1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Two cases wine, one case dog food, one case toilet paper...CHECK!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Two cases wine, one case dog food, one case toilet paper...CHECK!

Huh? What's Moran babbling about now? 
Well, for those who've not gone to Cuba, the above is part of my provisioning list for the trip, because none of those three items is easily found in Cuba. Dog food, in fact, is not available at all to my knowledge and Aduana, the WonderPup®, would not be a happy gal if we ran out of kibble somewhere around Cienfuegos. 
The last time I saw TP for sale in Cuba, it was at Marina Hemingway, at $3.50 US a roll. That's some expensive sh$%t there! (sorry, I HAD to use that line...regular readers of my Sailing and Cruising Facebook group, known for top notch sailing advice and epic TP threads, will appreciate it).
TP - $3.50 a roll in Hemingway
So what else do you bring along to Cuba? Good question. 
Money, for one thing, since American credit and debit cards don't work. I know, you've been told all that has changed. Well, don't believe everything you read - cruising friends just returned from Cuba have advised me that what you're reading in the news - and hearing at some boat show seminars in fact from so-called knowledgeable people - is incorrect, despite the hype. Bring cash. Yanqui dollars work just fine, change them to pesos at the bank. American credit and debit cards do not yet work.
You'll also want to bring along things such as condiments, spices, soda...in fact, anything that isn't a staple, and a few things we think of as staples. Beef? Hard freeze your favourite steaks, because you're not likely to find beef. Same with hamburger. 
Dinner being delivered - fresh and fast!
Pork is easier, chicken (pollo) is easy, and local fisherman will bring fish (pesca) and lobster (langosta) to your boat at anchor to trade for t-shirts, old snorkeling gear and so on. They won't sell it for cash usually, because they have nothing to spend that cash on. There are no Walmarts in Cuba...damn few grocery stores either, at least as we understand them.
Vegetables aren't a problem either, just check out the local farmer's markets in the nearest town. The selection will be fresh and grown without fertilizers or pesticides - you'll appreciate the difference in taste from North American grown veggies.
Fresh from the owner's own garden....
So what else do you need? 
You should already have on board spares for the mechanical items that usually give trouble: fan belt, impeller, oil filters, fuel filters and so on. These will be difficult, or impossible, to get in Cuba. And you can't just call out to have one shipped in either.
One friend, a Canadian, had the water pump go on his trawler while in Moro, at the west end of Cuba. It took three weeks to get one in. First, he had to order it from the US, via his satphone. It then had to be re-ordered out of Canada, shipped via DHL through Europe, it somehow at one point ended up in Africa (no, I don't know how or why), finally landing in Havana. It took a $350 car rental for the 300 mile round trip, half a day spent screwing around at the airport to get it cleared through customs, and a healthy 'tip' for the customs agent.
Imagine how stupid you would feel doing all of that for a $20 impeller.
I'm making Cuba sound very difficult, but in reality, it isn't. You do have to have a very different mindset however, to enjoy a Cuban cruise. Otherwise, it can frustrate you beyond belief.
In Hemingway, when you are ready to plug in, the dockmaster will have an electrician set up the pedestal for you, as in rewire it. 
Guarda officer being rowed out to my boat...
You have to clear in, and out, of every stop, with two Guarda Frontera officers boarding your boat for the paperwork and cursory search of your boat. Learn to enjoy it. They don't want to do it either, and they're respectful and pleasant about the job. Everything takes longer, is more difficult. Sometimes things are done on the sly, because that’s the only way they CAN be done due to bureaucracy and rules. Cubans are masters at McGyvering things - witness those old Chevs and Fords running on Russian tractor diesels. 
And through it all, the Cubans just keep smiling, being their wonderfully friendly selves.
Nothing is the same, in other words, and that alone is reason to cruise Cuba, before the developers and marina builders get their mitts into Cuba, and turn it into Fort Lauderdale south. Already, they're talking about a $150 million redevelopment of Hemingway, funded by the Chinese, and building something upwards of a dozen marinas, with golf courses, on the north coast. You’ll hardly know you’ve even left the US in these places.
I won't give my opinion on this idiocy, but those who read me regularly know what I think of this 'pave paradise, put up a parking lot' mentality. This isn’t what cruising is all about. If that’s what you want, stay at a marina in Miami - you’ll hear more Spanish spoken there anyhow.
The next post you see will be sent via my Delorme Inreach tracker, and you can follow my progress at Where's Wally? As I cruise the south coast of Cuba, I'll try to answer your questions, but bear in mind, net access can be a challenge there.
A quick reminder for those interested in cruising the ICW with my rally group this fall, Sail to the Sun ICW Rally.  It's going to be a great time and space is filling very fast - we're already 50% full in only five days, so if you're interested, don't hesitate! This is going to be an even better time than last year's rally.
Mas tardes, amigos y amigas. See you in Cuba! Vaminos!