The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 3: Cuban Delights
Saturday, 27 November 1999
Just another short note to give you the unvarnished flavor of the day.
We left Marathon, Florida yesterday at 2:00 PM, cruised toward Key West and once abeam (directly off to the side) the Key West Sea Buoy at around 6:00 PM we made our turn toward Marina Hemingway Cuba. The weather was spectacular with winds NE less than 10 knots and the seas were calm (really calm). We cruised all night. At around midnight both Heide and Francesca shut down one engine at a time and checked oil and the rest of the really necessary things. At 9:30 AM the day after thanksgiving we arrived at the Marina Hemingway approximately 20 miles west of Havana. The seas were still calm.
What a fantastic crossing. It wasn't a full moon, but we were grateful for the light that we had.
At about 2:00 AM, a very fast and large boat came from nowhere and pulled in between Heide and Francesca. We didn't know what was up, but within a few minutes we were called on the channel that we had been using and asked to identify ourselves. It was the US Coast Guard and we were about 35 miles from Cuban waters. We of course complied. Next they wanted detailed information about our cruising permits, birth dates, when we would return to the US, people aboard and so on and so on. We of course complied. Finally, after they were with us for about an hour, they thanked us for our cooperation and bid us a safe journey.
Arriving at Marina Hemingway, we were really pooped, but had to go through interviews with a doctor (for health certification), agriculture department representative (three agents), immigration (three agents), customs (three agents), the Coast Guard (three agents), the Dock Master (just one), and finally about two hours with the dock electrician who tried valiantly and finally successfully to get power to our boats.
Around 3:00 PM, after a few spirits, to take away the accumulated pain of the day and night and day, we all dropped off.
This morning, November 27 around 10:00 AM, Joan and Marge rounded up a car and driver (RRRamon with an ancient Lada) and off we went to Old Havana. What a neat experience. Everyone was so nice, the city was beautiful and quaint.
There were a zillion 1950s US autos that brought back memories of high school days. Of course, with those old cars and leaded gas the fumes were a little much, but for a day it was great. Can't begin to say how welcome and comfortable we felt. Joan and Marge loaded our driver, RRRRamon, up with the little free soap bars, the motel variety, and some simple cosmetics. RRRRamon was tickled pink.
OK, so tonight we are drinking a bit of Cuban rum, really good Cuban rum, and I'm testing the one Cuban cigar that was given to me. Not to worry, I won't start smoking again, but it really is good.
We have our cruising permit which will allow us to cruise the NW coast of Cuba to the extreme western tip at Cabo San Antonio. There we will jump for a 110 mile open ocean crossing to Mexico. I think that we will leave Havana in a day or two and spend the next couple of weeks on this part of the cruise.
At this point, the Cuban Rum is getting a foothold on my mind. Will follow up in a couple of days with more details.
Best to all
Joan, Marge, Marv, Ben, and Maggie