Posts Tagged: ‘catamaran’

Cast Iron Canoe: 2017 Edition

May 31, 2017 Posted by Deb

Namekagon River

Namekagon River

A traditional canoe trip that started decades ago and which we’ve been a part of for many years. Our sailing life has kept us away too long, but we made it back this year. Old sailing friends, Forrest and Yvonne on s/v Nazdrowie, who we met in the Dominican Republic in the 1990s introduced us to the group; and it has been a party ever since. This year we picked the Namekagon and Saint Croix rivers over the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Tent City

Tent City

e

We Know How to Fill a Canoe

The weather started out great and stayed better than the forecast for three days. We did have rain and hail, but we built a tarp city and we’re pretty much impervious to bad weather. True to Cast Iron tradition, we had two Dutch ovens, plenty of liquid refreshments, and a wrap-up five-pound bacon fest on the final morning that forced Deb to stay upwind. No injuries to report other than a number of tick bites that sent Deb to the doctor for the anti-Lyme routine.

Tarp City Going Up

Tarp City Going Up

Hail On the River

Hail On the River

We did have a longer than normal 22-mile day due to full campsites that featured a 1.5 mile sprint to beat out another group to 12.3 mile campsite. Unfortunately, Deb and I won the race but missed the campsite sign. The sprint pretty much turned our arms to noodles for the next two days. Oh well.

Land Ho

We look forward to the transition both from the ocean to land in the spring and back to the boat in the fall. With each move, we have a high energy vision of what we’re going to do “this time.” Yeah, right. We seem to forget that the seven-plus days it takes to put the boat away and the exposure to air conditioning and airplane air usually leaves us half dead with colds. This switch was no exception but we did get a couple of days of Casa Grande Palm Creek pickleball in before the bad colds really set in. We motored north in the RV on a three Wal*Mart run with 102-degree fevers. It is now late May and we’re just barely back on our feet again. And hey, it’s cold up here in May.

Wanna Go Outside at 100 Degrees and 100% Humidity?

Wanna Go Outside at 100 Degrees and 100% Humidity?

Plans

Our plans change weekly but our high-energy vision included an extended summer on land with biking, pickleball, a variety of water events, camping, and other north country fun stuff. Now we’re toying with the idea of getting rid of all the mobile stuff including the RV and Neytiri and looking for a home or a townhome. Our future yacht broker is begging us to bring Neytiri back to Florida again and to do so immediately. That ain’t happening but we may get back on the boat early in the fall and sail her back to the U.S.

So … we’re going house hunting at 10:00 tomorrow morning after moving the final leg of our RV trip from Melcher-Dallas, Iow,a to Woodbury, MN. For us, home ownership again is a big and scary change.

Toys Are Out in Iowa

Toys Are Out in Iowa

Celebrating Hayden's Soccer Win with Dorothy, Cindy, and Halle

Celebrating Hayden’s Soccer Win with Dorothy, Cindy, and Halle

Late Entry: The Famous Roatan Yacht Club

We thought it was famous and very nice 22 years ago. We were worried that we weren’t dressed well enough to go into the restaurant. It seemed very British. We had just finished a long ten-day passage from Cartegena, Columbia, somewhere around November, 1995; and we weren’t too presentable. We stored our dinghy there during our last visit four years ago even though it had been closed for new owners and renovations. The carpenters were banging away.

Roatan French Harbor Yacht Club

Roatan French Harbor Yacht Club

Little did we know how far the Yacht Club had fallen. This year, the property has been seized for money laundering and the official government “Stay Out” signs are up. We had to find another dinghy dock to get to town and our Plan B four years ago was the shrimping/fish station. They’ve had a very bad fishing season and we were advised to stay out of that area. So … by word of mouth we found a lady in a small house down from the police station car graveyard with a little dilapidated dock on a shoreline filled with floating garbage. The routine is to hand her 50 Lems (2 bucks) and walk to town.

Only Sign From the Street

Only Sign From the Street

Murder at the Yacht Club: A German Hotel Owner is gunned down at his Business
Nicolai Winter, the German owner of the French Harbour Yacht Club was gunned down at his hotel by a man in this thirties, presumed to be from the mainland.

On March 6, 2007, around 9:30pm, the murderer checked into a room at the hotel and came back to ask for Winter’s assistance in opening the room door. While Winter with three other Yacht Club staff walked towards the room, the assailant pulled out a 9mm gun and shot Winter several times. The assailant then fled the property on foot.
According to Yacht club staff, Winter was alive for some time after the shooting. Bay Islands Voice was notified of the shooting and called Preventiva Police, DGIC and Ambulance in Dixon Cove. No one picked-up the phone. After a visit to the Dixon Cove ambulance station the attendant said “none of the vehicles are working.”
The frontier police and DGIC police arrived at the crime scene 30 and 60 minutes after the shooting, but no immediate search of surrounding area was done and no road blocks were set up. The murderer, presumed by the police to be a contracted killer, was not apprehended.  Winter bought the Yacht Club in 2004 for in excess of one million dollars. The legal future of the Yacht Club is far from certain. According to Honduran law, in absence of a testament, Winter’s closest relatives: his mother, or his sister will inherit the property.
According to Felipe Danzilo, a lawyer involved in the sale of the Yacht Club, Winter did not yet make all the payments on the property. The previous owners of the Yacht Club: Marcel Hauser and Peter Beuth, still hold a mortgage on the Yacht Club.

Within a week of Winter’s death the old owners of the hotel brought the “Pluribus” company owned by Daniel O’Connor, a American business owner from Tegucigalpa, to serve as a “safe keeper” of the Yacht Club business interests. O’Connor made efforts to assure the continuous functioning of the business: that the employees received their salaries, hotel stayed open and he plans on having the Yacht Club’s restaurant open by Semana Santa. “Every business has a value as long as it is running,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor, who has lived in Honduras for 12 years, was shocked by the lack of concern about the murder displayed by local business community and local business leaders. “This is disappointing in a community that prides itself on being tourism oriented,” says O’Connor. “This will bring a negative impact on tourism here.”

Source :  http://www.bayislandsvoice.com/issue-v5-4.htm

Roatan Wrap and Return to Guatemala 2017

April 23, 2017 Posted by Deb

The Changes in Roatan

A great island but evolving with up to five cruise ships at a time and thousands of cruise ship people on a power vacation clogging up the roads and filling up the beaches. Fantasy Island has suffered a big change. While the west end of the island parties and booms, Fantasy has hit the skids. Here’s a list:

  1. The well went salty so tap water and showers are with sea water now
  2. The generator partially died so they cut of power to the boats on the dock (us) from 7:00 a.m. to up to 8:00 p.m.
  3. The garbage piled up and the flies invaded
  4. With no A/C from shore power, the flies invade the open hatches and companionways
  5. Boat temperatures run around 93 degrees in the sheltered marine environment
  6. The WIFI bounces between 750 bytes to 10K with some spurts to 200K
  7. The pine trees get sap and debris all over the boat

FrenchCayDockSo … we paid for a month, we stayed two weeks, and we left for the anchorage to get comfortable … no refunds. We were also waiting for our 90-day “stay out of Guatemala” time restriction to expire on April 20.

We each thought Roatan was great for two different reasons. One of us voted for the La Pina Fitness Center followed by Herbie’s Sports Bar and Grill and the other voted for our day trips east and west. We definitely underachieved on the tourist stuff … maybe because we were coming to the end of our year or we were fresh out of buddy boats.

LaPinaPoolLaPinaFitnessCenter

Rather than go through the five-day port captain shuffle on Easter we elected to pay for an agent to clear us out. Bateman did a great job and even topped off one of our phones. Those who didn’t use Bateman missed their weather windows because the port captain told them to come back after the holiday in a week.

The Short, Easy Hop from Roatan to Guatemala

Don’t believe it. We’ve had lots of friends and acquaintances run into real trouble with weather on this stretch, not including the recent incidents of piracy in broad daylight. We motored in calm weather to get to Roatan and figured we would wait for a good breeze to sail downwind back to the west and Livingston, Guatemala.

The forecast from three sources all had the wind from the East North East at 15 to 18 gusting to 21. That is perfect for a downwind run and we put up the gennaker in case the winds were a bit light.

We Had Big Hopes for This Sail

We Had Big Hopes for This Sail

We did not bother topping off with fuel and probably should have. The actual wind was about zero for a few hours followed by mostly winds right out of 270 to 310 degrees at 10 to 15. That’s basically in our face. When the wind clocked, we put of the main and flew for about 45 minutes. The wind finally shifted to the east as predicted and was too light to sail so the main came down. We had a few more teasers and put up sails only to take them down minutes later. Of course, at night we had a squall with blinding rain and lightning in all directions.

Sailing through the Corner of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala

Sailing through the Corner of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala

Star Trek Trivia: Admiral, There Be Whales Here

Star Trek Trivia: Admiral, There Be Whales Here

We crossed the bar at Livingston about an hour ahead of schedule and again very close to low tide. Raul’s office informed us that the computer had us a 89 days, not 90 as is required. It was touch and go as to whether we were going to be let into Guatemala; but when the correct palms get greased, the rules can be bent a little. We grabbed our old berth at the Crow’s Nest in Cayo Quemado and Carlos had his extended family out there to give Neytiri a thorough cleaning and a wax job to get ready for showings up at NanaJuana Marina.CayoQuemadoWaterLilliesNanaJuanaSunsetPoolNanaJuanaDockSunset

Where Are We Now? Belize!!

February 4, 2017 Posted by Deb

Hanging out at Robert's Grove in Placencia with Side Trips to the Reef in Southern Belize

Hanging out at Robert’s Grove in Placencia with Side Trips to the Reef in Southern Belize

Putting Neytiri Away for the Sixth Time

June 16, 2016 Posted by Deb

We’ve decommissioned in St. Martin, Curacao, Guatemala, Georgia, Florida, and now Guatemala again. There’s no escaping the fact that it takes seven to ten days of really fun work like pulling heavy sails down, oiling anchor chain, heads, and other wonderful jobs. We took breaks and hit the pool at NanaJuana often but the happy hours were lonely until the last day there when boats started pouring in for hurricane season. That was nice. We finally did the hike at Hacienda Tijax and our guide said we were the best “old people” she had seen for dealing with the heat and humidity. For us, it was cool in the jungle compared to working on a boat. Once we moved to our final storage location in Cayo Quemado, the air conditioning was stowed and we cooked at 97°F with 87% humidity for the final teardown.

Oiling the Anchor Chain in the Guatemala Heat

Oiling the Anchor Chain in the Guatemala Heat

NanaJuana Pool Time

NanaJuana Pool Time

Swing Bridge at Hacienda Tijax

Swing Bridge at Hacienda Tijax

Found a Spot for a Skinny Dip

Found a Spot for a Skinny Dip

Old People Hikers

Old People Hikers

Saturday Market in Fronteras

Saturday Market in Fronteras

How to Cross the Road

How to Cross the Road

Tucked Away for Another Day

Tucked Away for Another Day

Honduras

Deb pieced together a cab to San Pedro Sula in Honduras followed by a flight to Phoenix via Dallas.

Trip from Rio Dulce to San Pedro Sula in Honduras

Trip from Rio Dulce to San Pedro Sula in Honduras

Breakfast Under Coca-Cola Mountain??

Breakfast Under Coca-Cola Mountain??

We had a two-hour window to switch planes, and we missed by about 12 hours. It’s funny that we made all our sailing deadlines for three months and a little storm over Dallas blew the endgame. We waited until 2:00 a.m. for a crew to show up for our plane; and as they walked up to applause from the crowd, they announced that they had “timed out” and the flight was cancelled. We found a hotel for the night and cancelled our reservations for a car and hotel in Phoenix. They were pretty nice about refunding some of our money. The next day we slept in and did our first UBER ride to the airport. It was $45 for a taxi to the hotel, and we split a $16 dollar fair back to the airport the next day with UBER. Wow!

Casa Grande

Both the town and the RV were right where we left them. The difference was that Palm Creek, where we did the early winter last year, was a ghost town. We found the odd human at the pool from time to time but 119°F for three days kept the few that still lived in the RV park inside. We ran 48 amps of A/C around the clock and the refrigerator pretty much gave up trying. It was nice to be back in the land of big box stores but the ghost town RV Park had us feeling like we late getting out of Dodge. We headed up the hill (8% grade) to Flagstaff and the V10 got a workout. We did not need A/C again until we got out into the flats of New Mexico and Kansas.

An Entire Wall at Palm Creek Labelled Romance

An Entire Wall at Palm Creek Labelled Romance

Lake Afton in Kansas - Almost Home

Lake Afton in Kansas – Almost Home

Propane Fill - Short Hose Workaround

Propane Fill – Short Hose Workaround

Staging in Iowa

We stop for a week or so at the pole barn in Iowa where we store all our summer toys. Oh … and the odd car and van. This year we’re extending the layover to attend a birthday party for the kids of nieces and nephews. It feels like they were kids themselves just a few years ago. Tick Tick.

Our Private Trail Got Popular. Great Western Trail from Martinsdale to Des Moines

Our Private Trail Got Popular. Great Western Trail from Martinsdale to Des Moines

Calorie-Positive Biking at Cummins Tap – Great Western Trail

Calorie-Positive Biking at Cummins Tap – Great Western Trail

Deb Even Took Time Help Out with Bible School

Deb Helped Out with Vacation Bible School

Sunday Pool Day with the Family in Iowa

Sunday Pool Day with the Family in Iowa

Rio Dulce and the End of a Sailing Season

May 17, 2016 Posted by Deb

DebFlagAtSeaIt’s a nice, leisurely 40-50 mile sail to Cabo Tres Puntas in Guatemala where we stage for crossing the dreaded Livingston bar the next morning. It was great to get back to the jungle, howler monkeys, and a giant water slide (What??). There were only three lights on at night for the whole peninsula and they have a water slide?Cabo3PuntasWaterslide

We thought it would be a lonely, kind of nervous feeling night off that part of Guatemala and we had not checked in detail for any incidents in that area. Instead, we ran into three other boats. Oh … there is a cruise ship going to Puerto Barios now. Who’d’ve thought.LivingstsonSeafront

Jail

We crossed the bar, had the various government departments visit the boat, and went ashore to pay approximately $465 U.S. for our stay in Guatemala. There was a two-hour wait for our cruising permit because the officer in charge started the job the day before and could not get the system to print. The woman who held that position for years and had been telling folks to not use an agent but to just come to her, was caught for large scale embezzling. After a two-month investigation, they made her pay back the money (she had to get a loan) and then they arrested her.

The next jail chapter involves the Nana Juana Marina where we are currently residing. The entire management staff and some ancillary folks got arrested just a few days ago. This place is running on autopilot. They were skimming too. The arrestee list included a nice Austrailian woman who was connected somehow but basically just helping out. Money made it into her account as well. We don’t know what it means for this marina but some folks are dropping their boats back into the water as a result.HomesRio RioCurveBackstagePass RioNeytiriClouds RioDock

Cayo Quemado

CayucoRioThatchedHouseWe had a dinner date with Chris and Kelly of Seakist Services and we made it to Cayo Quemado with two hours to spare. Again weather and “events” had to all line up for us to actually make good on a commitment made weeks or a month earlier. We met up with Cannon Ball again as well. They built a home around the corner from Texan Bay and we met them in Pelican Cay, Belize. We will be returning to Cayo Quemado, or Texas Bay, to store the boat on May 29.

Fronteras

BrunosChucNothing much has changed in two years. A few folks have died, including our trivia partner Don and the guy who sold imported meats and cheeses and ran the AeroPostal outlet here where we had parts flown in. The main drag is full of buses, 18 wheelers, tuk tuk’s (motor cycle driven cabs), large and small cycles, and lots of people on foot with only inches between your body and the giant wheels going by.FronterasTruck

Belize 2016 and Home Turf

May 8, 2016 Posted by Deb

We waited out a calm day in Cozumel and we were off on Thursday, April 28, for San Pedro, Belize, and a rendezvous with the former Mokacat owner, Dale and his significant other, Kathryn. We have never taken on the Gulf Stream head on before. Every crossing to date we have positioned to cross the strong part of the current as close to right angles as we can. This trip was 250 to 300 miles, straight into the teeth of the current. Many sailors have posted waypoints for a strategy that involves hugging the coast but we found tremendous variation and eddies. Our first encounter took us for 8.5 knots down to 1.8 to 3.3 knots and we were jammed against mainland Mexico. We tried getting even closer but finally just went out to where we could count on a steadier 3-knot “in-your-face” current; and our speed over the ground went to 5 to 5.5, even though we were smoking. We were planning on being out two nights but by the time we got to the Chinchoro Banks, the current moved offshore, the winds went to 23 knots, and we picked up to 9.5 to 11 knots and made it through the Eastern Channel, Ships Bogue, and Porto Stuck to Cay Caulker all before dark on day two. Not bad. The boat did great but the passengers were knocked around like rag dolls when we got out of the lee of the outer atolls.SunsetBelizeSailing

San Pedro

We always liked San Pedro, Belize. Even though it is an open roadstead, salt spray everywhere, buried in golf carts, and full of tourists, it was our base for chartering out of TMM for years and we have fond memories of scrambling all over town to provision a charter cat. We always ran out of booze on those charters, sometimes by the halfway mark. This time we were there to clear into the country, say hi and goodbye to Simon at TMM (TMM is closing shop in Belize in June, 2016), and to pick up Dale and Kathryn.

Company was a bit of a concern since we needed weather windows to cooperate to get us there (we beat their plane by seven hours) and we were on what amounted to a 1,400-mile delivery run from Ft Lauderdale to Guatemala, all in about a month, and, as such, the boat wasn’t fully ready to party.

BlowingPalmTreesNeytiri was covered in salt and the humidity was unusually high; we were exhausted; we never un-pickled the watermaker, so water for four people was a concern; and we had plans to cover the whole country in seven days. Everything worked out very well, despite a large hole opening up in the dink on day one and threatening to leave us w/o a way to get to shore. We had 30 gallons of water to spare at the end of the week, thanks to the extreme conservation habits of Dale and Kathryn. With company, the fishing poles came out, and we were eating Cobia and Jack in no time. Dale was an impressive fisherman and fish cleaner.FishDaleChuckSunsetDinghyRepairLazyLizardDaleKathrynHelmChuckDaleAtMastLostReefersYokisChuck

The four of us had to scratch our heads to go from what we wanted to do and see in Belize to what we had time for given that we didn’t really want to power sail all day. We eventually decided on San Pedro, Cay Caulker, Water Cay, a power run to Pelican Cay and the Hideaway Resort and Restaurant, Hatchet Cay (2 days), and Placencia.

The Storm

We were hit by two nights of storms at Hatchet Cay. Neytiri was on a mooring but 40 kts out of the South and West really got our attention. The lightning show was one of the worst we’ve been in since the Mona Passage in 1994. The moorings held, the storm passed, and we had two days of cooler, drier weather.HatchetCayeBeach HatchetCayeDinner

Robert’s Grove Resort and Marina

We returned to Robert’s Grove Resort for a few days of laundry, relaxing, and water. It was surprising to see the change in two years. The house construction was complete but the marina was quite empty, the restaurants were on reduced hours, the deli and Sweet Mama’s were closed, the bathrooms were toilet paper challenged, the WIFI was very sporadic, the marina showers have never been built, the dive shop hadn’t had a charter in a week, and the French owner was history having been bought out by the Boris Mansfield company.RobertsGroveDock

Cozumel and the Cruise Ships

May 1, 2016 Posted by Deb

marina_CozumelSounds like an old rock band. Our weather guru, Chris Parker, suggested that we break up the Isla Mujeres to Belize trip into two parts because there was a calm day with no sailing right smack in the middle of the trip. We tried that and dropped hook off the Captania del Puerto in Cozumel and spent a day checking out of Mexico. We left the dink in a little marina north of the anchorage and started the Mexican clearing out shuffle which goes something like Port Captain, bank (to pay), Port Captain, and Immigration. Oh… and they’re not exactly in the same building. Some folks have to do four taxi rides.Street_Cozumel

The cruise ships gave us a break and were leaving when we pulled in; but now Cozumel has three cruise ship piers, and they run 3.3 million people a year through that island at the rate of 20 to 30 cruise ships per week. Wow! That little island was already standing room only on my 60th birthday, and it hasn’t gotten better.

Isla Mujeres

April 24, 2016 Posted by Deb

Isla Mujeres has been a happy place for us and it was again. Prices have gone up and our favorite marina now really knows how to charge. But Chepo, the dockmaster, remembered us and really went out of his way to get us into Marina Paraiso again. Oh … and we have internet again. What a refreshing feeling so I guess we’re addicts.

Barlito and Free WiFi

Barlito and Free WiFi

Old friends are scattered all over the Caribbean for us and Mexico is no different. Nash and his restaurant called Nash’s is still here and Wayne from Dances with Dragons just finished a circumnavigation that started and ended at the Soggy Peso here. We bought him a couple beers to celebrate. The shot below is a mini-Red Frog Marina (Panama) reunion.

Nash's With Dances With Dragons and Neytiri

Nash’s With Dances With Dragons and Neytiri

Soggy Peso One More Time

Soggy Peso One More Time

Street Walker in Mexico

Street Walker in Mexico

Cuba

April 20, 2016 Posted by Deb

Cuba

It was always our intention to get to Cuba before the U.S. hemorrhaged a sport fisherman armada, and it would be forever changed. We were about eight miles off the coast 20 years ago when Fidel decided to shoot down a couple of private planes trying to sneak in from the U.S. The Gulf filled up with U.S. destroyers and aircraft in a heartbeat and we were being buzzed by very large aircraft at about mast height with a row of grey destroyers in front of us. None of them answered our hails on any channel so we hung a left for Key West.  That was 1996.

 In the Footsteps of Grandpa Sam

Our family history had a walkabout character.

Grandpa Sam was a great-grandfather on Chuck’s Mom’s side. It was said he didn’t like anyone in the family much.  He was a bit of a recluse in his old age, and didn’t much care for everyone living with him after the great depression.

The folklore is that he didn’t really like farming, at least not the winter part of it, and would hire out as a hand on the freighters that took off across Superior and down the Erie Canal, where he continued on to Cuba.  Grandma Sarah would throw dishes and pots and pans and cutlery at him as he left.  He’d come back in the spring, but no one knows what happened in Cuba.  No doubt we have relatives there, but who they are or whether or not they go by the name of Groth, no one knows.  Probably not. Sam himself looked like an old black sharecropper with a long white beard.

The Neytiri report includes no Groths found but we’re guessing he had a hell of a good time. You’d have to work hard at not.

Great Grandpa Sam Groth on the Way to Cuba

Great Grandpa Sam Groth on the Way to Cuba

Hemingway Marina

Tucked Into Marina Hemingway

Tucked Into Marina Hemingway

We made the quick overnight passage straight to Hemingway Marina in relatively calm weather and we’re prepared for the five government department hassle. We hailed Guarda Frontera at the 12-mile mark, and there were two young uniformed guys waiting to handle our lines as we docked at around 7 a.m. They had great broken English and we were done in just over an hour. The Agriculture Department looked at all our food and took nothing, to our surprise. Oh … the Health Department took our temperatures as well. Can’t be too careful with those unhealthy Norte Americanos. The government officials state that we are not obligated to tip them but … We handed out a U.S. $20 on occasion and one guy was polite but acted like we were a little light.

They Taped Up Our Satellite Phone and Blocked Skype Calls

They Taped Up Our Satellite Phone and Blocked Skype Calls

Walk Around the Grounds Until You Feel At Home

It felt different. Kind of like a trip back to the 1950’s with Rod Serling. The architecture, the cars, the colors, the state of the infrastructure, the cars, oh … and the cars. Wow. They have two currencies and that takes a bit of practice, they now have internet in some of the hotels courtesy of Venezuela and a cable on the bottom of the ocean. Our IP’s said we were in Caracas, VZ. They block Skype, our Sat phones were taped up, and they don’t use https (secure websites) so unless you have a VPN, connecting to a site (like a financial site) that requires security is a problem. Our credit cards and debit cards were useless so it was cash, cash, and more cash. The exchange penalty was supposed to be over but we found it alive and well at 87 CUC for $100 US. You could get to $91 if you worked at it.

As we were sitting in our first restaurant and contemplating our next Cuba move, Deb brought up the cash question. She had been lobbying to get a bunch of Euro’s before we got here and I put it off for Key West (or just put it off). You kind of get that cold sweat feeling going when you start to add up the marina bill, the inland travel, diesel purchase, electricity, a buffer for a weather delay, and food. For the first time since college we were tight on cash with no good options. Oops. We started tightening our belts and looking for a solution. After all, there have to be other credit card addicted Norte Americanos that are too brain dead to total up how much they needed before they left the U.S.

Havana

1950's Revisited

1950’s Revisited

The cars. Everyone talks about the old Spanish buildings but the first thing we noticed were the cars. The old Spanish buildings are cool but we wanted to see the haunts of the rich and famous before the revolution. That past is everywhere and the atmosphere is one large party. Live music in every restaurant and on every street with a parade of some kind every few blocks, sometimes running into each other. We watched a parade of tall people (stilts) detour around a street classic dancing show. The musicians take a break from time to time and pass the hat around and one CUC is enough to make them happy.

12-Feet Tall on the Streets of Havana

12-Feet Tall on the Streets of Havana

Spontaneous Parades

Spontaneous Parades

Salsa Dancing

Salsa Dancing

Colors on the Balcony

Colors on the Balcony

Do You Think the Street Artist Captured Chuck?

The Cuban Street Artist Thinks I Look Like a Doonesbury Character

We felt welcomed and safe everywhere, even in the off streets. When they found out we were from the U.S., most of them gave a thumbs up and yelled (I mean yelled) “Obama”! He had just been there. We were told by the cab driver of a mint condition 56 Chevy that they have been taught since they were little that the U.S. is evil and the people are bad but that they never bought into it. It feels like they are in the calm before the U.S. invasion and everyone wants that invasion to happen. The cabbies of vintage cars were all asking for estimates on what their vehicles would be worth in the U.S. (our Spanish was barely up to the challenge but we did okay).

Forts and Cannons and Chuck

Forts and Cannons and Chuck

Taking a Break to Listen to Some Musica

Taking a Break to Listen to Some Musica

Food Was So-So But Drinks Were Amazing (Cucumber Limonada)

Food Was So-So But Drinks Were Amazing (Cucumber Limonada)

Rasta Cuban Cigar Smoker

Rasta Cuban Cigar Smoker

Peeking at the Real Havana Just Over a Crumbled Wall

Peeking at the Real Havana Just Over a Crumbled Wall

One Block In, A Little Cleanup Needed

One Block In, A Little Cleanup Needed

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

 Hotel Nacional de Cuba - A Lot of History

Hotel Nacional de Cuba – A Lot of History

Trip two into Havana (about 25 kilometers from Hemingway) had more focus.  We wanted to see the famous hotel/casino from the old Mafia days with all the big boss names, Frank Sinatra, and Hollywood stars. Nice place but then we stumbled into the History room and there are portraits of the famous people that have visited all the way up through Kerry a few months ago. Vladimir Putin is up there with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. There’s a room dedicated to Winston Churchill. The bar serves a Mafia Mojito and the phone on the wall is an ancient wood beast that was used to connect to the rest of the world. We wondered how many hits were called in from that phone. At one time or another, they all sat in the lawn chairs looking out over the Gulf. So … we did too.

Mafia Mohito

Mafia Mojito

HotelNationalChuck

Cienfuegos and Trinidad

Road trip. This is where Deb does her best. She’s like the Duracell bunny when it comes to difficult travel arrangements. The one day we finally solved our money problems, the Cubanacan travel agent at the Hotel Aquarios at Hemmingway failed to show . Not to be deterred, Deb dragged my complaining b…t down to the next town by bike and we found another agent in a grocery store. Off we went to Cienfuegos at 8:00 the next morning.

Cienfuegos Plaza Marti

Cienfuegos Plaza Marti

What to take on a Cuban road trip. Well, of course, all the money you will need for everything and also, of course, all the toilet paper you’ll need. Even nice hotels are usually out. We appreciated old building after old building and church after church but were getting a little tourist fatigue. We hit a many famous places as possible and did well on restaurants but this road trip was not quite normal for us. We started at our number one choice for accommodations, La Gorta Villa casa particular out on the point and, of course, it’s Friday so they are full. As we knocked on doors down the point, it was obvious they were all booked for the weekend. Oops. The folks at Casa Amarillo finally helped us and walked us down the road to Casa Cuca, an elderly lady that has a room set up for tourists. It was great. Her whole family showed up in the mornings to do breakfast and we had A/C even though she had none. She gave us keys to her front door and the room and we became like family.

Cuca's Garden

Cuca’s Garden

The local transportation options include horse and carriage, motor cab, and hundreds of bicitaxis which are human bicycle powered carts that will take you miles for 2 to 3 bucks. We did all of them at one time or another.

Bike Taxi

Bike Taxi

Horse Taxi

Horse Taxi

More Taxi Options

More Taxi Options

Trinidad was a one day, walking tour, one bar and one restaurant stop and we did not do it justice but there are only so many old buildings you can assimilate. It had a great feel to it and we will return by boat but we got a weather window from Chris Parker (our weather guru) and we had to get back to the boat. Less than five hours later, we were in Marina Hemingway and home.

Rest Stop on the Way to Trinidad

Rest Stop on the Way to Trinidad

Really Old Yellow Church

Really Old Yellow Church

Resting in the Shade of an Ancient Church

Resting in the Shade of an Old Yellow Church

Lunch Break With A Band

Lunch Break With A Band

Cuba Wrap

One of the more unique stops in our travels and not easy to explain. The average Cuban citizen has born the brunt of the U.S. embargo, not the higher ups, and yet they love all their foreign visitors. When you ask for help or directions, they go over and above and if you don’t cut it off, you’ll eventually be invited to dinner. And talk about a blast from the past … we can’t get over those cars.

Cars Lining the Seawall

Cars Lining the Seawall

We left in the early morning hours as the katabatics flattened the seas over the entrance. We sailed all day and all night and the following morning we were still off Cuba. That is one large island, sixteenth in the world. Then we hung a right for Mexico across the freighter lanes and the famous Gulf Steam current. There are so many freighters, they now have lanes in the ocean called transshipment zones. We had to cross them and had over five bogies on radar at one time but only had to alter course once. We were luckier than the young Russian couple just in front of us at Marina Hemingway. They hit a freighter in the middle of the night and lost the nose of their boat. The picture below is after weeks of work putting her back together. They had just re-mounted the roller furling when we left. That is close to “worst nightmare” hearing a crash and seeing a giant wall of steel on top of you going 20 knots. They were still kissing each other when they took work breaks, so no psychological issues and just happy to be alive.

Russians in

Russians in Cuba

Ft. Lauderdale Finals

April 7, 2016 Posted by Deb

The Ft Lauderdale chapter came to an end when we cast off our lines from Seafarer’s Church and headed out the New River. After seven weeks of hard work and hard spending, we finally worked through an eight-page project list and declared ourselves ready for the ocean again. We broke up the boat work with entertaining neighbors, a very entertaining landlord/pastor and wife, two rounds of company, a couple rounds of old friends in the area, and a brief reunion race with my old pylon racing partner at a pylon race in Mulberry, FL.

Home at Sonny's Dock on the New River

Home at Sonny’s Dock on the New River

After the Dania Flea Market with Old Sailing Friends

After the Dania Flea Market with Old Sailing Friends

3-Hour Dinghy Tour Around Ft. Lauderdale with Tom & Kelly

3-Hour Dinghy Tour Around Ft. Lauderdale with Tom & Kelly

New River Floating Tiki Bar

New River Floating Tiki Bar

Barb & Michael's Visit to the Pirate Republic

Barb & Michael’s Visit to the Pirate Republic

Randy & Chuck Pylon Racing Since the Dawn of Time

Randy & Chuck Pylon Racing Since the Dawn of Time

And  the Boring Stuff

The highlights of our Ft. Lauderdale were a seven-week rewiring job on the starboard hull, new life raft, new A/C, new VHF, new RayMarine wind instrument, new port head, new starboard alternator, underwater hull cleaning, a starting battery/house battery paralleling system, a galvanic isolator, a new battery combiner, a new salon table, and much more that we’ve forgotten already. We did much of the work ourselves (except electrical) with the help of three contractors. Two of the contractors were semi-retired geniuses that helped because of their relationship with our landlord/pastor, S0nny.

Genius at Work

Genius at Work

Getting Rid of French Stuff on a French Boat

Getting Rid of French Stuff on a French Boat

New Wind Instrument

New Wind Instrument

Most People iHre Young Guys for This

Most People Hire Young Guys for This

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale at Sunrise - On to Key West

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale at Sunrise – On to Key West

Key West

Our shakedown cruise was an overnight run to Key West starting before rush hour at O’Dark Thirty so we wouldn’t get trapped by the bridges. The boat hadn’t moved since May, 2015; and it’s always a weird feeling getting underway after that much time … and in the dark as well. We had cell phone coverage and made calls and browsed all the way down the coast. Somewhere off Key Largo, we got our official permission to visit Cuba in an e-mail from the good old U.S. Coast Guard, compliments of Petty Officer Wilson. We applied a month earlier and it was getting thin on timing.

There wasn’t much wind until the very end of the run to Key West. Deb started making frequent trips to the head for seasickness. She didn’t take her Stugeron because this was supposed to be a milk run. Late in the trip, the gennaker failed to completely furl because of the tightness of the wrap in high winds. That was not a big deal until we tried to turn into Key West in 23 knots of wind. It started unwinding and flapping badly. Our attempts to dump it on the deck failed and we had to run off downwind (out of the channel) and pull the mess in. About then the trampoline cords started failing so we had added issues of humans falling into the ocean. We recovered the sail and turned back into the channel without hitting the reef but it was close.

We dropped anchor, slept, and set up for what was to be a wait for weather period of R&R while we prepped for Cuba. We were going to get cash, brush up on Spanish, read the guide books, and supply the boat. It turned out the weather window was at noon the next day so none of the above happened except a quick cash run. That early window had consequences that generated another chapter later in Cuba.

Sunsets Pier in Key West

Sunset Pier in Key West