Final Weeks in Cuba and the Return Home

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Pioneer at dock in Varadero

 

 

 

Our final weeks in Cuba had us spending time cleaning Pioneer’s hull and generally preparing for the long voyage home (at least we hoped it would be long!). 

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Ron using a “hooka” style compressor and regulator, scrapes the barnacles off Pioneer’s hull

 

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Judy’s turn to blast off those barnacles!

 

 

 

 

Life around the marina continued to be busy with fishermen going in and out the canal (on the good weather days) and rowers from the local rowing club practicing in the usually calm canal waters.IMGP2203

 

Fishermen heading out for an overnight expedition

 

 

We spent a fair bit of our final weeks in Cuba getting to know with new friends, Juan Carlos and his wife, Yanni.  One day at the market we were on the hunt for peanuts and saw Juan Carlos with a small glass full of roasted peanuts.  Ron asked him where he had bought them and was told that he had roasted them at his home.  Somewhat disappointed,  we headed off into the market to buy our few dollars worth of fruit and vegetables.  IMGP2295However, shortly thereafter, Juan Carlos caught up with us and invited us to his home for some peanuts.  Eventually he persuaded us to go with him and subsequently invited us back to share their noon meal. 

 

Juan Carlos and his wife, Yanni

 

That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.  We ate dinner with them twice at their home and once at a “Paladar” near the marina.  We had several short visits with them in the marina lobby but were not allowed to have them come out to our boat.  When the time came to leave Varadero, Juan Carlos and Yanni were there at the side of theIMGP2313 canal waving goodbye to us at 7:30 in the morning. Since arriving back in the USA we have heard from them by email twice.  Our emails are English and Spanish combined which makes the exchange very interesting.

Carlos and Yanni waving goodbye on the edge of the Paso Malo

 

 

The trip home was not as smooth as it had been in previous years.  By motor sailing very close to the wind, we managed to make it around Miami still in the IMGP2336Gulfstream current. 

Ron relaxes while “Auto” (pronounced OTTO) steers Pioneer on her voyage home

 

 

 

Our trip up the Florida coast was swift and fairly uneventful with way too much time without wind!IMGP2341 

 

 

With the weather predicted to turn nasty, Ron tops up the fuel tank so we have engine power if needed

 

 

 

As we neared the northern part of Florida, the weather IMGP2344turned very bad and several nasty squalls started to appear. 

 

An ominous sky looms in the distance and it soon overcame us

 

 

 

We headed towards shore hoping to avoid the potentially high seas out in the stream.  The decision turned out to be a good one.  Close to shore with a west wind we had some protection from the ‘fetch” – the build-up of waves across a large expanse of water.  However, we had to sail through two squalls before we entered the Fernandina Beach Inlet.IMGP2362 

 

Safe on a mooring ball in Fernandina Beach

 

We stayed in Fernandina Beach for about a week before we  got another window to head north.  During our wait we experienced an anchored boat dragging far too close to us and the battering of our hull by the mooring ball we were tied up to. On the brighter side we spent IMGP2365time with friends Dave and Kathy on Dyad who were anchored not too far from us.

 

 

Dyad – a most unique and comfortable home on the water

 

 

Finally, we we found a short weather window that we hoped would get us to Beaufort but at least to the Cape Fear River.IMGP2371 

 

Heading out the Fernandina Beach Inlet on our last leg home (we hoped)

 

 

 

 

However, with building seas and a poor wind angle we were IMGP2383forced, as we were last year, to head up the Cape Fear River and anchor the night at Wrightsville Beach where we sat out an overnight storm. 

 

Sunset en route to the Cape Fear River

 

 

 

The next morning we we had a vigorous sail to Beaufort where we dropped anchored off the coast guard station just as the sun was setting .  The next day we were able to make it back to WayfarersIMGP2415 Cove (our home marina) off the Neuse River. 

Rough water and the US Navy as we close in on Beaufort Inlet

 

 

We had about five weeks at Wayfarers to get our clean-up IMGP2426and teak work done before we headed off to Canada, the long way around, through Texas and Arizona.

 

Safely back at Wayfarers – washing down the sails!

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On a calm day our sails get good drying time

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Judy completes the annual teak “touch-up”

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The teak screens need some TLC every five years

 

 

 

Before we headed back to Canada, there was lots of time to socialize with cruising and ex-cruising friends in Minnesott and in Oriental.  Its About Time and Nice and Easy met us in Oriental and then we expanded the afternoon to include Dick and Judy and many other cruising friends.

 

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Sally & Conrad, Dick & Judy and Judy in Oriental

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Dave (Dyad), Bentley & Jim (Salty Paws) entertain outside The Bean, in Oriental

While in Minnesott, we often house-sit for friends who need some vacation time.  We have often IMGP2669looked after Bill and Cindy’s house and their cat while they take some needed R & R.  This summer, their new cat “Buddy” was quite a lot of fun.  He is the first cat we have encountered that could actually play “fetch”!

Buddy lets Judy know he is very ready for dinner!

 

 

 

Finally, two days before leaving for Canada, Pioneer is hauled out and set on land to dry out for the summer.  But not before Ron gets the “ultimate” picture of her stern! IMGP2685

 

Look carefully and you will see Ron and a turtle in this reflection!

 

 

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Onto the hard for the summer….

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cuba, Cuba 2012 | Leave a comment

Road Trip to Havana and Vinales, Pinar Del Rio Province

On Tuesday, January 31st, we started out on our bus trip from Varadero to Vinales.  Debbie, a friend living on her boat here at Marina Darsena, came along with us as she had not seen this apparently beautiful area that was our destination.  Our trip started with an early morning bus trip to Havana, P1020479-rwhere we stayed for a night at one of the many casa particulares (private homes, bed & breakfast).

View below our Havana casa

 

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View across from our casa

 

 

 

This particular casa was located on the third floor of a building facing a green park area and busy pedestrian thoroughfare.  We had the afternoon  and early evening to explore Habana Vieja (Old Havana), which hasn’t really changed that much in the past three years.

P1020488-rRon enjoyed his tour of the “esquina calientes” (lively sports discussion, by Cubans with a passion for baseball and soccer) in the large parque central near our casa and, of course, he had to sample ice cream whenever he came across a vendor!

Ron approaches the esquina caliente with caution

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Ron savours his first of four ice cream cones!

 

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Judy admires an old restored car in Habana Vieja

 

 

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Catedral de San Cristobal in the old city

 

 

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The “bike taxi” common in all Cuban cities

 

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The La Punta Fort across the Havana harbour

 

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View down the Malecon just before dusk – on a calm day…

 

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This mime was posed as a statue – very authentic looking!

 

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One of many art shops showing the “newer” look in Cuban art

 

 

 

The restoration projects in the old city continue, while in greater La Habana, the buildingsP1020528-r seem in extreme disrepair. 

 

 

A “once beautiful” old building just outside Habana Vieja awaits a facelift

 

 

The next morning we headed off to the Viazul bus terminal to catch our bus to Vinales. The scenery en route was agriculture based and several times we saw oxen pulling single blade ploughs, a farmer at the reins.  Not once did we see a tractor working a field!  The use of IMGP1422horse and oxen for farm work and transportation was reinstituted in 1991 along with severe food rationing as a result of the abrupt stop of Soviet support, which had an almost apocalyptic affect on Cuba.

A team of oxen get a break from work on a sunny afternoon

The bus stopped at Las Terrazas – an eco-resort area that was originally barren land, now replanted with 15 years of lushIMG_0139-R growth. 

 

The rest stop at Las Terrazas

From there we went on to Vinales, a beautiful valley community in the mountains of Pinar Del Rio.  We had arranged a casa particular ahead of time and we were met IMG_0145-Rat the bus area by our hostess holding up a cardboard sign which read: “Ronald – Canada”

 

Our casa had a most interesting “green cement” lawn!

 

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Ron became very attached to the casa’s “gnomette”

 

 

Our casa was just a brief walk from the centre of Vinales. The first afternoon we walked to El Jardin de Caridad – a botanical garden just on IMG_0158-Rthe outskirts of town. This famous garden has hundreds of varieties of indigenous plants with the occasional doll’s head mounted in a cluster of green. 

 

A doll’s head peeks out from a garden patch

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A beautiful display of orchids in El Jardin

 

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Coffee

 

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Pineapple

 

 

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Ron at El Jardin’s gates

 

 

After the tour we were treated to a plate of fruit, on a pleasant patio.  The cost – only what you wished to donate.

The next day we walked out of town into the valley to visit various fincas (plantations/farms) – pineapple,IMG_0179-R coffee, and tobacco.  Our walk took us along narrow paths, across fields and into farmyards.

 

Ron and Debbie head down to the farms on the valley floor

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A very large pig lazes under a tree in one field we crossed

 

 

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A turkey vulture rests atop a fencepost digesting a tasty morsel

 

 

 

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A tobacco field with drying racks nestled below a “mogote” (a dramatic, rocky outcrop)

 

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A pineapple plantation nestled up to a mogote

 

In one field, a bull decided that he didn’t like our company and made to charge us – a heart stopping moment!  At a tobacco plantation we were treated to a demonstration of cigar making and then to view one of the drying barns.

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A tobacco finca spreads out over the valley

 

 

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Cigar-rolling

 

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The finished cigars are wrapped in banana leaves and bound, then left to cure for another few months

 

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Racks of curing tobacco leaves inside the drying shed

 

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More drying shed plus stable??

 

 

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The same drying shed from the outside

 

Once again this visit to the tobacco plantation was no cost except what we wished to give, which was a little money and some small gifts to the lady who showed us around.

In the afternoon we took the Vinales bus circuit (5 CUC) – an on-and-off for the entire day ride, as in Varadero. The bus stopped at all of the major sights around Vinales including a large mural painted on the cliffside of a mogote.

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La Mural de la Prehistoria

 

The mural is 120 metres long and painted on the side of Mogote Dos Hermanas (mogote of the two sisters). It was commissioned in 1961 by Fidel Castro and took 15 people five years to complete.  The mural, composed of a huge snail, dinosaurs, sea monsters and humans, intends to depict evolution.IMG_0228-R

The valley floor is scattered with mogotes, often covered in vegetation and pocked with caves.

Mogotes line the road on our bus trip to the caves

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The entrance to one of the many caves carved into the mogotes

 

Just sitting around the central square in town on one of the many benches that were in various stages of disrepair was aIMG_0203-R great experience in people watching.  The main cathedral off the square was undergoing serious maintenance activities while we were there and, by the looks of things,  would probably be continuing into 2013.

 

The cathedral in Vinales plus one of the many old cars in the area

 

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The friendliness of the villagers made the trip all that more enjoyable and we even managed to find big soft ice cream cones there for 2 pesos nationale (10 cents).

 

A fruit and vegetable seller beside the main square

 

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Sunset from the porch of our casa

 

The next day it was back to Havana where we picked up another bus to get us back to Varadero by midday.  A great trip!

Our impression, as we bussed through several  towns, was that the economy was looking up here, although we had heard otherwise.  Homes were starting to look well maintained and cared for, which was not the standard three years ago. The older cars were in a better state of restoration and the people seemed better dressed.  Probably some of which is due to the money coming into the country from US resident Cubans to their family members still in Cuba.

Posted in Cuba, Cuba 2012 | Leave a comment

Winter Wonderland on Salt Spring

Of the two weeks that I was able to spend here on Salt Spring, it is only as I am about to leave that I am frustrated with Mother Nature.  When on the island in winter, I expect some rain and some low IMG_0099clouds, also some warm and cool sunny days.  However, I try to avoid snowfalls! 

 

I woke up to this view on Wednesday morning!

 

It has always been my misfortune to encounter snowfalls when I visit the island in December and January.  They last for about a week and usually bring the island to a standstill.  This visit was no exception…..it has been snowing, lightly, for a few days but the temperatures have been between –IMG_00973 and –5 so the snow isn’t melting! 

 

More snow!

 

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View from the front of the house

 

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Our snow covered road…….it’s not supposed to look like this!

 

 

My seaplane travel was cancelled due to weather so now I have to take the longer ferry ride to Vancouver.  I am glad this is all happening the day before I have to catch my plane.  It would be very nerve-wracking to be trying to keep to a schedule so that I wouldn’t miss my plane.

Looking on the bright side, I did enjoy my two walks in the snow today – it was quiet and the snow IMG_0106was virgin in many places 

 

 

The back woodsy path to the main road enabled me to check out road conditions on the steep Sunset hill

 

 

 

On the disappointing side, I had to cancel dinner with friends on this last night here.  I had been looking forward to a fun evening – now it is a quiet evening at home, alone.

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My Two Weeks on Salt Spring:

In order to attend my mother’s 100th birthday, I needed to fly home to Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada from where ever we were.  We chose Cuba because the air travel home was inexpensive and non-stop, the airport was 20 minutes from the marina and, having visited Cuba twice in past years, we were familiar with the area and there were lots of friends to keep Ron occupied during my absence.  It was a bit of a trial getting through immigration as they expect tourists to stay in hotels not on their own sailboats in a marina, hence there was a bit of a delay while they sorted things out.  Eventually they let me pass with apologies for the delay.  The flight was six and a half hours long and treating myself to business class, it was a very comfortable ride!

I left Ron and Pioneer in Varadero on a lovely warm day and arrived in Canada to a wet cold with temperatures  just above freezing.  After a few days on the island, the clouds lifted from the mountains and the blue skies returned.  However, it did get colder!  Although we had not seen snow yet, there was a heavy frost on the trees and on the roads that almost looked like a thin layer of snow.  My sister’s arrival was the first of many as the entire family gathered to celebrate Phyllis’IMG_0005 100th. Kelly and family were next to arrive from Peterborough, Ontario, followed by Edward (my nephew) and his wife, then Rob and family followed by Meredith (my niece) and her family. With the entire group gathered – two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – the party was a great success.

 

Kelly and her tribe arrive at the Fulford ferry terminal

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Pam and Judy visit with Phyllis the day before her party

 

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Judy with her family aged 4 to 100!

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Phyllis gets a special place mat!

After the party I had a wonderful opportunity to visit with my family, some just for a day, others for several days.  Mother Nature was kind on the day of the party with temperatures just above freezing and a sunny sky.  However, that lovely weather did not last long as cold arctic air descended on theIMG_0056 west coast and throughout Canada.  At dawn on the day after the party, the sky spoke of changes to come. The clouds were low on the mountains, the moon was still visible in the sky, the air was cold and crisp and the smoke from the mill at Crofton just seemed to hang in the air. It was a beautiful but ominous morning foretelling changes that were about to happen. 

A chilly morning off to the north west

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The view down Stuart Channel was breathtaking

 

 

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Frost on the deck and on the glass in the railings stayed until the early afternoon each day

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Judy and Phyllis chatting about the party and the fun that we all had

After my sister and her family left it was time for me to spend some much needed time with my children and grandchildren.  Even though I had arranged for accommodation in Ganges for both IMG_0069families, I spent time with them every day either up at the house or in Ganges at their apartment. 

From Left to right:  My son, Rob, and his wife, Carol;  my daughter, Kelly, and her husband, Malcolm

The kids love to play up at the house because they can run down the halls and can have great fun without disturbing the adults too much….. I presented each of the girls with decorative seed/beanIMG_0072 bracelets that were made in Cuba.

Rob’s youngest, Sage, shows off her bracelet

IMG_0071The boys got wooden handmade airplanes with Cuban flags on the tails. By all appearances, the gifts were a great success.

Kelly’s youngest, Regan, enjoys flying his new airplane

On our last day together as a complete family, we all walked into the town, from the kids accommodation to the Salt Spring Inn, where everyone enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch.  While we were in the restaurant, the snow started to fall and we ended up walking back onIMG_0078 somewhat slippery streets and walks.  Snowballs were formed and thrown – thank goodness no one aimed at me!!!

Carol and Jade dodge the snowballs!

Now that I am on my own, it’s time to get some work  done!  The biggest job, by far, is the view trimming.  Several attempts had to be cancelled because of wind and cold temperatures but finally a IMG_0086weather window appeared and in two hours, Thomas had the view back!

Thomas perches on top of a tree as he manicures his top cut

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Now that’s a VIEW!

 

It is amazing how much better everything looks when the view is opened up.  All the trees that we topped were the same ones that my parents used to top many years ago.

Just a few more days and I will be back in Cuba – I am REALLY looking forward to being warm again!

 

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The Author

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Phyllis’s 100th Birthday

On January 12, 1912, Phyllis Eileen Abraham was born to Eva Kate and Joseph Abraham in Bristol, index-002England.  It was a few years before the 1st World War. Joseph was the chief engineer aboard a tramp steamer, the Llangorse,  that delivered coal to the Mediterranean from Wales.   Just after the war started, Joseph moved his family to Vancouver, Canada, where Phyllis and her brother, Frank, thrived.  It was in Vancouver that Phyllis met Bill Henderson. Both were avid hikers and mountain climbers.  Phyllis and Bill married and had two children, Judy and Pamela.  After moving to Ancaster, Ontario, Phyllis picked up the game of golf in her late 30’s and won several trophies for her efforts on the “links”.  When  Bill retired from the American Can Company, they moved back to British Columbia and build a beautiful home on Salt Spring island.  Since the late 1980’s, Phyllis has been a widow and had managed extremely well in her own house until she reached the age of 94.  At that point she moved into a retirement home and subsequently to Greenwoods, a care facility on Salt Spring Island.

Today, January 12, 2012, Phyllis celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by all of her children,IMG_0034 grandchildren, great grandchildren,  neighbours and friends.

Phyllis with all her children, grandchildren plus spouses and great grandchildren

 

 

Phyllis took it all in her stride and had a wonderful time. We all had a great time, even the little ones!  Phyllis received special birthday greetings from Her IMG_0016Majesty Queen Elizabeth,  the Prime Minister of Canada -Stephen Harper and the Governor General of Canada – His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston. What an amazing milestone for an amazing woman!

 

Phyllis is thrilled as she reads her birthday greetings from the queen

 

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Phyllis and her great grandchildren on Judy’s side of the family:  Sage, Jade, Elyse, Emmett and Regan

 

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Phyllis with her daughters, Judy and Pam

 

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The mother of all carrot cakes!

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Sights Around Town and at the Marina

In the almost three weeks that we have been at Marina Darsena, several boats have come and gone.  IMGP0863One day two boats left and the next day two arrived.  Then two more arrived several days later.  The marina has never been so full! The boat, Twilight, that crossed at the same time as us, left after about a week at the marina, heading towards Belize.

 

Twilight leaves the marina heading towards Havana and Marina Hemingway and eventually Belize and Guatemala

 

Because they didn’t have health insurance they had to pay $3 per person per day to stay at the marina.  Luckily, our provincial health insurance was sufficient to satisfy the requirement.

Doing washing is always a challenge on a boat.  Usually it involves soaking our clothes in detergent and water overnight, plunging them (with a toilet plunger) the next day and then rinsing and handIMGP0889 wringing them out.  Then we hang them up on the lines that are strung from our forestay to the shrouds.  It is all quite time consuming and usually a two person job.  Luckily we do it fairly regularly so it is only on bed linens day that Pioneer looks like a clothesline!

Ron takes in the sheets after they have been drying on a perfect laundry day

 

 

Every day we are thankful that we purchased our Iridium satellite phone.  It keeps us in touch with IMGP0832our mothers and families and we use it for email which allows us to contact cruising friends back home and throughout the Caribbean

 

Judy places a call home to her mother from Pioneer’s cockpit

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The seagulls are the first to claim empty dock space on those cold and windy days

 

 

After a hard day of work – riding into town on our bikes for a beer, souvenir hunting, visiting friends IMGP0751and the like – we share our experiences at the “Table of Knowledge” – a picnic table donated to the marina by former dock residents Diane and Ray on Heurisko (now in Guatemala). 

 

We may look like we are having fun but the discussion is very serious…..

 

The troops gather here at dusk almost every night, drink in hand, to discuss the events of the day andIMGP0882 give advice on just about anything!

 

Another “aha” moment at the Table of Knowledge….

 

 

 

 

There are always lots of trips into Santa Marta for food, ice cream “tres gracias” (three scoops in a cup) and a beer at the roadside bar called Latino.  The beer is still the same price as it was three years IMGP0917ago – $1 – but the ice cream has gone up from 5 cents to 15 cents!  There are still lots of horse drawn carts in town – the cheapest method of travelling by far, especially when it comes to feeding time if you stake your horse out in the fields that line the old airport.

Judy cycles past a common sight in Cuba – the horse drawn cart

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A young Cuban girl beside her family’s horse drawn cart – note the old car seats in a somewhat dilapidated condition 

 

 

 

This year, the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the Cuban CUC, so we are not taking a big hit like we did three years ago. There are still approximately 25 national pesos to a convertible tourist peso (CUC).  All of our fresh produce shopping is done in national pesos as is our purchase of ice cream, IMGP0749eggs and any food from street vendors or at small cafes.  The CUC is used at the bars, in the small and larger grocery kiosks and stores, when we purchase fish and lobster from the fisherman and when we buy souvenirs.

Judy and Debbie in serious discussion as they enjoy a drink at Latino

 

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Visiting the cadeca (money changer) is always a steep learning curve…..Where are my national pesos????

 

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Our market friends enjoy clowning around at their stalls – check out the banana horns!!

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Cabbages, rice and beans – popular items at the Sunday market

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Any time is a good time for a catnap, especially when the sun is out and warms up the tiles on a cool day

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Christmas Parties–Cuban style

Although Christmas is not a big event in Cuba, they do celebrate on Christmas Eve, which they call “Nochebuena”.  We were privileged to be asked into a Cuban home for Nochebuena.  Our hostess IMGP0800and friend was Anna.  Anna sells fish sandwiches (which are delicious) from her bike as she rides around the streets of Santa Marta

 

Judy and Ron celebrate Nochebuena with Anna and her husband – note the plate of fish in Anna’s hands!

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Anna’s bike with her sandwich container strapped on the back

 

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Getting the coals just right is the secret for a fast boiling pot!

 

 

 

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Anna’s husband grinds up the yucca before Anna makes the roll-ups for deep frying

 

 

As is the custom in the Cuban home, guests are fed first and then the family eats.  This was very strange for us but there was no way we could convince the family to join us.  First we were served IMGP0822Anna’s delicious fried fish which was outstanding. Then we had a fruit plate of fresh pineapple, papaya, oranges and bananas. By this time, we were both very full!

 

Fresh, organic fruit – absolutely delicious!

 

 

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Judy tries her hand at rolling the mashed yucca into pastry shapes before they are deep fried

 

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Judy nibbles on the rice and beans trying very hard not to appear impolite by saying she was too full…

 

Then the rice and beans with pork slices came out!  After that there was dessert – shredded coconut with sugar and syrup and deep fried mashed yucca with syrup.  We cycled home after dark with very full stomachs!  Our hosts were gracious and very kind.  When we arrived at the house,  Anna’sIMGP0793 husband was boiling the yucca out back on a grate over a bed of charcoal set in an old car wheel.  The charcoal was sparking all over the place – it looked like fireworks were going off!  It was a good thing that the walls and floor were cement blocks. We had a very enjoyable evening talking with Anna’s daughter and her boyfriend who was a baseball teacher the university in Santa Clara.   

Very curious about our Christmas gathering was this dog that roamed the ledges on the second story of the house next door

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Anna’s neighbours across the street are having a secret “garage party” for their Christmas Eve celebration

 

 

On Christmas day, the cruisers got together for a pot luck dinner up at the marina.  There are a great bunch of cruisers on the dock this year so we had a fantastic time and the food was outstanding!  The group is a very international one – Swiss, American, South African, Australian, Polish, and, of course,  Canadian.IMGP0851

The cruisers enjoy a delicious Christmas meal and spend time getting to know one another

 

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Duelling cameras – an irresistible past time for Ron – even during Christmas dinner!

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Adventures in Varadero and Santa Marta

On our several trips into town over our first week we got to see many sights, some old and familiar IMGP0763_thumband some quite new ones.

 

About thirty men participate in this “house-raising” – but someone forgot the level!

 

 

 

Since the government has released many of it’s employees and given the populace permission to start up their own businesses, big changes have happened. In Varadero, theIMGP0932 souvenir business has increased ten fold.

 

Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, musical instruments – the more you buy, the less you pay!

 

 

In Santa Marta, roadside food stands and small cafes have started up all over. Three years ago, it was against the law!

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Pork or ham and “queso” sandwiches – yummy!

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Lighters are never thrown away in Cuba – just take them to the lighter man – for 5 cents he will fix it up!

 

 

We learned, during our last visit to Cuba, that “the lighter man” could fix our old barbecue lighters and make them perform better and longer than they did when they were new.   Once again, he did not disappoint us! Tourists can now ride in buses and horse drawn carts originally designated for Cubans only. Several Paladars (restaurants in homes) have sprouted up in both Varadero and Santa Marta. IMGP0929Competition is now the name of the game and negotiated pricing is more common.

 

Palm frond hats and baskets are another new item on the street!

 

 

 

 

True artists are rare in Cuba but there are a plethora of low quality paintings to be found amongst the many outdoor shops.  We happened upon one of those “true artists” quite by accident.  His skill at bringing emotion into the faces of those he paints is truly amazing.  We were so impressed that we bought three of his portraits.  Although the picture does not do the colours justice, here they are!

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This is Pedro, a gardener in one of the local towns.  His eyes draw you in and his face tells the story of a hard life…

 

 

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This is Santara, a woman of the Santarea religion.  Her face oozes arrogance..

 

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Finally we have Andres – a successful plumber/electrician, now deceased.  His face tells of a fulfilling and successful life!

 

 

We consider ourselves fortunate to have these paintings and although we cannot hang them in our boat, we will hang them in our house, as a constant reminder of life in this unique country. In order to take any original artwork out of the country you have to have the certificates of origin from the artist, otherwise the paintings cannot leave the country.  We made sure that we got our certificates!

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Cuban Markets and Cuban Food

The Sunday market is new and has been very successful, drawing locals from around the outlying towns to make their weekly purchases. Ron has been searching, unsuccessfully, for hot peppers. When he saw these little babies in the market he got really excited; however, they were not as “hot”IMGP0830 as he hoped,but still very flavourful.

Colourful and flavourful, but not HOT!

 

 

 

 

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Five pineapples for 50 cents, 4 lbs tomatoes for 50 cents, 13 red onions for $1.00 and those “not so hot” peppers for 50 cents.  We spent a grand total of $2.50 for our market outing.

 

 

 

The great thing about the fruits and vegetables in Cuba is that they are all organic! No pesticides to poison the crop or the consumers! The pork, chicken and fish is all “organic” as well – no steroids or enhanced feed to plump them up!  No wonder we are so healthy when we get back to Canada after a winter in Cuba!IMGP0840

 

Buying the produce is great – washing it before taking it on the boat is tedious, but necessary….

Beef is uncommon in Cuba, but seafood and pork are considered staples.  We get our fish and lobster from Jorge, one of the local fishermen.  At $1 to $1.50 a tail, lobster is a common meal for us, IMGP0919as is fish.  Most of the time we get the Jorge to prepare the fillets but sometimes, we have to take on the task……..hopefully not too often!

 

Judy cleans up a hogfish for dinner

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The Crossing Opportunity

Once we arrived in Marathon it was a waiting game looking for the best weather conditions to cross the Gulf Stream and enter the infamous Paso Malo (the entrance canal to Marina Darsena in Varadero, Cuba).  We passed up our first opportunity because the window was too short and the IMGP0734conditions at Varadero were not good for a canal entry.  However, just about a week later, on December 16th, a second opportunity presented itself and off we went! 

 

Pioneer sights Cuban land at dawn on the 17th

 

 

 

The passage was completed in a record 19 hours.  We left Marathon on December 16th at noon and arrived in Varadero just as the sun was rising at 6:30 am. on December 17th.  As dawn approached, we could just make out the range marks at the end of the narrow canal that would lead us to Marina Darsena.  As expected, there were several small fishing boats outside of the canal as well as localsIMGP0739 hanging their lines off the ends of the canal abutments.

 

Locals hoping for a good catch….

 

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A fisherman up at dawn to earn a living…

 

 

Our good friend at Darsena, Debbie, made sure that the officials were on the dock waiting for us.  The officials were very nice and helpful and the check in process went very smoothly. After docking Pioneer in a great spot on A dock, we grabbed a quick breakfast and then rode into Santa Marta with Debbie to reacquaint ourselves with past friendships.  Dolores, Ramon and Raul – three great friendsIMGP0740 that we were so pleased to see again.

 

Dolores takes time out of parking the market cars to pose for a shot….

 

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Ramon is still working hard at his market stall but takes time to make us feel welcome

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Raul, the bicycle attendant is always fun to kid with, AND he takes really good care of our bikes!

 

 

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Judy and Debbie scout out the produce at the market

 

 

The next day we returned to the market area for the new, weekly Sunday market.  Many of the farmers would bring in truckloads of their produce and sell it for very reasonable prices.  The best price we got on pineapples was 5 for approximately 50 cents!  YouIMGP0754 can’t beat that for a bargain!  There were many pork vendors throwing, washing and chopping pig parts, including livers and heads!  Roasted pork is a common meat for special days like Christmas Eve and New Years.

 

Pork anyone?

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