За това как си купихме яйца в Куба и други премеждия

Втора Глава

За това как си купихме яйца в Куба и други премеждия

 

Ще ми повярвате ли ако ви кажа, че ми липсваха онези времена когато татко караше Москвич, а вуйчо Жигула; когато майка се редеше на километрична опашка за олио, а при баба и дядо на село беше най-хубаво; когато ни спираха тока посред зима; когато нашите чакаха с нетърпение Всяка Неделя, а ние децата чакахме Сънчо; когато автобусните билетчета бяха 6 стотинки и аз ходех на училище с две големи зелени панделки и чавдарска връзка; когато не знаехме що е то „демокрация“, а“капитализъма“ беше нещо страшно. (Ама аз и без това не разбирах от такива неща защото бях малка.) Липсваха ми тези времена не за друго, а защото ги свързвах с най-прекрасните години от живота ми: детството.

След 12 години в Канада и Америка, нямах търпение да посетя Куба. Обзела ме беше някаква странна носталгия: към родината, към детството. Представях си как пътешествието в Куба би било пътешествие в миналото, едва ли не завръщане в България през осемдесетте години. Та кой не би искал да изживее отново спомените от детството си, въпреки неуспешния комунизъм и въпреки мизерията?

Момиченце в Куба

Момиченце в Куба

И така, на 23 юли 2013г. (вторник), вдигнахме котва от Драй Тортугас, Флорида и опънахме платната посока Хавана, на 95 морски мили. В началото почти нямахме вятър. Минаха часове, а ние не се мърдахме от мястото ни. Платната увиснаха, лодката едвам се влачеше, фара на острова продължаваше да стърчи зад гърба ни. Чак привечер се появи по-силен югоизточен полъх, образуваха се вълни и Фата Моргана потегли весело. За първи път плавахме сами в открито море прекосявайки мощния Гълфстрийм посред нощ. Пълната луна ни наблюдаваше с интерес и осветяваше пътеката по която Фата Моргана препускаше напред. Зад гърба ни, в пяната на вълните разбиващи се от лодката, оставаше бледа зелиникава диря- фотолуминисценция.

През цялото време управлявахме на ръка, на смени, защото се оказа, че автопилотът изобщо не работи и индикаторът за силата и посоката на вятъра също отказа. Така че си карахме “по слух“.

– Колко мислиш, че е е вятъра в момента? , от време на време аз питах Иво.
– 10-15 възела, може и повече…

24 юли- сряда. Справихме се чудесно с нощното прекосяване на Гълфстийма, най-пълноводното течение в света, което при силни насрещни северни ветрове се превръща в чудовище способно да погълне цели кораби, но при слаб югоизточен вятър какъвто за щастие имахме ние, е мъркащо котенце.

Слънцето изгря и около нас започнаха да се появяват малки странни лодчици направени от стериопор, с по един рибар във всяка. От хоризонта надникна Хавана.

– Куууубаааааа!, радостно започнах да викам аз с всичка сила.

Рибар край Хавана

Рибар край Хавана

По обяд пристигнахме в пристанище Хемингуей. Посрещнаха ни стари очукани циментови сгради, някаква странна непозната миризма, група черни любопитни деца, едно улично куче и двама кубинеца с военни униформи. Паркирахме се на един от бетонените понтони между други лодки в нещо като канал със застояла вода. Военните коменданти, един стар доктор облечен в бяло и капитанът на пристанището с посивял мустак веднага се качиха на лодката за инспекция. Бяха любезни и в началото се опитаха да говорят на английски докато им казах, че няма нужда да се мъчат защото аз говоря испански, а щом чуха, че сме от България, изненада! Превключиха на Български!

– Добре дошъл в Куба! Как сме, добре ли си? Кебапчета, ракия, ха-ха-ха!, започна да се хили капитана с мустаците и от там насетне станахме първи приятели. Братя по оръжие.

Оказа се, че той и още един са си прекарали младините във Варна, завършили морското училище там, като татко, даже може би са били в един випуск, може би са го познавали! Ама че е малък света наистина!

Мира, Иво и пристанищните власти на борда на Фата Моргана

Мира, Иво и пристанищните власти на борда на Фата Моргана

Работата на един от военните, мазник, беше да прегледа лодката ни за наркотици. С куче-професионалист. От някъде докараха един малък симпатичен кокершпаньол, който преди това се шляеше безцелно из пристанището напълно слънчасал. Той се разходи мудно из салона и кабините, близна пода в кухнята и, тъй като не намери никакви наркотици, трябваше да платим „бакшиш“ на неговият собственик. Иво предложи 5 долара, но военният каза, че няма как да обмени банкнота от 5, по-добре двайсетачка. Това беше първият и последен път когато Иво плати рушвет. Сърцето още го боли.

Работата на стария доктор облечен в бяло беше да ни „прегледа“ или по-скоро разпита дали сме болни от някоя ужасна заразна американска болест която би могла да унищожи цялото кубинско население. Не, здрави сме, като българи, и се чустваме прекрасно! Ел доктор също така отвори хладилника за да види дали няма да внесем от Америка месо от луди крави и пресни зеленчуци пълни с бацили, но остана безкрайно изненадан.

Хладилникът ни беше напълно празен. Вълче ехо. Само няколко глави чесън се мотаеха в кухнята, обаче военните и капитана на пристанището ни го взеха, с наше разрешение. Никога не били виждали толкова голям и хубав америkански чесън.

– Къде ви е храната, сеньора?, попита докторът.
– А, ние от тук ще си купим. Местна кубинска храна. Да опознаем културата. Тука има магазин за хранителни стоки, нали? В колко затварят?

Кубински магазин за плодове и зеленчуци

Кубински магазин за плодове и зеленчуци

Всъщност, магазините за хранителни стоки в цяла Хавана, в цяла Куба, вече бяха затворени. 26 юли е национален празник, годишнина от Монкадата: първия неуспешен опит на Фидел Кастро да свали от власт диктатора Фулхесио Батиста през 1953, атентатът положил началото на революционното движение в Куба. Тази година, 26 юли се падаше в петък.

Ние пристигнахме на 24 юли- сряда, само че докато ни оправят документите, паспортите, разрешителното за плаване около Куба и други формалности, стана късно за пазаруване. На следващия ден, 25 юли- четвъртък, нацията вече беше запразнила, магазините затворени. 26 юли-петък, основният празник, никакви магазини. 27 и 28 юли- събота и неделя, няма смисъл дори да пробваме… Пет дена откак сме в Куба и никакъв шанс да се нахраним! Страх и безизходица настанаха на борда на Фата Моргана. Някакви забравени консерви с боб ни спасиха от гладна смърт.

Дойде 29 юли-дългоочакваният понеделник- работен ден. С раници на гърбовете и с нови надежди се отправихме към близкото село, няколко километра на запад от Хавана, съвсем близо до пристанище Хемингуей.

– Къде са ви магазините за храна?, започнах да разпитвам случайни минувачи.
– Какво по-точно търсите да купите?, питаха те в отговор.
– Хляб, яйца…
– Хляб може и да намерите на онзи ъгъл, ама яйца няма…
– Как така няма яйца???

Ами така, яйца няма. Нали много исках да се завърна в носталгичното минало, „когато майка се редеше на километрични опашки за олио“? Ето на, добре дошли в миналото и приятно изкарване! Яйца няма! Никъде!

Също така, за да пазаруваме, трябваше да обменим долари. В банката искаха да ни обменят някакви луксозни песота за туристи, а кубинците ползваха други песота за кубинци, обаче ние намерихме един тип на улицата, който ни заведе при друг тип, който ни закара в една къща, където една баба ни продаде от обикновените кубински песота, за простолюдието.

Намерихме магазинче за хляб. Жалка гледка: празни рафтове, комунистически лозунги по стените и една дебела продавачка дъвче сухар и не ни обръща внимание.

Кубински магазин за хляб

Кубински магазин за хляб

Купихме сухари. После намерихме друг магазин където хора с тефтери се редяха на опашка за захар и ориз, ама ние нямахме право да си купим от този магазин, защото, въпреки че имахме кубински песота, нямахме такива тефтери…

Накрая намерихме една къща където на приземния етаж жена продаваше малки кръгли пици с кашкавал (без салам) и домашен нектар от гуава, страхотно вкусен и евтин. Почти през целият ни престой в Хавана, две седмици, само това ядохме и пихме, но трябваше да си носим пластмасовата еднолитрова бутилка за нектара, защото празните пластмасови бутилки в Куба са кът. Всъщност, всичко в Куба е кът. Хората мият шишетата, перат найлоновите торбички и пелените на бебетата, деца събират празни бирени канетки по улиците, рибарите си правят лодки от стериопор.

Момче сплесква бирени канетки, Хавана, Куба

Момче сплесква бирени канетки, Хавана, Куба

Размислих се, че хората в Куба биха живяли прекрасно ако имаха достъп до американския боклук. Мизерията беше неописуема и някак си не се връзваше със спомените от българското ми детство.

Винаги съм се възхищавала на Кубинската Революция и на Революцията като идея по принцип. През 50-те години Фидел Кастро, Че Гевара и шепа партизани укриващи се в планините на Сиера Маестра стартират опозиционното движение „26 юли“, което бързо се разраства за да се превърне в Кубинската Революция, която потушава несправедливият и жесток режим на Батиста. В първите години след революцията, през 60-те и 70-те, Кастро и неговите съмишленици, с помощта на Съветския Съюз разбира се, успешно прилагат най-различни социални и аграрни реформи „за благото на народа“ в Куба.

Че Гевара

Че Гевара

Тук очаквахме да намерим малка изолирана, но независима държава; девствена земя лишена от индустриално замърсяване, където всички култури са органични и храната е здравословна; народ задържал се непобеден и горд въпреки близостта на враждебният империалистки гигант. Искахме да покажем на нашите деца, че има алтернатива на капитализма, консумеризма, глобализацията; различна система организирана около принципа на „равенството“, където хората не са богати, но въпреки това са образовани, здрави и щастливи.

Само че не намерихме тази държава и нашите романтични надежди се изпариха само за няколко дни.

Хесус

Хесус

Вместо това, намерихме руините на страна в която жилищата се срутват върху жителите, а улиците приличат на военни окопи; мръсни празни магазини; хора, които просят за един долар или тениска или руло тоалетна хартия или каквото и да е, със сълзи в очите и без никаква гордост, готови да лъжат, крадат и да се проституират за да оцелеят още един ден, в неописуема мизерия; които се страхуват да изкажат открито възмущението си и разочарованието си от една нефункционална система изоставила своите граждани в плачевно състояние да се спасяват кой както намери за добре; където правителството управлява с помощта на полицията, армията и жестоки репресии на човешките права; където по принципа на „равенството“ почти всички са по равно бедни, умиращи от глад.

Кубински дом. Тук живеят мъж, дъщеря му и трите му внуци.

Кубински дом. Тук живеят мъж, дъщеря му и трите му внуци.

Днес Куба е единствената държава в света където, без да има военно положение, хората се снабдяват с основни продукти: брашно, олио, захар, посредством купонна система. Заплатите на кубинците са толкова мизерни, че немогат да си позволят да си купят почти нищо извън купоните. Един шофьор на камион например получава еквивалента на 15 долара на месец, а един хляб струва 3 долара. Затова кубинците са принудени да крадат.

Шофьорът на камиона, който е държавен, краде бензина и товара който пренася и ги продава на черния пазар. Затова стоките често не достигат магазините и никой не пита защо. Строителните работници крадат материалите от държавните строежи докато сгради се срутват върху главите на хората и цялата инфраструктура се разпада.

Улица в Хавана

Улица в Хавана

Получила се е верижна реакция в основата на която е икономическото ембарго наложено от Америка още в първите години след революцията. Ембаргото забранява на американски компании да търгуват с Куба и на американски граждани да пътуват в Куба. Също така санкционира не-американски компании принуждавайки ги да прекратят търговията с Куба. По време на Студената Война, кубинската икономика оцелява изцяло благодарение на Съветския Съюз. Но когато Съветският Съюз се срутва, Куба остава сама. Ембаргото е все още в сила, половин век след налагането му.

Памперси, изпрани, се сушат на балкон, Хавана

Памперси, изпрани, се сушат на балкон, Хавана

Американското ембарго наложено на Куба е акт на жестокост, несправедливост и лицемерие. Причината за ембаргото ужким е „липсата на демокрация и нарушаване на човешките права в Куба“, но в същото време САЩ подкрепя и дори помага да се имплиментират едни от най-жестоките военни тоталитарни диктатури в целият латиноамерикански регион: Чили, Ел Салвадор, Гватемала, Никарагуа. Освен това ембаргото не наказва толкова кубинското правителство, колкото кубинския народ.

беден

беден

Но ембаргото не е единствената причина за настоящото икономическо състяние в Куба. В подобна обстановка на беднотия корупцията се е разпространила из всички държавни и правителствени инстанции, по всички нива. Първоначалната комунистическа идея и принципите на революцията са се корумпирали много отдавна и днес бедните кубинци които срещнахме обвиняват собственото си правителство и по-точно Фидел Кастро за тяхното плачевно състояние.

.

.

След седмица в Куба, една жена триумфално съобщи по местната телевизия:

„Утре яйца ще бъдат доставени по магазините в цялата страна.“

На следващия ден, след дълго и вълнуващо редене на опашка, ние успешно си купихме 3 картона по 30 яйца.

Кубинско куче

Кубинско куче

 

 

 

 Тук можете да прочетете Първа Глава: За това как си купихме лодка и започнахме да мореплаваме из света.

 

Следващият път  ще разкажа по-подробно за Хавана и нейните забележителности и за останалите интерресни места които посетихме в Куба.

 

Ако имате въпроси или коментари можете да ни пишете в кометарите тук или да ни намерите във Фейсбук: Facebook/The Life Nomadik .

Не забравяйте да ни харесте във Фейсбук и да споделите тази страница с вашите приятели!

Мерси от екипажа на Фата Моргана!

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Back Home

Some months ago I asked Viktor to write a free text as an exercise in writing within the homeschool experiment. I gave him the topic ‘Home’ thinking that after so many months living on the boat he would write about the boat as his new home.

He sat down very inspired and wrote uninterruptedly for a few hours producing the following text:

 

The Good Old Ways of Home

-by Viktor

My home back in Canada was just like any other big old country house but mine was transforming depending on the seasons.

In summer, staying inside was like staying in prison: I lacked oxygen and I felt depressed, like I was missing out on things. So I would go outside where life was welcoming and vast. I could take a stroll around the house and I would see my dad mowing the lawn, my sister singing on the swing, birds pecking about, or even a little grey rabbit staring at me. It was green, it was bright; the summer feeling was greatly appreciated, and I would never have the same experiences repeated since every summer something new would always happen.

But when those pretty lime-colored leaves camping on the trees fell down to my knees, I knew that summer was over… A new season would take place. Some called it fall or autumn, others called it the time of sickness and disease, an unforgiving season that brought coughing pain and confusion about what to wear. Me? I yelled: “Yes! My birthday is finally coming!” All those season-names were telling the truth. Leaves would fall, people would get sick, and I would celebrate. I think, if it wasn’t for my birthday, this would be the worst season of all times because all it brought was misery, viruses, and a handful of cheap candy and broken potato chips.

This next one will break your heart. You will need a box of tissues at your side. Winter will not help your coughing but it will help you feel better if you have good friends and entertaining games…mostly virtual.

After a crushing blow of a snowstorm and an overnight earthquake of machinery, I would wake up in the morning and I would see a bright white light shining through the curtains. I would look through the window feeling like someone had injected ecstasy in my system. No more dead leaves, no more grass. I would see snow. Mountains of snow. I would take a deep breath of happiness and then suddenly I would hear a series of pounding knocks on the door.

I would smile, run down the stairs, run across the corridor, and I would approach the door while glancing through the glass at the dark sinister figure outside. I would reach for the door knob and quickly open it to make way for my frozen friend. Over my pajamas, I’d put on my black snow pants, my heavy winter boots, my gloves and Russian hat, slip on my jacket, ready for battle. Next thing, I’d be beating the crap out of my friend with snowballs and then we would return home for some video games and hot chocolate.

There were tons of other great events happening during this joyous season of ice and fire but I will have to write a book the size of the holy bible to describe my full emotions on this topic.

Sooner or later, the glorious white element melted into our sewers and that marked the start of the season of rebirth: spring. Almost everything was reborn anew: the grass, the sickness, school. I have mixed feelings about this season for it gave me joy as it would bring an end to the never-ending cold wrath of winter, but I was also sad to think that I had to wait six months to play with snow again.

Honestly, I miss my old home and friends. Now I will have to adapt to my new life at sea and Neptune’s anomalies, stuck on a boat with my family.

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After a little over a year stuck on a boat with his family, cruising aboard Fata Morgana and visiting many countries and islands all over the Caribbean region, Viktor, almost 17 now, decided it is time to return home. To his friends, to school, and to all those places and things he missed so much in the past months.

Cruising is a great learning experience for families with young children and we have met countless little sailors everywhere we have been, children with a unique sense of adventure, exploring, and love of the world that school-based and land-based kids lack.  We wanted to open the world for our children as well, to show them an alternative way of life more disconnected from the civilized material world and more connected to nature, more free. For Viktor, a very shy and introvert person, we hoped that our travels will provide a way to unplug from the computer and video-games which were at the center of his interests through a healthier, more active way of life. That he will accumulate knowledge and acquire new skills. And surely he did, despite his nostalgia. He became a good sailor, and will forever keep the good memories of our travels, the moments we enjoyed together, the places we visited, the people we met. But at his age, he is anxious to begin his own independent journey, to follow his own dreams back in Canada.

We can only wish him good luck, help him and support him in any way necessary.

Farewell Vik!

 

 

That day Viktor caught 10 flounders

The day Viktor caught 10 flounders

Evo and Viktor

Evo and Viktor

 

Viktor and Dylan

Viktor and Dylan

Dylan and Viktor

Dylan and Viktor

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

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Viktro with a puffer fish

Viktro with a puffer fish

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Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

Viktor "pushing" Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor „pushing“ Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba This is how we showed up at the beach.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba
This is how we showed up at the beach.

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Evo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat...)

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat…) Mexico

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

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The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

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Best swimming pool, Bahamas

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The swimming pigs, Bahamas

The swimming pigs, Bahamas

Viktor and Mira with iguanas.

Viktor and Mira with iguanas, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor

Viktor

Vick and Maya building a small fire.

Vick and Maya building a small fire on the beach, Bahamas

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Viktor and Nick

Viktor and Nick

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Damajaqua Cascadas

Damajaqua Cascadas, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

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Viktor

Viktor

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor

Viktor

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

 

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Happy One Year of Sailing To Us

Mira, Evo, Maya and Viktor 1 year The Life Nomadik

Mira, Evo, Maya and Viktor
1 year The Life Nomadik

 

Our Sailing Journey is One Year Old Today

 

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One year ago, in July 2013, we took off from Florida aboard Fata Morgana, our new home and ocean vehicle.We headed south.

In the next twelve months we visited a dozen countries and over 50 islands.

 

Florida

Fort Jefferson, Florida

Fort Jefferson, Florida

Cuba

Cuban girls

Cuban girls

Mexico

Tourists at Tulum

Tourists at Tulum

Guatemala

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The Bahamas

Maya and Mira

Maya and Mira

Dominican Republic

Comparticion, last basecamp before Pico Duarte

Comparticion, last basecamp before Pico Duarte

Puerto Rico

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U.S. Virgin Islands

Water Island, Honeymoon Beach anchorage

Water Island, Honeymoon Beach anchorage

British Virgin Islands

The Baths, BVI

The Baths, BVI

Saba

Saba. View form Scout's Place bar and restaurant

Saba. View form Scout’s Place bar and restaurant

Sint Maarten

Evo's bottle, St Maarten

Evo’s bottle, Sint Maarten

Saint-Martin

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

St Barth

Anse de Flamand

Anse de Flamand

St Kitts&Navis

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Our Journey

We met remarkable people and made many new friends.

Noial, Sofia, and Maya in traditional mayan costumes. The skirt is called corte and the top is gupil. Mayan women in Guatemala wear similar clothes.

Noial, Sofia, and Maya in traditional mayan costumes. The skirt is called corte and the top is gupil. Mayan women in Guatemala wear similar clothes.

We swam with dolphins

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And we swam with pigs

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We walked across spectacular forests and river canyons.

Maya walking through the jungle, Guatemala

Maya walking through the jungle, Guatemala

We jumped from waterfalls

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

We entered caves

Daeli and Ivo lightpainting in a cave, Guatemala

Daeli and Ivo lightpainting in a cave, Guatemala

We discovered new flavors and fragrances.

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time. Saba

We snorkeled in coral gardens with tropical fishes in water like liquid glass.

Underwater sculpture of grand piano and mermaid, Bahamas

Underwater sculpture of grand piano and mermaid, Bahamas

We learned to surf

Maya

Maya

We got involved with many of the communities we visited, we volunteered and worked with the locals.

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

We met a whale

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And a sea turtle

A green sea-turtleheading back to the sea after laying her eggs.

A green sea-turtleheading back to the sea after laying her eggs.

We met howler monkeys

Black Howler Monkey

Black Howler Monkey

We saw flamingos

DSC_1797

 

We caught a lot of tasty fish

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

Mira and her Birthday Gifts

We lived the dream.

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We did all this while being very conscious about the fragile environment we enjoy so much.

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We sailed for over 3,700 nautical miles without polluting the air and the sea, almost not using the engines. fueling once every 6 months. We also used a kayak instead of a dinghy.

Mira "sailing" the kayak with an umbrella

Mira „sailing“ the kayak with an umbrella

We lived off-grid not paying electricity bills, water bills, mortgage, taxes, or any other bills thanks to our solar panels and watermaker.

Viktor and Ivo installing solar panels.

Viktor and Ivo installing solar panels.

Our average speed was 3.7 knots which makes us Slow Pokes Drifters, but we had to sail against waves and tradewind most of the time heading east-southeast, tacking constantly, but not turning the engines on, no matter what.

Evo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off...

Evo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off…

 

Thank You!

The people we met along the way, whom we befriended, who helped us and guided us, who shared our adventures and joys are the most treasured part of our journey. We thank you!

Friends Key West, Florida

Friends
Key West, Florida

Tyler, you started us sailing and helped us so much. Thank you, we love you!

 

Vanessa Linsley, you were not just our broker, you literally adopted us, guiding and helping us so much. Thank you!

 

Rich, you were there for us when we needed you most. Thank you!

David, Lori, Kashara and Dylan, we value so much your company and all the lessons you thought us about sailing and cruising even before we started. Thank you!

 

Dale, you were the best boatyard neighbor. Thank you for the books and the veggies!

 

Peter, you fixed our jib and thought us so much in our first days of sailing, thank you!

 

Sherry and Nate, you adopted our Baba Ganoush, best thing that could happen to her! And you gave us Agent Orange! You have no idea how much we appreciate this kayak, thank you!

 

Tony, Cherri, Stacie, Ryan, Joey, Rebecca, Miranda, Sky, we had so much fun with all you guys in Key West. Thank you!

 

Suzy Roebling, we learned so much about sea turtles thanks to you and we really enjoyed the coconuts. Thank you!

 

April and Harley from s/v El Karma, you gave us lures, helped us to fix our watermaker, and shared some great moments in Cuba with us. Thank you!

 

 Daeli, Joni, Elan, Lovam, Noial, and Spirit from s/v Friendship, you and your journey inspire us so much. We love you, we miss you and we hope we will see you again soon!

 

Joseph, Jana, Katchka, and Anichka s/v Blizzard, so grateful we met you guys and shared so many crazy adventures in Guatemala together!

 

Alice s/v Suricats, yoga in the morning with Joni and you was one of the best things in Rio Dulce anchorage. Thank you!

 

Angie and Marty, thank you for your hospitality!

 

 Scot, Stephanie, Riley, and Wren, s/v Kiawa, without you our journey in the Bahamas wouldn’t be the same!

 

Ben Rusi, s/v Christel, great meeting you in the Bahamas!

 

Susanne and Jan s/v Peter Pan,so good sharing a few moments with you!

 

Mary, Shane and Franklin, great meeting you all, you have amazing stories! Hope we meet again around Australia next year!

 

Kate and Rob, nice bumping into you, twice!

 

Gabriel and Jade, how awesome of you to take us surfing in the Dominican Republic and show us how it’s done! Thank you!

 

Joao, Nae, Maria, and Noel, s/v Dee, it was wonderful having friends along the way between Domincan Republic, Puerto Rico and St Maarten, and sharing so many moments (and a rental car)!

 

Ivan, Nikola, Peter, Nanny, we had the best time with you in the Bahamas and in Puerto Rico, good old friends. Thank you for your visit and for all the gifts!

 

Greg and Michelle s/v Semper Fi, great meeting you in Puerto Rico guys and sharing your amazing stories! Thank you for the tips, the T-shirts, and the hats!

 

Tom, you mad our stay in Water Island unforgettable, thank you!

 

Ilian and Bisi, it was so great meting you in Saba, hope we meet again!

 

Martine Dora and Raphael, happy to have met you in St Maarten, hope we see each other again, maybe in Tahiti? Raphael, thank you for the ride!

 

Line and Corentin, thank you for your company in St Kitts and for the music!

 

Sejah Joseph, thank you for being our friend and guide in St Kitts!

 

We also want to thank our Sponsors, all those companies and individuals who supported our journey. Thank you!

 

 

What’s Next?

Our plans are weather dependent and as fluid as the sea. If all is well, we will keep sailing south the Windward Islands, exploring some more interesting places, until we reach Tobago. From there we will sail west to Columbia, then Panama and across the canal to the South Pacific and Australia next year.

 

Follow our journey and LIKE us on Facebook to find out what will happen in our SECOND year of sailing. Everyone is welcome aboard!

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

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16 Advantages of a Simple Kayak

A simple kayak will:

 

1. Get you to a shallow place

A simple kayak will take you to the place you want to go, even if it is too shallow for a dinghy.

The drought of a kayak is 0.0002 ft.

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Near Comunidad Indigena Caxclampon Pataxte, Guatemala

 

2. Get you to a quiet place

The kayak has no engine, therefore it makes no noise.

Sneaking near an indigenous home on Lake Izabal, Guatemala

Sneaking near an indigenous home on Lake Izabal, Guatemala

You can sneak upon people’s properties without being noticed; or float downriver without disturbing the wildlife.

 

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Floating down the River Polochic, Guatemala

3. Get you to a tight place

You can paddle even in mangroves, between roots and branches.

 

Mangroves near Cayo Levisa, Cuba

Mangroves near Cayo Levisa, Cuba

4. Get you to a beautiful place

With the kayak you will be able to explore the most beautiful places on your journey.

 

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

5. Not pollute the waters

Keeping the environment clean (and having your conscious clean) is another advantage of not having an engine.

River Lilies

River Lilies

 

6. Save you money

This is an obvious one. No engine= no fuel= no dollars

 

Mira and Ivo paddling. Photo bi Joni Spencer

Mira and Ivo paddling.
Photo by Joni Spencer

 

7. Provide a nice spot for kids to do art while under sail

 

8. Provide a dark shady spot on the boat for resting

Maya sleeping under the kayak

Maya sleeping under the kayak

9. Keep you in shape

Paddle, paddle, paddle! Often living on a boat means less physical exercise. Paddling the kayak will make you spend that extra energy and it is good for your heart and muscles.

 

Maya and the kayak in front of Fort Jefferson, Florida

Maya and the kayak in front of Fort Jefferson, Florida

10. Take your kids and their friends off the boat

The kayak will become a favorite jumping-off platform and transportation for your kids, no matter how old they are. They will paddle between boats to pick up their friends, go to shore, or to explore the region.

Maya and Noial in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Maya and Noial in Rio Dulce, Guatemala

 

11. Provide transportation for Cuban officials

If you ever sail to Cuba you will be unpleasantly surprised how many times you will have to deal with officials. Every time you move the boat from one cayo to another you will have to do another immigration checking out and checking in. The Cuban officials will board the boat every time to verify if there are any undocumented people on board (you are not permitted to have Cuban friends visiting the boat EVER even if the boat sits at the marina). Making the officials paddle to the boat instead of taking them there by dinghy is a nice little revenge.

 

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.  Here Ivo and an immigration officer paddle the kayak, El Poderoso (the name of the kayak means The Mighty One in Spanish) back from the boat anchored at Cayo Levisa. Fastest kayak ride ever, said Ivo.

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.
 Cayo Levisa, Cuba

12. Be loved by children everywhere

When you show up with a kayak in an indigenous Mayan village in Guatemala, you become The Event of The Year. Not you, the kayak!

Finca Jocoro

Finca Jocoro

There hasn’t been any scientific research done on the subject of How many indigenous kids can sink an unsinkable kayak, but the experiments have already started.

 

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

Near Finca Jocoro, Guatemala

13. Help you make friends

Your new indigenous friends will visit your boat if you invite them. They are as curious about your way of life as you are about theirs.

 

Friends from Playa Pataxte visiting the boat

Friends from Playa Pataxte visiting the boat

You may take a few kids to the boat on your kayak, the rest will arrive shortly with their lanchas and cayucos.

 

Our kayak also has new friends!

Our kayak also made new friends!

14. Transport you and your groceries

You can park your kayak on the docks everywhere and visit the local village or town. Be sure to lock it against theft, though. When you comeback with bags full of fruits and vegetables, the kayak will be there for you. It will take more load than you think.

 

Agent Orange waiting for us next to Angelica and Andrea... Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Agent Orange waiting for us next to Anthonia and Andrea…
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

15. Transport 10 cases of 24 beers!

Yes, it will. You can load as much cases of the cheapest beer you ever saw on a simple kayak as you want. 10 is not the limit!

 

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala

16. Pull your boat

When there is no wind there are but a few alternative ways to advance with a sailboat without using engines. Put your flippers on and go push the boat; or jump in your kayak and pull! Ivo has done both, but he prefers to pull: it’s more efficient. His record speed pulling the boat by kayak is 0.5 knots!

Ivo pulling the boat, Lago Izabal, Guatemala

Ivo pulling the boat, Lago Izabal, Guatemala

 

The story of Agent Orange

 

A few months ago, our good friends Neith and Sherry gave us a kayak along with a bunch of other useful things, before heading off to the desert in New Mexico where they will take part in The Solar Ark Project. We named the kayak El Poderoso which means The Mighty One in Spanish after Che Guevara’s famous motor bike. But after some time, we nicknamed him Agent Orange, as the kayak’s most notable feature is his bright orange color.

 

Agent Orange is a simple plastic unsinkable kayak. We didn’t realize then how much we will be needing it on our travels. The kayak became one of our most treasured possessions. We use it for transportation to go from the boat to shore and back when we are anchored someplace, as well as for a number of other things and I am sure that the list of ways to use it will keep growing with time.

Sailing into the sunset

Sailing into the sunset

 

 

 

 

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Cayo Levisa to Cabo San Antonio

Close to shore or offshore?

We leave Cayo Levisa together with Harley and April and we get to our next destination, Los Morros at Cabo San Antonio, almost at the same time, after over 30 hours of sailing. Only, Harley and April, who have more than 10 years of experience crewing aboard mega-yachts sailing 4 times around the globe, kept close to shore and stopped to sleep for the night anchored behind the reefs, while we took Fata Morgana way offshore and sailed non-stop the whole time, day and night, battling with current and waves, dealing with squalls and electrical storms. Turns out, sailing close to shore is way faster and the sea is much calmer, with less currents and waves, and about the same wind as offshore.

Lesson learned.

April and Harley

April and Harley

 

Marina Los Morros

We arrive in the afternoon of the next day.

Los Morros is technically a marina, if you can call a small wooden pier and a small concrete building with a couple of toilets a marina. The nearest village is over 100 kilometers away. But, there are the officials waiting for us: customs, immigration, coast guard, the entire gang, and that’s what qualifies a small pier in Cuba as a marina. We drop anchor near by and we clear in for a fourth time… Soon El Karma joins us. We sleep for 12 hours straight and the next morning we are ready to explore.

Mira witha Cuban military truck

Mira witha Cuban military truck

The place is so tiny and charming, so far away from everything, at the end of the mangrove world, it feels like a childhood memory. An immigration officer gives us directions and we start for the beach. A bunch of slow sun-stricken cows roaming around the shore are paying close attention to our actions while chewing their breakfast for the second time.

Fata Morgana anchored at Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba

Fata Morgana anchored at Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba

 

Bug-infested walk to the beach

Turns out, the beach is at the end of a three-mile road through the jungle, where the bugs live. We need a bug repellant fast if we don’t want only our dry skeletons to arrive at the beach. „Hay que inventar“ (Have to invent) I remember the phrase everyone uses in Cuba, and soon we solve our problem using palm leafs as fans and hats against the insects. We camouflage so the unintelligent mosquitoes think we are some sort of walking trees and leave us alone.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats. This is how we showed up at the beach.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats.
This is how we showed up at the beach.

 

 

The Beach

Cabo San Antonio Beach

Cabo San Antonio Beach

The one-hour bug-infested walk is worth it. We get to another secluded mini-resort: little bungalows with tiki roofs at the edge of the forest and just next to the beach, little piglets running around.

Piglet

Piglet

There are a total of four tourists and six pigs on the entire beach (before we showed up all covered up with vegetation). We spend the afternoon chilling, having lots and lots of fun in the water. Best time in Cuba!

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

 

Mira, Ivo, Maya, Viktor: a rare picture of the four of us

Mira, Ivo, Maya, Viktor: a rare picture of the four of us

 

 

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Marina Hemingway to Cayo Levisa

 

Leaving Marina Hemingway

After a week and a half in Marina Hemingway, inadequately expensive, noisy, mosquito-infested place with terrible facilities, we are eager to leave and sail west. On the way out of the marina, we have to clear la guarda and immigration again. In Cuba, you have to go through this painful process every time you enter or exit a port. Even if you go for a two-hour sail near the shore and comeback to the same port, which we’ve done once while in Marina Hemingway, you have to check out and check back in with la guarda and immigration, as if you are leaving the country and then coming back. This means: officials on board inspecting your passports, boat documentation, and the boat itself, before authorizing the move. I believe, Cuba is the only country who does this to cruisers. Unpleasant.

 

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.  Here Ivo and an immigration officer paddle the kayak, El Poderoso (the name of the kayak means The Mighty One in Spanish) back from the boat anchored at Cayo Levisa. Fastest kayak ride ever, said Ivo.

The Cuban officials will come aboard no matter what; if you are on a dock or at anchor.
Here Ivo and an immigration officer paddle the kayak, El Poderoso (the name of the kayak means The Mighty One in Spanish) back from the boat anchored at Cayo Levisa. Fastest kayak ride ever, said Ivo.

 

Our plan is to sail 60 miles west to Cayo Levisa and spend a few days there, then continue to Cabo San Antonio, the westernmost tip of the island before crossing over to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

We hoist the main sail and the jib early in the morning on August 4, but there is not much wind until noon. The ocean surface is calm and sleek like the skin of a sleeping manatee. The boat barely moves with 1,5 knots.

 

Viktor and Maya are doing some laundry while the boat  gently sails west.

Viktor and Maya are doing some laundry while the boat gently sails west.

 

In the afternoon the wind picks up from the east and we start making good progress doing about 6-7 knots, wing-on-wing. Our autopilot and wind gauges don’t work since we started this journey, so we never know what is the wind speed, and we constantly hand-steer the boat. These are two major things we have to work on as soon as possible, but for now we just make the best of it. We became really good at ‘feeling’ the boat while steering and guessing the wind. They certainly didn’t have wind indicators and autopilots in the old times, is our consolation.

Thus we sail west all day along the Cuban north coast keeping a safe distance from the reef breakers, on the edge of the indigo-colored Gulf Stream. On our left slowly float by soft green hills, deserted beaches, and small coastal villages.

As the sun prepares to dive behind the horizon, we prepare to clear the reef and find an anchorage behind Cayo Levisa. It has been a long day.

 

Cayo Levisa

 

Fata Morgana is the only sailboat at Cayo Levisa anchorage.

Fata Morgana is the only sailboat at Cayo Levisa anchorage.

 

Cayo Levisa is a tiny mangrove island with a long stretch of fine sand on the north side. Tourists, mainly from Italy and France, arrive here daily, but the place is never overcrowded, as there aren’t any hotels, but a few coquette wooden bungalows alongside the beach. I wonder, how much it would cost to come here and rent one of these for a week. The good thing about sailing is that you can visit places like this and stay as long as you want for the reasonable amount of zero.

 

Cayo Levisa Beach

Cayo Levisa Beach

 

We even get a huge pile of fruits and vegetables as a gift from a guy who works here. Marcus is  one of those rare people with open hearts and minds and a talent for kindness and benevolence. „Remember, not all Cubans are like those you met in Havana. In the countryside, people are welcoming, honest, and generous, even if they are poor“, he tells us with a perfect English. This little gesture illuminated our entire Cuban experience and restored our faith in this country’s ordinary people.

 

An unexpected gift.

An unexpected gift.

 

The next couple of days we spend with Harley and April who followed us here from Havana. Together we go snorkeling on the reefs in the morning, feeding with leftovers the thousands of yellowtails and sergeant-majors swarming near the corrals who come and take small pieces of food from our hands. We spend the afternoons on the beach submerged in the warm shallow waters only our heads sticking out, like a family of hippopotamuses, around a small surf board where we rest our beers, exchanging stories.

 

Cayo Levisa

Cayo Levisa

 

And in the evenings, the kids stay on the boat and watch Back to the Future 1, 2 and 3, while we go on shore to the small restaurant and dance on the beach. April brings two cords with scorched tennis-size balls at the ends where we attach glowing sticks because we couldn’t find kerosine and teaches us to fire-dance but without the fire (and a good thing too, especially for beginners). Ivo is natural and ambitiously masters most of the moves in just a few hours. The tourists are sitting at a safe distance, watching us.

 

Maya drinking Cola at the beach restaurant

Maya drinking Cola at the beach restaurant

 

Although we enjoy our time in Cayo Levisa, we get disappointed again when we try to go on the other side to the mainland and visit La Esperanza, a tiny fishermen village nearby. The authorities tell us we cannot go. Even if Harley and April would stay behind and keep an eye on our boat, we are not aloud to set foot anywhere except Cayo Levisa. The explanation is that there is no customs and immigration authorities there to clear us in (although we already cleared three times in Cuba…) It’s ridiculous. Not being able to go on shore and explore the country’s rural interior is the biggest downside of visiting Cuba by boat.

The next morning, we lift anchor and sail off to our last Cuban destination: Los Morros, Cabo San Antonio.

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La Habana

La Habana, Cuba

 

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La Habana of our nostalgic imagination was a coastal vibrant city of music and love, with ancient colonial architecture, great cathedrals and plazas, museums and galleries, colorful facades with balconies looking over narrow streets where old Soviet cars and even older American ones roar like lions in the perpetual heat of the summer. Where grey-haired men sit in the coolness of parks under dark ever-green trees in small groups improving the art of chess or dominoes, children run around barefoot, and beautiful Cubanas in dresses of all colors like muñeca, illuminate the entire town.

Church in Habana Vieja

Church in Habana Vieja

 

For a few days we roam the streets, somnambulists enveloped by sounds and smells we could not have predicted, comparing our imaginary Havana with the one before us, trying to look all around us and remember.

La Habana is schizophrenical, a city of multiple personalities; getting to know her can be heartbreaking.

An old car parked in Havana

An old car parked in Havana

La Catedral de San Cristobal,  radiant in the heat of the summer, la Plaza de Armas,  occupied by book vendors under shady trees, el Capitolio, a huge poster of Fidel Castro hugging Hugo Chavez in the front, el Museo de la Revolucion,  rooms filled with black and white photographs and pages of the history of the Cuban Revolution, el Malecón, couples sitting with their backs to the city, kissing, el Museo de Bellas Artes, an interminable maze of rooms and corridors filled with Cuban paintings of all periods, la Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo, a surprisingly good exhibit of contemporary art, la Casa del Che, an empty ghostly mausoleum opposite the statue of Cristo, el Morro, heavy on the other side of the Havana harbor, indifferent to the rest of the city, forever facing the unpredictable seas. All points of interest are exactly as we expected: impressive in size and reputation. We visit them one by one like the tour guide suggests, blending in the steady flow of pink tourists with photo cameras, backpacks, sunglasses, and hats.

 

The Cathedral of San Cristobal

The Cathedral of San Cristobal

 

 But the atmosphere of this city, like a storm cloud, is heavy and charged with anxiety. What impresses us most are not the many points of interest turned touristic attractions but the aftermath-like ruins of the residential buildings. Everywhere, behind colorful facades hide dark humid interiors; the old apartment buildings are in a sad state of neglect and decay.

An apartment building entrance in Havana

An apartment building entrance in Havana

The care-free Habaneros of our imagination have been forever left to linger in the 1970s and the 1980s, succeeded by hungry sad people who have lost everything: hope, faith, and dignity.

A Cuban kid standing on a doorway

A Cuban kid standing on a doorway

We keep going. We only stop for beers, some ice cream, a small pizza and mango juice, and we are ready for the next place, dodging the inevitable taxi drivers offering rides and guided tours. We also start noticing strange things, some don’t make sense at all.

A goat in downtown Havana

A goat in downtown Havana

A beautiful woman with a bright dress comes out of a dark  suspicious apartment entrance where electrical cables form a dense tangled maize on the wall. Used baby diapers have been washed and are now hanging to dry on a balcony. A 15-year-old boy is sitting on the sidewalk flattening beer cans with a hummer, his friends pass by holding wooden planks and invite him to play baseball; he can’t, has to work. The little bakery is almost empty, so is the fruit and vegetables bodegas. The big news they announce on TV is that eggs will be distributed in the entire country tomorrow. An old woman explains that the upper floor of the building she lives in crumbled and fell over her up-stairs neighbors last year killing the father. A teenage girl is kissing a very old foreigner in the park. All refrigerators you see through open doors of dark apartments are the same made-in-China model. Things don’t make sense to us but we hope that at least they make sense to the locals. But the locals tell us they don’t really. „Hay que inventar.“, we hear them sigh often. It means, they have to resort to their imagination, they have to „invent“ ways to survive. On the positive side of it, this makes them very resourceful and versatile people.

 

A fifteen-year-old boy flattening beer cans

A fifteen-year-old boy flattening beer cans

Thus, we discover La Habana full of past glory and sad misery, getting to know her bit by bit. She reminds us of the Cubana posing all day on the corner of the Plaza de la Catedral in her traditional cotton dress  and a huge unlit cigar in the mouth, like Mickey Mouse or Spider Man in Disney World, waiting for tourists to take her picture for a peso. La Habana charms us, invites us, surprises us, shocks us. We are left with a wrong feeling inside. Having a relaxed authentic experience here today is almost impossible. We wish we could have visited La Habana in the 1980s.

La Cubana

La Cubana

 

More Pictures from Havana

 

Cuban girls

Cuban girls

 

A dog in the window

A dog in the window

 

Load of bananas

Load of bananas

 

A dead decapitated bird on a tree

A dead decapitated bird on a tree

 

A crumbling yellow facade. Woman with child

A crumbling yellow facade. Woman with child

 

A Cuban girl

A Cuban girl

 

A yellow facade

A yellow facade

 

El perro chino. Walking

El perro chino. Walking

 

Fish

Fish

 

 

Pregnant woman on a balcony

Pregnant woman on a balcony

 

Plaza

Plaza

 

Contemporary Art Gallery

Contemporary Art Gallery

 

Blue facade

Blue facade

 

Blue girls

Blue girls

 

Old cars

Old cars

 

Dog

Dog

 

Window

Window

 

Looking out from El Morro over Havana Harbor

Looking out from El Morro over Havana Harbor

 

Two boys

Two boys

 

Plaza Vieja

Plaza Vieja

 

Stairs and electrical box

Stairs and electrical box

 

El Morro from the ocean

El Morro from the ocean

 

 

Man behind peacock

Man behind peacock

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Cuba: An Introduction

Esto No Es Cuba

 

For years we dreamed of visiting and exploring Cuba. Starting in Havana with its rich cultural and historical heritage, we were planning to travel in the interior of the country as well and see authentic Cuban life in rural villages, away from the big city and the touristic resorts. This plan didn’t work for various reasons.

Before sailing to Cuba, I read a thick book: Anderson’s Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and I couldn’t help but admire Fidel Castro’s struggle against military dictator Batista and Imperial America’s interests and presence in Cuba in the 1950-s. Castro, Che Guevara and a  handful of rebeldes hiding in la Sierra Maestra started a movement that grew and spread and sparked a full scale revolution which overthrew an unjust cruel regime and implemented social and agrarian reforms in the early 1960-s. To us the Cuban Revolution, like the French Revolution (and any other revolution) was, and still is, the greatest event in any country’s history.

Che Guevara graffiti on a wall in Havana

Che Guevara graffiti on a wall in Havana

 

In Cuba, we were expecting to find „the accidental eden„: a country small and isolated but independent and dignified; a land unspoiled by big industry where all crops are organic and the food is healthy; a defiant welcoming people that stood undefeated and proud so close to an imperial giant. We wanted to show to our children that an alternative is possible and can work for an entire nation. An alternative to capitalism, consumerism, globalization; a whole different system organized around principals of equality and simplicity, where people were not reach in possessions but nevertheless educated, healthy, and happy.

We didn’t find that country and our romantic expectations all burst into pieces in just a few days.

Instead, we found a ruined place with building crumbling over their residents and streets resembling war trenches; dirty stores with almost no merchandise inside; people begging for a dollar or a T-shirt or a roll of toilet paper or anything at all, with tears in their eyes and no pride left in them, cheating, stealing and prostituting themselves to survive another day full of incomprehensible misery, afraid to speak out their indignation; a dysfunctional system that has abandoned its citizens in deplorable state to fend for themselves; and a government implementing its rule with police force, propaganda and cruel restrictions to basic human rights.

 

A street in Havana

A street in Havana

We arrived in Havana on July 24, just in time for the big national holiday: the anniversary of the Moncada assault 26 de Julio, but we didn’t see any organized celebrations and festivities.

The first Cubans we met were the immigration and border officers, a doctor, the dock masters, and a drug dog who one by one boarded our boat upon arrival. They all, except the dog, asked for propina (a tip) in a way we couldn’t refuse. One guy even returned our five dollar bill and said he couldn’t accept less than twenty… They also „liked“ our big garlic which they spotted in the galley and of course took some of it. This unpleasant situation lasted for a few stressful hours. One by one various officials boarded Fata Morgana and extorted American dollars from us. And this is the „normal“ procedure for all boats arriving in Cuba.

In the next few days we met more Cubans. We noticed that those who were corrupted like the border officials, or those who had relatives in America sending them money and things, managed somehow to live comfortably, but the ones who were trying to lead more honest life and had no relatives outside of the country,  lived in complete misery, even though employed.

The Cuban doctors, teachers, drivers, janitors all receive a ridiculous state salary, the equivalent of about 10 to 20 US dollars per month which cannot cover basic expenses like food, electricity bill, water. And pensions are even less.

 

Tita, 82 and Roberto, 83 in their downtown Havana apartment. Both retired. To survive, they collect fresh water and boil it at night, selling it in plastic bottles to neighbors the next day. ( The municipal water in Havana is dangerous to drink if not boiled)

Tita, 82 and Roberto, 83 in their downtown Havana apartment. Both retired. Tita’s pension is about $ 8 per month. To survive, they collect fresh water and boil it at night, selling it in plastic bottles to neighbors the next day. ( The municipal water in Havana is dangerous to drink if not boiled)

In Cuba, there are two currencies: the Cuban peso for the Cubans and the convertible peso (CUC) for the tourists, which complicates the crippled economy further and is insulting for the population. The convertible peso’s value is almost the same as the US dollar. 1 CUC costs 24 Cuban pesos. There is also food stamps for the population (as if the entire population is underprivileged or in a state of emergency, which they pretty much are). This is the only country in the world that distributes food stamps to its citizens outside wartime, which get them a small ratio of basic products like rice, beens, eggs (if there is any),flower, sugar, and salt but this is not enough to get by. And they cannot afford anything „fancier“. A bottle of 1.5L orange juice costs 1.5 CUC. One beer is 1 CUC. One bread is 3 CUC. So they are pushed to resort to alternative ways of providing for the family.

A truck driver makes about 360 pesos or 15 CUC per month. So, he will steal the truck’s fuel and sell it, as well as most of the load, property of the state. Thus, often, the goods don’t get to the stores and nobody wonders why. A construction worker makes about the same salary as the truck driver. So he will steal construction materials and sell them. Thus, buildings and roads are falling apart often killing residents, the whole infrastructure is crumbling, and nobody wonders why.

 

We tried to find and buy bread. This is the local panaderia, bakery. All they had was galletas, dried hard bread.

We tried to find and buy bread. This is the local panaderia, bakery. All they had was galletas, dried hard bread.

But if Cuban people today are stealing and cheating and prostituting themselves, it is because they are pushed to do so in order to survive, not because they are inherently bad. It is the last consequence in a chain of consequences. And in the base of the chain is, with no doubt, the American embargo.

In the years after the Revolution, as a response to a massive nationalization of American business and assets in Cuba, United States placed an embargo which prevents American companies from dealing with Cuba, as well as US citizens from traveling  to Cuba. It also sanctions non-US corporations trading with Cuba. Thus, during the Cold War, Cuba’s economic survival mainly depended on trade and assistance from the Soviet Union. But after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, Cuba was left hanging in thin air, alone. And the US embargo is still on.

 

A Cuban Girl

A Cuban Girl

The embargo is cruel, unjust, hypocritical, and simply ridiculous. Its stated reason for still being in effect after half a century is the lack of democracy and human rights in Cuba. At the same time, USA has supported and even helped to implement cruel dictator’s regimes in the region: Pinochet in Chile, a bunch of dictators in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and many many others. Instead of helping to liberate the Cuban people from communist oppression, the embargo is causing poverty, famine, and suffering among the population.

But the embargo is not the only reason for the present malfunction of the communist regime in Cuba.

In such a deplorable economical state of affairs, a political system based on principals of „equality“ cannot function at all. Pretty much everyone is „equally“ poor. And in such an environment corruption on all levels easily takes root. The entire communist idea, the principals of the Revolution, got corrupted long ago and today the poor Cubans we met are placing the blame for their dire situation entirely on the Cuban government who seams has abandoned them, or more precisely, keeps them as slaves. „What do you think needs to be done?“, I asked a man (whose name I cannot mention here) after he invited me in his house with dirt floors and no windows which he shares with his daughter and four grand children, to show me how Cubans live so that I can show the world. Getting very close to my face, with an intense look, he answered: “ Fusillar a Castro“ (Shoot Castro).

A poor Cuban household in Jaimanitas, near Havana

A poor Cuban household in Jaimanitas, near Havana

Later that day we witnessed an arrest further down the street in Jaimanita, a small village near Havana where marina Hemingway is. An army jeep full of soldiers quickly appeared and  stopped in front of a house and all people walking up and down the street suddenly disappeared. The soldiers ran in the house and pulled out four middle aged men with handcuffs. Someone explained to us, the arrested were organizing something against the government, but one of the many „chivatos“ (traitors) who are all over the place betrayed them. We don’t know what happened to those men.

It is evident that a great change is needed for Cuba, if not a new Revolution, and fast. The country, like a small ship that has sailed a long way across storms and sharp rocks, is now sinking, but the captain is not letting an SOS signal keeping the passengers away from the life-rafts. And on the American ship, a humongous cruise boat near by, people are watching the spectacle and having a party.

 

A Cuban Man

A Cuban Man

 

 

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Sailing to Cuba

 

 

Sailing from Dry Tortugas Florida to Havana Cuba was our first offshore passage. We did 95 nautical miles in 29 hours, never used the engines, only winds.

July 23, Tuesday.

The morning of the first day is calm: flat seas, clear skies, very light winds. Our maximum speed is 2.0 knots. Minimum speed 0.0 knots. A few hours later, we could still see the lighthouse of Loggerhead Key behind us. Thus, we drift and wait for winds…

becalmed

becalmed

We expected a strong current to affect our course at night once we hit the Gulf Stream, but we don’t notice anything of the sort. Only stronger winds and more waves, which were welcome after a day of nearly deadcalm. Or maybe the fact that we first sailed west to Dry Tortugas and then south- southeast to Cuba made our crossing of the Gulf Stream, one of the most powerful currents in the world, easy. The full moon is a welcome companion and invaluable light source creating a silvery path for the boat to follow.

The next day, our average speed is 4 knots. The sea is beautiful, full of curious dolphins playing around the boat. Two cargo ships pass behind us booming slowly, metal giants going somewhere far. At noon, tiny fishing boats start to appear. Tall buildings emerge on the horizon. Hola Havana!

Cuban Fishermen

Cuban Fishermen

As we are slowly approaching our destination, we feel excited and proud, as we have just accomplished something very important. I face the shore line: Havana’s grey buildings to the left, green mountains to the right, and call out as loud as I can: „Cuba!“

Fisherman near Havana

A boy fishing near Havana

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