimming, bodies of blue, just waiting to challenge and test you, too. Each passage, each mile, will teach you something new.
Forty-six hundred of them took Phillip and I all the way across the Atlantic, with a hearty, hilarious French Captain named Yannick.
But the Gulf of Mexico, never to be out-done, over and above the Atlantic, has, thus far, won. The Gulf has handed us our most trying times, tossing and bashing us to windward, threatening to snap lines.
Thankfully the storms and rough seas generally do not last. You just have to ride it out, get the boat comfortable, and usually in twenty-four hours or less, it will pass.
And soon you’ll find yourself motoring without a lick of wind, albeit across the most beautiful glass you’ve ever seen.
And you’ll make the mistake of asking Mother Nature to blow. Just a little. Like ten to fifteen.
Or seven and a quarter, perhaps, just enough so we can be #spinning!
While a perfect passage (in our world, a nice downwind run), from shore to shore is admittedly rare, the toying, tempting promise of it is what makes us accept the dare.
Because when you get there, no matter how near or far your “dream there” might be, it’s an incredibly cool feeling to have the honor to say: “We sailed here, you see.”
And for Phillip and I, I believe one of our most memorable offshore voyages will forever be: Cuba. Because it was a trying, eye-opening, exceedingly-thrilling passage where we bypassed the Keys. And Phillip and I both felt great pride in telling people: “We sailed six hundred nautical miles, here to be.”
Hope you all have enjoyed this little sailor’s first 10,000 nautical miles here at HaveWind. Here’s to the next ten! Cheers!
“Never cross with a north wind!” Can you hear it? Pam Wall’s little energetic voice? She repeated this warning many times when we first saw, heard and met her at the Miami Boat Show back in February, 2015. I had no idea that amazing little enthusiastic woman would soon thereafter change my life.
Love that bubbly little lady!
After listening to her inspiring “Cruising the Abacos” seminar (and finding ourselves in dire hunger soon after for some “fresh baked Bahamian bread,” Pam always squeals when she says it) Phillip and I had originally decided back in 2015 that the first place we were going to cruise our boat to outside of the states would be the Bahamas. And that decision held firm for a long time until we heard Cuba had thankfully opened up for American cruisers. Heck yeah!
While the Bahamas were hard to pass up, we knew they would be there waiting for us the next season, and with the tumultuous state of American-Cuban relations, we weren’t sure Cuba would be. That was when we decided to set our sights first on Cuba, and it was a fantastic decision. Mine and Phillip’s cruise to Cuba in December, 2016 was a monumental, memorable voyage for us both. It was our longest offshore passage (five days) just the two of us and it was the first time we had sail our beautiful little boat from the shores of one country to another. What an incredible feeling! I still remember when we watched the sun come up over the horizon on the fifth morning.
“That’s a Havana sunrise right there,” Phillip said and he played “Havana Daydreaming” most of the morning as we made our way towards the inlet to Marina Hemingway, singing heartily along as his late Uncle Johnny would have, who had also wanted to sail to Cuba but he unfortunately was not able to do so before he passed away. I know Johnny was there with Phillip in spirit and I can still hear Phillip’s voice from that morning as he sat on the foredeck and sang. “Oh he’s just scheming … his life away.”
Thankfully, we’re not just scheming. We are going! Our voyage to Cuba was a phenomenal trip and only told Phillip and I that we are ready to travel further and longer, just the two of us, on our boat. So, in 2017 we decided we would set our sights on the Bahamas this season and enjoy the wonderful pristine patch of islands we have so close by. It’s amazing to think that jewel-toned paradise is really only a 12-hour sail from the states. How lucky we are! All we needed was just a sliver more luck to give us a nice “no north wind” window of favorable conditions to allow us to sail from the Keys and across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
In the months before our departure date from Pensacola, Phillip and I (well, and I will admit Phillip far more than me) spent many hours studying the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas making decisions about where we planned to enter the Bahamas, where we wanted to check in and what islands (called “Cays” in the Bahamas, pronounced “keys”) we wanted to sail to and visit and in what order, although knowing every plan is and will always be weather-dependent. Having just recently completed my first Bahamas article for SAIL Magazine (thank you again, Peter Nielsen, for requesting more articles from me!) which will focus on preparing and packing for a trip to the Bahamas, Phillip and I both agree an intense study of the Explorer Charts and determinations as to where you want to go in the Bahamas and what route you want to take to explore them is a great first place to start when preparing to travel to the Bahamas. Much of what you will need aboard will depend on how you are planning to traverse the Bahamas and what you are planning to do there as supplies are readily available in some places, limited and altogether unavailable in others.
After talking with fellow sailors back home who had cruised the Bahamas many times and taking into consideration what time of year Phillip and I were going (during December-January, when we knew we could expect many sudden and intense north fronts, the “Christmas winds,” and some chilly water and weather), we decided to make our way as far north as possible first and check in at West End.
We would then start dotting our way along the Sea of Abaco seeking protection from the northerly islands as needed when storms and heavy north winds were expected. (And boy did they come. I recorded 36 kts of wind on the boat one afternoon in Green Turtle Cay. Just wait.)
With the plan to enter the Bahamas at West End, Phillip and I knew we wanted to “ride” the Gulf Stream as far as we could north before jumping out to make entry into West End. Initially, we weren’t sure we would get a window large enough to allow us to sail all the way from Key West to West End. If we did not, our plan was to dot along the Florida Keys to Marathon then perhaps Rodriguez Key while waiting for a good window to make the jump. But, when we saw a beautiful two-day window blooming on the horizon, we started to top off the provisions and ready the boat to make way. While we had a ton of fun in Key West (we always do!) meeting the new Geckos and getting to spend some time with them, seeing our old pals Brittany and Jeremiah and getting to watch their beautiful Alberg splash, as well as enjoying the many great restaurants and poolside views, we are always eager and excited to get back underway.
On Wednesday, December 20th, with expected 10-12 kt winds the first day (which would offer us a fun, comfortable sail around the Keys) and light, fluky winds of 5 kts or less the following day (which would allow us to at least motor safely across the Gulf Stream), Phillip and I decided to toss the lines and seize the window! You’ll see in the video, Annie de-docked like a boss (I tell you I’m getting much better at this), and we then had a fantastic cruise all the way from Key West to West End, just shy of a two-day run.
Man, that’s living …
So, is that. With all the work comes all the rewards.
There’s the entry to West End!
Don’t tell Pam this, but we totally broke the rule because you know what kind of winds we had throughout the entire Gulf Stream? That’s right. North! We crossed with a north wind, Pammy. I’m sorry! But, when it’s howling at 3 kts, a north wind isn’t really going to affect the boat that much, particularly when it had been blowing from the south for a short time before. Meaning, the sea state was just starting to turn around and we essentially crossed on a smooth, glassy lake. It was beautiful though. While I always prefer to have wind to sail, there is nothing that can replicate the beauty of a hull sliding through silk at sunrise. It’s just stunning.
I hope you all enjoy the video. I have had such a great time filming just for pleasure and putting these videos together for you all, just for pure fun. Not to make any money from them. Not in hopes they will get a lot of hits so I can get YouTube ad money. Just because our views were amazing, so I clicked the camera on occasionally, and because the videos are such a vivid personal scrapbook for us. I really will be excited to sit down when I’m 70 and watch my Atlantic-crossing movie. Can you imagine that? I wonder if YouTube will still be a “thing” then? Who knows. If any of you have read Dave Eggers’s The Circle (one Phillip and I both read in the Bahamas), apparently we all will soon be be filming and uploading every moment of our existence for all the world to see. Heck, with the immediacy of Instagram and Facebook these days, we’re almost there.
But you know where you can truly unplug and get away? Out there. On the big open blue. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be out there, nothing but satiny water all around you and nothing you have to do but eat, sleep, mend the boat and read. I could sail offshore forever, happily, I do believe. I hope you all love this bit. As always, I try to capture the beauty of the voyage, the work and maintenance it requires, and the reward of having your beautiful, strong boat carry you from the shores of one country to another. Next up, we’ll begin sharing the Bahamas with you, one Cay at a time. Be ready to pick your jaws up off the floor because it’s breathtaking. Stay tuned!
“Thru-hulls? Oh, hush! Nothing goes through my hull.” You gotta love Mitch! And every other new boat owner out there who is in that particular stage of boat-buying grief: Denial. When he thinks he is the only person in the world who just bought a boat that can’t sink. As Phillip and I are preparing our boat for the big, blue water passages ahead, I have a much greater appreciation now for all of the gear, supplies, and spares we need to carry aboard not only to make our boat comfortable and well-stocked so Phillip and I enjoy the passage, but more so the safety gear and supplies we must pack to keep her and the two of us SAFE. And by that we mean supplies that both: 1) ensure the boat is prepared to handle rough conditions, inadvertent collisions, fire, power shortage, or one of any other hundred equipment or engine failures that can happen out there; and 2) in the very unlikely, but possible, situation where Phillip and I need to ditch or distance ourselves from the boat, that ensure we, too, are prepared to do that as safely as possible.
While these are not the things you want to think about when planning for a voyage (i.e., a potential emergency), it is something you need to prepare for. And, the more I have truly opened my eyes to cruising this past year and pushed myself to learn and master the more difficult tasks such as navigation, steering, docking, weather planning, and emergency response, I see the need more than ever for the safety gear we carry aboard. I am also noticing that each time Phillip and I set off for another 4-5 day (or even 30-day) offshore run, we learn a few more lessons and add a few more very handy items to our safety gear and spares list. I will share below the new spare items we have added to the list this year as a result of our experiences in sailing from Florida to France with the esteemed Captain Yannick on his 46’ catamaran and mine and Phillip’s longest-ever five-day offshore passage to Cuba, both in 2016. And, since our Holiday Book Giveaway #3 will be a signed copy of my third sailing book, None Such Like It (of the tale of our Amateur-Kretschmer-like experience delivering Mitch’s Nonsuch across the Gulf of Mexico), I’ve included a fun excerpt from the book below from our efforts to fully prepare Mitch’s boat to safely handle an offshore passage. Enjoy and good luck on the trivia!
None Such Like It, Chapter Two: DENIAL
Having gone through the process of trying to outfit a new-to-us boat for a pretty extensive offshore passage on the Niagara, Phillip and I knew, if we were going to be making this trip with Mitch, that that we needed to start making lists early. It’s amazing the things you remember to bring the second time around. Before Mitch even went down to Ft. Myers, Phillip and I jotted down critical safety equipment, spare parts and other items that would be needed for the boat and crew to safely make the passage from Ft. Myers to Pensacola so Mitch could verify whether any of the items were already on the boat while he was there for the survey/sea trial. We sent Mitch with our rudimentary checklist and told him to inventory the items, note what was missing and what might need to be replaced, replenished or re-certified before we headed offshore in the Nonsuch.
LIST FOR MITCH
The house batteries─What’s the situation?
How big of a bank?
Starting battery and house? 2 bank?
Charged by the alternator?
Power cord, battery charger, etc.?
Is there an autopilot?
What safety gear does the boat have?
Check expiration dates on all of those
First aid kit
Emergency underwater epoxy kit
Does the boat have a 12 volt (cigarette lighter) charger?
What spares are on board?
What fluids are on board?
Is there a repair kit for the sail?
Cotter pins, etc.
Make sure the head functions
Does the boat have a life raft?
Do all sea cocks function just fine?
How many and where─identify and try all
Dock lines, fenders, etc.?
Make a list of what tools are on board
Make a list of galley supplies on board dishes-wise─pots, pans, silverware, etc.
What’s the bilge pump situation?
How many bilge pumps?
Are they wired together or separately?
Check for manual bilge pumps─how many?
Check for emergency tiller, make sure it works
Make sure there’s wooden plugs, nerf balls, whatever for plugging holes
How many and expiration date
Smoke alarms, CO2?
How many and where?
Radio and VHF─check them
Reef the sails during the sea trial─learn the procedure
While Mitch really was taking it all like a champ, checking and double-checking the list with us, I knew he was having trouble understanding the real need for some of these things.
“Nerf balls,” Mitch screeched at me over the phone one day while he was getting ready to make the trip down to Ft. Myers, and I figured that was a reasonable question if he didn’t know that that magically-squishy material, an accidental invention by NASA I’m sure, is wickedly effective at stopping leaks. But, figuring when it comes to Mitch is where I went wrong. Turns out he knew they could be used to stop leaks, he just didn’t expect any leaks.
“Yeah, Mitch. You can use them to plug a leak.”
A moment of silence and then: “But, isn’t that what the sea-cocks are for?” Mitch asked, sincerely curious. “Water starts to come in, you just close them, right? That’s what they do?”
I was glad he couldn’t see my face because I could not hide a smile. That’s when I knew it. He had reached stage two. Mitch was knee-deep in denial. I knew because I had been there. When Phillip and I were looking at our Niagara for the first time, I kept looking around the interior for a good bulkhead wall to mount a television on. Yes, a television. When I finally showed Phillip the “perfect place” I had found for it—the wall between the saloon and our separate shower stall—I only found one slight hold-up.
“We’ll just need to take this lantern out,” I told Phillip, all Bambi-like.
“We’ll need the lantern,” Phillip told me flatly. When my blank stare back didn’t convey understanding, he tried another route. “How are you going to power the T.V.?” which was met by an even blanker stare (if that’s possible). Then Phillip tried to walk me out of my denial, into the land of the knowing. “Honey, we have to run wires and power it. We need the lantern for light and warmth. I don’t think I want a T.V. on the boat.”
It turned out he didn’t. Neither did I when I finally understood what we were truly buying and outfitting—a completely self-sufficient mobile home where we had to engineer a way to generate every bit of light, power, refrigeration and energy needed. I’ll be honest, it baffled me when I first learned the two-prong AC outlets on the boat simply would not work when you’re on anchor. They’re such a tease! I thought they would always magically have power at any and all times, just like they do on land. In Innocent Annie Land, boats out on the blue are still connected to the grid.
I was up to my eyeballs in denial. Like me, Mitch was now refusing to believe he had just bought a complete mobile home that sat, at all times, half-dunked in water with the ability to sink.
“You’ll want the nerf balls, Mitch, trust me. The sea cocks don’t always work.”
But that didn’t really frighten him either. I truly believe Mitch felt he had purchased the only boat in the world upon which sea-cocks never seized up, because he maintained his stance, renouncing all things possible.
“Well, what about the spares? How many of those impellers and fuel filters and zinc things do I really need?”
“However many make you feel comfortable,” I told him, thinking a little fear and weight on his shoulders might help give him a little bit of a reality check. Pssh! He thrust it off like a rain-soaked jacket.
“Oh, nothing’s gonna break twice.”
After a while I kind of admired Mitch’s euphoric “can do” attitude—as in “my boat can do anything.” It was actually nice to not have the significant worry and responsibility of making the trip on our own boat. For Phillip and me, the fact that we were embarking on this journey on Mitch’s boat made it less stressful and more pure fun. It was also exciting for us to think back through that mental process of rigging out a boat for the first time on an offshore passage. It’s a little frightening, a little exhilarating, certainly a fun prospect for adventure. I remembered when Phillip and I wrapped up our own survey/sea-trial and reached that point where it was really happening, we were really about to buy a boat and we were really about to sail her out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Wow, that photo was taken April 12, 2013, the first day Phillip and I ever sailed on our boat. Can you believe that? Time doesn’t just fly, she soars! Because she does, it makes me even more grateful to know we spend most of our days on the boat, on the water, in the sunshine, soaking it all up, even as it’s soaring by. Phillip and I have been busting our hump this summer and fall getting our boat ready for another offshore adventure this winter and I believe she (and we) are more ready than we’ve ever been. And I also believe that our “ready” benchmark will continue to notch higher and higher with each passage we make because we always seem to face a new situation (in addition to the ones we’ve faced before) that teaches us a lesson and prompts us to add something new to the safety/spares list.
Fuel filters. You can never have enough fuel filters. We changed our primary just last week and are bringing 5 spares! We also changed the oil, transmission fluid and coolant and stocked up on extra fluids.
In addition to all of the safety items we usually carry (EPIRB, hydro-static life vests, jack lines, life raft, handheld VHF, handheld GPS, Delorme, Weems & Plath SOS light, flares, compasses, first aid, not to mention our dozens upon dozens of engine spares (oh heck, here’s a detailed inventory list from our Cuba voyage HERE if you want to see everything), Phillip and I have added the following to the list this year, just … in … case:
A spare raw water pump for the engine: It is our old re-built Sherwood which we replaced this year with a new Johnson one (because the Sherwood often leaked around the two seals that separate the oil side from the water side). After seeing the struggles Yannick faced with his raw water pump on the starboard engine across the Atlantic, we thought a complete spare pump would be a good idea.
A spare alternator for the engine: We recently found the old one our previous owner, Jack, had taken off our Westerbeke 27 when he replaced it with a higher-output one. We had it checked by B&M Starter and Alternator here in Pensacola, who verified it runs great. So, just in case our alternator goes kaput and there is not enough sunshine to allow the solar panels to power our battery bank, we have a spare alternator we can put on the engine to ensure we have continued power for radio transmission and the bilge pumps in case of an emergency. Speaking of bilge pumps …
Two spare bilge pumps: While our boat technically already has four (a 500 gph one in the forward bilge, a 1,000 gph in the center bilge, which sits under our sump box that has a 500 gph pump, as well as our manual bilge pump that is operated from the cockpit), we thought it never hurts to have more. So, we purchased a back-up 500 gph and 1,000 gph to replace the pumps in our forward and center bilge areas if need be.
A spare carburetor for the outboard: Okay, so this isn’t technically a safety item. The dinghy is more of a luxury, but if a failed carburetor would stop us from being able to see and feed the Swimming Pigs, or get to a killer kite-surfing spot, or even just get to shore so we can be served drinks by a chesty bartender who smells like coconut rum, I might consider that an emergency ; ).
Phillip was a grease monkey this week, rebuilding both the raw water pump and the spare carburetor.
Now, since we’re having so much fun talking about spares and packing safely for an offshore voyage, even those where Phillip and I are merely helping to deliver a boat as opposed to sailing on our own, I decided to base our book giveaway trivia this time on a very important spare that we certainly could have used on the Atlantic-crossing. This one is for all my diehard YouTube fans out there.
What was the first and foremost spare Brandon said we should have carried on our Atlantic-crossing on Yannick’s catamaran, a system which did ultimately fail us and forced us to pull in for repairs in the Azores?
When you need one of these, none such like it will do! First follower to answer correctly gets a signed copy of None Such Like It. And … GO! And, if any of you do not know the answer because you haven’t yet seen our two-hour YouTube movie on the Atlantic Crossing, then you’re in for a holiday treat. Pop some corn and call it Movie Night!
Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. Phillip and I are excited to take you along vicariously on our holiday cruise! ’Tis the season … to go to the Bahamas Mon! Ha!
The wind chicken did what? Another really fun article here for you guys that was just recently published in SAIL Magazine’s July 2017 issue about our five-day voyage across the Gulf of Mexico this past December to Cuba. As I mentioned … I’m so glad we went when we did. It was a little comical, though, watching us plan for all sorts of calamities out there and then ironic to find the ones we worried about never occurred, but what did happen, we could have never guessed. “If it’s gonna happen … ” right? Full article below. Hope you guys enjoy the salty read! A big thanks to SAIL Magazine editor, Peter Nielsen for commissioning this one from me.
Wind Chicken Gone Wild
“I don’t think the rudder post is supposed to move like that,” I told the Captain.
“It turns with the wheel” he said dismissively. “Starboard to port,” eyes still closed, hands clasped on his chest.
“I didn’t say turn. I said move. Athwartship.” His head snapped up. That did the trick. Severely nautical terms usually did, although they still surprised me when they would occasionally tumble out of my mouth. As if I didn’t know the person who was talking. It wasn’t long ago I thought sailing was only for people who wore blue embossed blazers and said things like “halyard, forestay and yaaarrr.” Barely three years a sailor now and I still feel very new to it because new things seem to happen every time we go out.
Five days. Four filthy long johns. Three rudder nuts. Two sailors and one wayward wind chicken and we finally made it to Cuba. This was our longest offshore voyage, 500 nautical miles across the Gulf of Mexico, just the three of us—Phillip, myself and our champion, a 1985 Niagara 35—and while we had many expectations and preparations in place for what might go wrong, the things that actually did go wrong on that passage could have never been predicted. If this voyage taught me anything, it’s that sitting around trying to dream up predicaments that might occur out there is a foolish man’s game because it’s the things you cannot predict that will teach you the most.
“Athwartship,” Phillip repeated involuntarily as he leaned over and watched what I had been watching on the cockpit floor. The rudder post cap was moving athwartship about a half inch to port, another to starboard with each pitch of the boat. If you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you, the grey scrape of butyl it left behind each time confirmed they were not. While offshore voyaging undeniably increases your tolerance for wear and tear on your boat, a wobbly rudder post in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is not something I think I will ever develop a stomach for. The rudder freaks me out. It’s the only thing that steers the boat and if it falls out, it leaves behind a gaping hole that sinks the boat. I hate the rudder. At least I hate when it’s moving. Athwartship.
After some investigation, we found the nuts on the three bolts that hold the rudder post cap to the cockpit floor had somehow wiggled loose. Why call them lock washers if they don’t? Our first attempt at fixing this problem was a sweaty upside-down hour, hanging head-first into the port and starboard lazarettes slipping in the only thing that would fit between the cockpit floor and the quadrant—a flat wrench in a flat hand—and tightening each nut one millimeter of a turn at a time. This held for about eighteen hours then the dreaded rudder post movement returned. Now it was time to get serious. Or crazy. Where once barely a hand and flat wrench fit, we now wanted to get a nut in there too. And some Loctite.
“Get me the doo-dads box,” Phillip said. Believe it or not, that is its official title. It’s an old fishing tackle box full of odds and ends. The land of misfit nuts.
Finding nuts, however, to double up on the bolts was a far easier task than actually threading them on, hanging upside down again, single-handed, this time with slippery Loctite fingers. It was like adding tricks to a circus performance. Now walk the tightrope while juggling knives and balancing a sword on your chin. We can totally do this! You see? Crazy. You have to be. Just a little.
“Maybe we can steer it down.” It’s hard to believe even looking back on it that the “it” I was referring to was our Windex, better known on our boat as the “wind chicken.” This was another wild card the Gulf dished out for us on our way to Cuba and definitely falls in the “I can’t make this stuff up” category. Our second night on passage was a tense one, battling steady 19+ headwinds with heavy heeling and bashing into four-foot seas. With the rails buried on starboard and waves cresting up and soaking the genny, we were heeled so far over the wind actually climbed the mast and lifted our windex arrow up to the top of the VHF antennae and began whipping it around like the bobble end of a kid’s bumblebee headband. This is the exact type of outlandish situation you can never dream up ashore.
Phillip and I … begging with the wind chicken to come down.
One stupid piece of plastic—probably made in China and probably worth about ninety-eight cents—was now thrashing around violently port to starboard, up, down, around in circles, threatening to snap off our primary portal for communication, our eyes and ears on the horizon and our solitary method for finding, tracking and contacting other vessels in the blue abyss. If the arrow snapped the antennae off, our VHF and AIS would shut down like a light switch. All because of a ridiculous piece of plastic. You see? So crazy you can’t make it up.
Phillip and I weren’t sure if there was supposed to be some little stopper ball that was intended to prevent wind chickens gone wild and perhaps we had missed it in the package or failed to install it correctly when we stepped the mast after rebuilding our rotten stringers earlier that year. Or perhaps the thought that the arrow could be lifted up and turned into a bull whip on the end of the VHF antennae is so far-fetched no wind chicken manufacturer has ever thought to design around it. It was such a wild, crazy, stupid thing to be happening—threatening to disengage some of our most important systems—yet there was nothing we could do but sit, watch and curse it. Until we had the idea to “steer it down.”
Phillip kind of shrugged his shoulders, shook his head but took to the wheel anyway seeing no better option. And, thankfully with some creative sail trim and steering we were able to reduce the heeling of the boat enough to change the angle of the wind on the mast. When the severity of the whipping lessened, the wind chicken finally started to shimmy its way down, like a grass skirt on a hula girl, to its resting place at the base of the antennae. Whew. Down. What now?
That was actually a common sentiment out there. With the boat moving twenty-four hours a day, using many systems and running them very hard every hour of every day, the likelihood that something might break, start to wiggle, or even whip around like a disoriented bat was actually pretty high. One of the best things about voyaging with a partner is the sense of accomplishment you feel after you’ve tightened the rudder post or fixed the bilge pump or rigged up a new halyard or whatever other thousand things you can tackle together out there. Because that’s exactly where you will tackle them, is out there. It takes a little crazy to get you to go and, after that, just more and more wind chickens gone wild until nothing completely freaks you out anymore. When you feel an odd thump, smell a strange burning scent or hear an alarm go off, often your first thought is: What now? But your next is usually: I can do this. Upside down. In the lazarette. With Loctite. Totally! “Get me the doo-dads box.”
It’s actually called eustress. Have you heard that term? I first saw it in Timothy Ferris’s Four Hour Work Week. Definitely an exciting, kick-in-the-keister read if you’re looking for a book to make you rethink and reform your work habits. But, I remember seeing the word for the first time and having one of those Aha! moments. Ferris opens the book with a scene where he is preparing to perform in an international tango contest. He is nervous, anxious, scared, excited—many of the same emotions we feel when we are stressed—but he is feeling them for a good reason. Because he is doing something exciting and challenging. I remember stopping mid-sentence on the word, snapping my head up and laying the book in my lap. Eustress. What a great concept. It is a form of stress, in that it is exciting, it makes you a little frightened, a little anxious or worried, but it’s good for you. It’s invigorating and healthy. That is what I am just now learning cruising can be. Good stress.
Actually a recent article in Cruising World (Good ole’ Fatty, does it again) inspired me to write this post when one particular line stuck me like a harpoon. Cap’n Fatty was quoting a female sailor who had, like his daughter, grown up on boats, but who was just now starting to learn how to actually handle, maintain and sail her own boat and she said: “I felt like there were a thousand decisions to make.”
That is exactly how it sometimes feels when you’re living aboard cruising. Deciding which weather window to seize, which route to take, which port to go to, when to reef, when to fuel up, where to provision, when to make repairs and how best to make them, where to moor, when to leave. Then it starts all over again: which weather window to seize, which route to take, which port to go to … On and on. It can sometimes feel overwhelming making all of the decisions necessary to keep a boat and crew in good running shape and actually cruising her around different parts of the world.
A big part of mine and Phillip’s decision for me to go for my Captain’s License this summer was the goal that I not only become a better sailor and boat owner, but also a much more helpful mate and partner for Phillip.
Since we bought our boat in 2013, I will be the first to admit, I have been lazy. I have. I have relied on Phillip to handle the helm 100% of the time, to make all of the decisions about when we would leave, where we would go, which ports we would stop in. All of the navigation and weather decisions I left to Phillip. He would occasionally run things by me, probably more as a matter of courtesy than anything, because I didn’t have the knowledge to actually help him make the right decision. (Although we all know there is no “right” one, only that an un-made one is the wrong one.) But, this last trip in April/May, when we brought our boat back up from the Keys, I was infinitely more involved and I felt just like that gal said. Like there were a thousand decisions to make.
Phillip and I watched the wind graphs and radar the days before leaving and decided when was the best time (both which day and what time of day to ensure arrival at the next port in daylight) to leave. I pulled the boat off the dock. You all remember that harrowing, heart-pounding moment. *gulp*
Together, we planned the route together from Stock Island across the Gulf Stream, into San Carlos Bay to Ft. Myers Beach. I was at the helm when we snagged a mooring ball there. While at Ft. Myers, we assessed again the movement in our rudder post as we had noticed still some slight movement starboard to port in the rudder during our passage up and Phillip and I talked at length about the best temporary fix as well as the possible permanent fixes once we got home to Pensacola.
After Ft. Myers, we decided our next stop would be Cayo Costa, a national state park north of Captiva and a place we had never been to before. We had been told by fellow cruising friends that it was a beautiful, secluded spot but a little “tight” coming in. Meaning, we would have to navigate carefully around the shoals to find enough depth, a decision which also required us to watch the tides and try our best to time our entry during high tide. Decisions, decisions.
I was at the helm when we pulled into Pelican Pass and I recall how stressful it was, watching the depth gage and trying to steer my way toward depth without knowing whether the shoal was on my port or starboard, or dead ahead, much less which way to turn to find deeper water. I think we got down to 6.5 at one point and I found that’s not a number I like to see on the B&G. And, the big lesson learned there: If you pick your way into an anchorage, lay down a freaking track on the B&G so you can pick your way back. We ended up getting into Cayo Costa just fine but it was a mutual half-educated, half-guessing game and it was stressful. But the good kind.
And well worth it.
And, the most important part was, Phillip and I were actually now doing it together. I suddenly saw all of the work and thought and research and worry he put into all of the passages and trips we had taken before while I did not. Sure, I’m a hard worker and will help with any sort of manual labor aspect of cruising, but it instantly dawned on me how little mental effort I had been putting in while Phillip had taken on the lion’s share. For the first time I appreciated all that he had been doing. And, Phillip, for the first time, appreciated having a true, equal partner. Someone to help carry the mental load, to talk through all of the variables and possible outcomes and help make those thousand decisions.
We need challenges in our life. Things that frustrate us, cause adversity that we must overcome and make us feel alive. Captain Yannick, in fact, chose to bear down the very difficult path of buying, maintaining and sailing a boat across the Atlantic Ocean so he and his family could move aboard and go cruising as a means of keeping himself occupied and stimulated after retiring as a Navy fighter pilot. While I’m not sure cruising can ever be quite as stressful as re-fueling a fighter jet mid-air, I do believe there were moments during our Atlantic crossing that pushed Yannick to his mental limits.
But it is much more rewarding to worry and stress about something you are passionate about and love to do, rather than something you don’t like or even dread doing. I remember worrying myself sick over motion deadlines, asking the wrong questions in deposition, disappointing my partners. I was an absolute stress bomb. Twenty pounds heavier, out of shape and shoved into pantyhose every day to go sit and work and worry in front of a computer all day. Bad stress will kill you!
Cruising stress, good stress, I can assure you, will not but you should fully expect to feel worried, scared, anxious and nervous at times. I guarantee you will feel very much alive.
And while I do still worry sometimes about disappointing my partner, now Phillip. It seems as long as I keep trying, I never do. We now make all of our cruising decisions and mistakes, together.
Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio, walk the historic Cathedral Square, tour Hemingway’s house, Finca Viega, dance at the Floradita and see inside the Casa Particular we rented for $40 CUCs/night. We take you all through Havana in this video with some very exciting news at the end. I’m also going to sail to Cuba again very soon in the Pensacola a la Habana race on SailLibra and you can come too! Book at www.saillibra.com/join-a-sail/! My need for more training and days on the water is all part of some very big news we have coming soon at HaveWindWillTravel. I can’t wait to see the guesses come in as to what I’m going to try to accomplish this summer. Let me have it!
Want to know exactly what it feels like to go through the customs process after sailing to Cuba? Come along. We’ll walk you through. Show you exactly who boarded and what they wanted to know. We’ve included a lot of great tips in here for you as well to make the check-in process easy if you’re planning your own trip to Cuba. I hope many of you are. You will see from our sneak peek “exploring Cuba” footage in here that it was an incredible voyage and destination for us. If you can’t go on your own boat, SailLibra will be making two trips to Cuba this spring. Check them out! www.saillibra.com/join-a-sail/
Hey hey HaveWind followers! A real treat for you here. Crazy Annie, at it again. I get so excited talking about our wicked sail to Cuba I can hear myself running out of breath. It just bursts out of me. This is my first podcast interview post-Cuba, talking about our sail across the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Stream to Cuba as well as the repair process we went through at the shipyard to be able to make that voyage and some discussion of our Atlantic-crossing in 2016. I think I talked Jeffrey into interviewing Yannick. I know you’ll be excited to hear from our faithful French captain! I hope you enjoy this conversation. Thank Jeffrey Wetting with Shooting the Breeze Sailing Podcast for putting this together!
And cracks me up in the photo Jeffrey chose of me for his website. Looks like there’s a crew member behind me on Libra puking over the side. Ha ha. While that is not far-fetched when you Sail on Libra, that was Greg Spivey (hello Greg!) just leaning over to film the waterline with his GoPro. Hilarious what it looks like he’s doing though. Way to go Jeffrey! : )
The current of the Gulf Stream is no joke, particularly when it is pushing you into head winds. Watch as we reef up and cross a pretty kicked up sea state across the Gulf Stream, sing to our first Cuban sunrise, deal with an issue with the furling gear on our headsail, navigate the entry to Marina Hemingway and make landfall in Cuba. HaveWindWillTravel is traveling this year! There’s a great Patreon update for you as well in here as we will soon be getting a video update from each of our previous Gift of Cruising winners and get ready to give our 4th gift away — a 100% free offshore voyage on SailLibra at the $500 reward level. WHOA. Become a Patron to be eligible to win and help us create cruisers out of each and every one of you! Hope you all are enjoying the journey to Cuba. We can’t wait to share that beautiful, culture-rich country with you.
“How much does it cost to stay at Marina Hemingway?”
“What are the facilities like?”
“Do you have to call before you can come in?”
These are all the kinds of questions we’re been getting from all kinds of curious followers after our voyage to Cuba and we LOVE to answer. While the experience of Cuba, in and of itself, was amazing, the experience of just getting in to Cuba was, itself, eye-opening and kind of exciting. Okay, very exciting. We were coming into a country that, until only recently, was closed off to Americans for over fifty years. Naturally people are curious! So, we wanted to give you all a little glimpse, and some tips, on navigating the customs in Cuba:
Fly Your Q Flag
As we were approaching shore, we hoisted our bright yellow “Q flag” (meaning, quarantine, because you have not been properly checked in yet) on the port side of the boat. [UPDATE! We learned from some folks who commented that we should have flown our Q flag on the starboard side. Don’t pull an Annie! Fly yours on the right side! You’re welcome. : ) ]. We also had a Cuba one ready to hoist the minute we got docked. We were so excited to be going to Cuba!
It was a good thing, too, that we were flying our Q flag when we came in because we didn’t get advanced permission to enter.
Calling Before You Enter
We were under the impression you needed to hail the customs officials on the radio (Channel 77) before you entered and we certainly tried! However, after seven failed attempts to make contact, Phillip could not get a response. We texted Captain Ryan via the Delorme, as he has been to Cuba several times, to see what he thought about the situation. His response? “Their radios are total crap. They probably can’t hear you. Just go in and dock at customs.” No one was answering and we had a clear window to make the entry, so that’s what we did and no one at customs seemed to mind at all that we didn’t have advanced permission to enter.
Navigating the Entrance to Marina Hemingway
The entrance to Marina Hemingway is well-marked and fairly easy to navigate when the conditions are calm. It is about 3/4 of a mile long, but very narrow (approximately 100 feet wide), with very unforgiving reefs on either side. Phillip is also always adamant that I tell people, when talking about the entrance, that the markers (three red on starboard and three green on port) are ON the reef itself, not inside of it. Meaning, if you hug the markers, there is a chance you could hit the reef, so shoot straight for the middle. Here is a map of the marina entrance:
I also made a video from footage a Libra crew member took when Captain Ryan was making his way through the entrance to Marina Hemingway this past December in some pretty harrowing conditions. The video is a good visual rendition of how short and narrow the entrance is (and how quickly you can be pushed through it when it’s blowing 28 out of the north!). Phillip and I would call this the “pucker factor.” Yipes!
Docking at Customs
After you make it past the reef and into the channel, you will turn left at the end and head toward the customs dock which is a large, bright turquoise concrete wall.
We found the staff who worked there (often two young men) were very polite and courteous in helping you secure your boat and disembark. They took each of us into the customs office to verify our passport and vessel registration.
One agent came aboard to fill out paperwork on the boat for our visas and to “check the boat.” I’m not sure what he was looking for other than a stowaway, weapons, drugs, big piles of money. I really can’t tell you. But whatever he saw seemed satisfactory to him and he was on and off in under five minutes.
The doctor then came aboard to ask us some medical questions, check our temperature and look around the boat as well.
He asked if we had had any stomach aches or fever. He took our temperature. He asked if the head was working properly and to see our first aid kit. He also asked if we had any narcotics on board. This man, too, was very polite and welcoming. We offered each of them a cold drink and snacks. Phillip said he tried to offer both the doctor and the young man a few dollars but they waved him off.
Getting Your Passport Stamped
I opted to get my passport stamped but they will ask you if you want it stamped or not.
Ka-chunk! Happy Traveler Annie. I can’t believe I got four stamps just this year: Portugal, France, Mexico and Cuba! With my Bahamas stamp from the 2015 Abacos Regatta that makes five total. The world is so big! With so many more ka-chunks in store!
The Canals at Marina Hemingway
The marina is huge! Able to accommodate some 230 boats, I believe was the number (and they said it fills during the big Hemingway billfish tournament in February). We were surprised, however, to find it was very empty when we were there, particularly as that was supposed to be Cuba’s “high season” for tourists and cruisers. Captain Ryan had told us Canal 1 (which is where they try to put all of the newcomers) is a little rough as it still gets a lot of the wind fetch from across the Gulf and it is not as close to the facilities. We later learned by “facilities” Ryan meant the fancy pool at the hotel, which is where he likes to be (the south side of Canal 2).
Upon Ryan’s recommendation, Phillip asked the young man at customs, after he assigned us a spot in Canal 1, if we could dock in Canal 2. The young man tried to get the Port Captain, Jose, on the radio to ask about the switch but could not hail him. Remember what Ryan said about the radios. Ryan also told us a lot about Jose. Just wait, he’s going to be your new best friend! Apparently, what spot you will have on the dock falls distinctly under the determination of the Port Captain because the young man at customs said he could not move us without Jose’s consent.
Thankfully as we were motoring our way toward our spot in Canal 1, we saw a team of guys waving us in and Phillip urged me to ask them if we could move to Canal 2. He thought—as there is one common thread among men of all nationalities—that the request would be better received coming from a blonde at the bow than the captain at the helm. Turns out he was right. Jose cocked his head to the side for a bit, thought for a minute, then said “Okay!” and steered us over to a spot on the north wall of Canal 2. Here is where we docked, spot 227:
Phillip and I were very pleased with this location as it was within easy walking distance of the showers, bathrooms, snack bar, marina office, etc. It was also well-protected and still a short walk from the convenience store by the road and Hotel Aquario on the south side of Canal 2, where you can spend a very enjoyable day lounging by the pool, eating at their restaurant there and using the wifi when they have it.
Can you spot Plaintiff’s Rest in this picture?
That’s her mast in the center of the photo! We like to keep her close by and feeling like a part of the family.
You have probably heard others mention it as well: the dock walls in Cuba are unforgiving. Just bare concrete, no rub rail or bumpers. Bring extra fenders to make sure your boat has a nice cushion against the concrete.
The Welcome Committee (Port Captain and Agricultural Department)
We jokingly began calling them the “Welcome Committee” because after you were there for a few days and you got to watch a lot of new boats come in, you noticed each time a new one docked, this crew of 7-8 marina folks would magically appear: the Port Captain, the agricultural guys, the trash man, the marina security guard, and then often 1-2 guys who work on boats around the marina offering to do work for the new gringo that just came in! They’re happy to do anything for you to earn some cash. We had a guy offer to do our stainless, our varnish, even scrub our bottom. While we did not take any of them up on the offer (we like to do our own work on Plaintiff’s Rest), assuming they are hard and diligent workers, you can get a lot of work done on your boat on the cheap at Marina Hemingway!
We met two Port Captains at Marina Hemingway, Jose and his brother Gabriel. This is Jose:
Great guy. Now why am I handing him Bengay? Because Captain Ryan told me to bring him some. “He’ll be your new best friend,” Ryan said and boy was he right! Jose loves Bengay! It’s actually for his wife who apparently has a lot of issues with arthritis and this magic cream makes her feel much better. I love making new friends, particularly in Cuba, so I brought him two tubes and Jose was doubly happy. He was also super nice in general. Jose made sure Phillip and I were happy with the slip and facilities. He told us about the restaurants in the area, the hotel across the way where we could get wifi, the marina hours and so much more about exchanging money, how to find a driver, what things should typically cost (so we wouldn’t get have to pay the really high tourist rates). In general, you just felt like Jose was looking out for you. And, like any good professional in hospitality, he remembered our names and greeted us with a smile every time he saw us around the marina. Jose also referred us to a driver at the marina. A super nice guy named Jorge who offered to drive us any time we needed and exchanged money for us. As I have mentioned before, we felt the people in Cuba were incredibly welcoming and helpful and we had a great experience at Marina Hemingway.
Here is Jose writing out the exchange rate for us and CUCs versus pesos. He was very helpful. We did hand him a few CUCs here and there more as a tip than anything and he was very grateful, but he never asked directly for anything. The agricultural guys, however … they were the only ones to explicitly say: “Now if you haaaaave anything for us,” they said with a playful cock of their heads. And, we were happy to give it. As you all have probably seen from the Cuba voyage videos we had bought a TON of chocolates, candies, and little toiletries to give away to the Cubans and I had made little goodie bags up of them, so we were happily handing them out left and right and the Cubans were very appreciative.
The men from the agricultural department were also very friendly and polite. They boarded the boat, asked us if we had any perishable foods or produce aboard, any pets or living plants.
Because we had been told by friends and fellow cruisers not to bring any produce into the country, Phillip and I had tried heartily (and did a pretty darn good job) of eating all of our fresh produce during the voyage.
We did have a few things we couldn’t get to that we tossed overboard before coming into Cuba. Once the agricultural guys peeked in our cabinets, lockers and fridge and saw that all of our provisions were dried goods, non-perishable, they were content. Mostly they just asked questions and took your answers as truth. We gave them some goodie bags a few CUCs and they were on their way.
The marina is very large and easy to maneuver. There is a big fuel dock at the end of the pier between Canals 2 and 3:
We had barely put a dent in our jerry cans on the deck during our voyage so we did not need to fuel up in Cuba; however, Captain Ryan advised he has fueled up at Marina Hemingway before without any issues.
We were told the water in Cuba can be a little sketch. If your immune system is not ready for it, you’re going to have a bad couple of days. The good news? The clinics are free and it’s probably not going to kill you. But, on that recommendation, we decided not to chance it, so we did not drink the tap water in Cuba, nor did we fill our tanks or wash our dishes with it. We bought a few large (2 gallon) bottles of water at the convenience store at the marina and drank on those during the time we were there (9 days) and that worked just fine for us. And, when wine only costs about $4/bottle, you really don’t acquire much thirst for water.
The marina is really well run. There is a trash can by each boat that is emptied each day. We even got to know the garbage man who came by every day to take it out as he always said hello. There is also a security guard that walks the docks often and checks on the boats.
It’s a good thing Captain Ryan told me, because I was so naiive, thinking I would have plenty of wifi in Cuba. I’ll only be off the grid for 4-5 days while we’re sailing I told him. “You’ll be off the grid until you get back to Key West,” he told me. And he was right and thankfully I did enough work ahead of time before we left Pensacola that it did not end up being too much of a problem and it was really nice to truly disconnect, no Facebook, no Instagram, no nothing. Trying to get a steady, consistent wifi stream in Cuba is not easy. You buy wifi cards at Hotel Acuario, 2 CUCs for one hour, and it is still a little spotty, particularly if other people are there trying to get on too. Phillip and I had to split the hour because we found we were kicking one another off even when using two different cards at the same time. Also, there were several days when I walked over to buy a card and they told me they simply didn’t have any. “Manana,” they said … two days in a row. What can I say? It’s Cuba. They just don’t have all the luxuries we do all the time. Wifi is definitely one.
You’ll love this too. I didn’t snap a pic of the wifi card but it has a little grey strip that you scratch off like a lotto ticket to get the password for the Hotel Aquario wifi. I didn’t realize it was a scratch strip (or what the heck it said in Spanish) so I kept typing in “rasguno aqui para contrasena” AS the password. That says “scratch here for password.” The lady at the hotel desk got a huge laugh at me when I went to her for help because my “password” wasn’t working. Don’t pull an Annie in Cuba folks! Be smarter than the scratch-off card.
The Marina Facilities (Showers and Bathrooms)
Okay, so you do have to bring your own toilet paper everywhere you go. Seriously. Do. I was surprised the first time I went to the facilities and found no paper in my stall. I went to the next and the next and the next and there was no paper in any of them! Then I saw it. On the way into the restrooms, by the door, there was a little table with a single roll of toilet paper (almost gone) sitting on a platter. I soon learned this was the group roll for everyone’s use in the restroom. We found this was common in many other restrooms around Cuba as they really have to ration certain commodities because they just don’t get much of them. It did become habit soon, though, and as you walked into a restroom the first thing you would do would be to look around for the “group roll” and tear yourself off a small section before you headed to the stall. If there was no roll (this happened often as well), you pulled the one out of your bag that you had brought (because you bring toilet paper everywhere you go!) and you used that. Not a big deal, but definitely something you would want a friend to tell you before you found yourself in a paperless dilemma. Now you know!
The facilities themselves are not the cleanest but they work. The water was either warm but did not spray well in one shower stall, or not warm but sprayed well in another. It was not a spa experience, but if that’s what you’re after, Cuba may not be the place for you. What we liked about being on the north wall of Canal 2 was that it was a very short walk to the bathrooms and showers (all contained inside a little snack bar hut on the end of the pier between Canals 1 and 2).
They also sold wine, cokes and a few little snacks there and we found it was a fun place to relax at the end of the day (to smoke our Cuban cigars!) and watch the sunset on the north side of the hut. That is where I’m sitting here, just outside of the snack bar.
And this is our Marina Hemingway sunset view:
We met several other cruisers while sitting there and shared some great “coming into Cuba” stories. The snack bar is definitely good cruisers gathering ground.
While there are some things about Marina Hemingway that are not as nice as marinas in the states, in other areas, Marina Hemingway has them beat hands down. One of those was the laundry department. There is a really nice gal who works in the snack bar who does the laundry for cruisers. We brought her four incredibly stinky bags of our sweaty, grimy passage clothes and towels, and she washed them all in one day, while we were out enjoying the town, for a total of $12 CUCs. They smelled amazing when we got them back and they were all still warm and folded. She even folded my underwear. What does that tell you?
We had heard the going rate for money exchange in Cuba USD for CUCs is 85%. Meaning, you take them $100 USD and they will give you 85 CUCs in return. Your dollar doesn’t stretch quite as far in Cuba. There are places in town where they will exchange your money. We met a very nice Canadian man who stays in Jaimanitas (the neighborhood just outside of Marina Hemingway) three months out of every year and he took us to the small bank where we made our initial exchange of USD for CUCs at a rate of 87%. Jose later put us in contact with a very nice driver at the marina, Jorge, who offered to exchange our money for us. Jorge is trying to save to send his wife to Panama and it helps him to exchange money for you and stockpile more USD. He made the exchange for us at the best rate possible: 90%. One note, though, do only try to exchange exactly what you think you will spend as you cannot use or exchange the CUCs anywhere else once you get back to the states. Here are a few so you can see what they look like:
CUCs versus Pesos
Pesos are the national denomination. 1 CUC is equivalent to 24 pesos. These are what the Cubans spend and they pay a lot less for their commodities (because they have much, much less to spend). Consider the “CUC” rate that you will pay the tourist rate. Where a Cuban might buy a loaf of bread for 10 pesos, the same vendor will probably charge you 1 CUC for it. Why? Because that’s still a very affordable rate for you (about $1.25 for a loaf of bread) that you are happy to pay, so why shouldn’t he? The tourism that is coming into the country definitely benefits the Cubans and they are seizing the opportunity to earn more than they probably have in decades. Now, you are more than welcome to negotiate (and you probably should on some things, such as room rates, taxi fares, etc.). We were told often by folks who had been there a while that they were paying better rates on some things, so feel free to try and talk vendors down if you would like. It is likely they will compromise.
Cost to Stay at the Marina
This is our actual receipt from Marina Hemingway:
You’ll see they charge a $75.00 visa per person and a rate of $0.70/foot for our vessel. The power and special use permit costs were also nominal. This was for a 9-day stay at Marina Hemingway. While it is not as inexpensive as, say, Mexico, in all, we found Cuba very affordable. And we loved every minute of our stay there!
I have plenty more stories, photos and footage from Cuba to come, but we had received so many specific questions about these types of logistics, we wanted to put out an informative post first. We hope you have found some of this information helpful if you are planning to sail to Cuba as well. Any other questions, feel free to leave them in a comment below and we will do our best to answer.