'06-'07 Cuba
Our Boat-Buying Trip
About Pioneer
Our Sailing Dream
Preparing to Sail
Preparing to Cruise
'05-'06 Bahamas
Off Season '06
'06-'07 Cuba
Off Season '07
'07-'08 Bahamas
Off Season '08
To Cuba '08
In Cuba '08-'09
Cuba to Minnesott '09
Off Season '09
NW Caribbean 2010
NW Caribbean 2011
Ron's Ruminations
Judy's Jubilations



Finally on the morning after the American Thanksgiving we headed out from our second home at Wayfarers Cove marina and along the waterway for Beaufort.  Last year's trip to Florida was mostly along the waterway until Beaufort SC, but this year we went to the opposite extreme. With a year of sailing under our belts, we headed off and "out". Friday, November 24th was departure day - a few tears were shed once again as we left wonderful friends behind. But, our lust for adventure had taken hold once again.  This time our destination would be Trinidad or Cuba. By the time we motored out into the Atlantic, Cuba had won out.  This was a double edged sword - no old friends to travel with (U.S. citizens cannot go to Cuba!) , but a wonderful opportunity to meet some "fellow Canadians" who are also planning to visit Cuba this winter.  The first leg of our journey lasted 3 days and two nights and it was very cold out there.  Judy slept in the cockpit to keep her stomach in check while she regained her sea legs.

Judy sleeps and dreams about good "sea legs"


When in the cockpit, both of us were bundled up with inflatable PFD's on with our harnesses clipped firmly in place.  It was not one of the most comfortable ways to sleep!  Thank goodness we had the cockpit enclosure to keep the salt water from smacking us in the face!  Judy really appreciated the portable "johnny" that made her watch somewhat more comfortable, although attempting this feat when the boat was rocking and rolling, was quite a challenge.

The amazingly versatile yogurt container - an essential in the cockpit!

We sailed past North Carolina, South Carolina and most of Georgia.  Because much of the trip was motorsailing, we had to stop in Brunswick, Georgia to refuel.  We were exhausted and it was late so we decided to spend the night there and take off the next day for Florida.  The winds picked up a bit as we were passing the famous Frying Pan Shoals but that was the only difficult section of that leg of the trip. On Monday Nov. 29th, we left Brunswick with Fort Pierce or West Palm Beach in mind.  Unfortunately the weather on this leg deteriorated as we rounded Cape Canaveral and we ended up in gale force winds close hauled just before Fort Pierce.  We entered the Fort Pierce inlet at night in a gale, but we could remember it well from last year so it was not a difficult entry.  It was an opportunity for our first night anchor - we did not badly.  We were very impressed with how Pioneer handled in the gale.  We were unable to get the main reefed due to the severe conditions, so we had to ride it out way too overpowered.  That put a lot of stress on her rigging and sails, but she did great - I will not worry again about our safety in a boat like Pioneer.  After catching a few hours of sleep before at Fort Pierce, we headed 10 miles up the waterway to Vero Beach where we met and rafted up with two other boats, Its About Time and Nice and Easy.  They gave us a bold introduction to the mooring field at Vero by lining up on deck for an official "moon" welcome. 

One "moon" and 3 "partials"

The evening was great, with dinner on Its About Time and a rowdy game of "Pass the Pig" that evening (thanks for the idea, John and Mindy). We also got a chance to clean the barnacles off the prop and the depth sounder in Vero.  Ron was a wee bit chilly when he finally emerged from the water!

Ron chases off the barnacles!

The next day all three of us headed back to Fort Pierce to stage for the Bahamas and Miami.  That night it was cocktails on Its About Time joined by Dean and Nancy on Pegasus and Bill and Sue from Nice and Easy. The wind was still blowing like stink in the ocean off of Fort Pierce so we elected to stay another day before heading out to Miami while our friends went down the waterway to Lake Worth which was a better port to start out from for a Bahamas crossing. And that is pretty well what happened.


Happy Hour aboard Its About Time - Fort Pierce




The Big Trip Unfolds!

On Saturday, Dec 2, we took off for an overnight sail to Miami - which was uneventful compared to what we had been through earlier in our trip.  On the way we encountered "Blackfoot" and "Rocinante", both of whom we new about from our trip last winter to the Bahamas.We arrived in Miami around noon on Sunday, Dec 3 - what a zoo - boats everywhere! The skyline of Miami is very distinctive as are the shipyards with all sorts of cargo, including this smallish boat which crossed the ocean - although not on its own!

The Miami skyline


Now that's the way to take a boat across an ocean!


Our anchorage in Miami was quite a site!  It was a small deep harbour (called No Name Harbour) that offered great protection from wind and waves .  It was also a perfect spot from which to head out into the Florida Keys.  The problem was the day of the week - Sunday on a hot day in Miami.  Everyone and their cousin was out in a boat partying and many of them were in our harbour.  By nightfall they had all gone home - probably 60 of them - we stopped counting at 30.  So the night of December 3rd was peaceful and quiet with just three sailboats left at anchor in the harbour.  The picture of the harbour shows the boats after about half of them had left.

No Name Harbour, Biscayne Bay, Miami


The next morning, we began our trip down the Keys to Key West.  We planned to do the trip in three day sails so that we end up in Key West just before the weather deteriorated - but as usual, plans in jello!.  We will need to play a waiting game for an opportunity to cross the Gulf Stream to Cuba.  It could be a few days or a few weeks - mother nature will need to be very cooperative!  Our goal is to be in Cuba by Christmas. Dec 4th, was a rocky night at Rodriquez Key, our first anchorage spot on the trip down the Keys.  We had 20 knots of wind on the nose here, and not too much selection in spots to anchor, so we had to "tuff" it out for the night.  We put out about a 9 to 1 scope  - all chain and a 60 lb. CQR.  We set the anchor alarm, but didn't budge. 

Judy "patrols" the laundry line on a hot, windless trip to Rodriquez Key



Judy at the helm in Hawke's Channel - the Keys


We made it to our next stop, Marathon, and anchored in the protection of the main harbour.  We had planned to go on to Key West after Marathon and then the Dry Tortugas.  But......jello agenda again!




Here in Marathon there are about 200 other boats here, some liveaboards, some cruisers, some derelict boats.  The people at the marinas and local businesses are very friendly.  We have met a few Canadians who are Cuba bound and will link up with them to talk about the voyage over.  It should be a much easier trip than we thought originally.  We can get needed coordinates and chart info from a boat near us that made the trip last year.  We plan to go to a marina further east than Marina Hemingway.  We have gotten to know a few people here who have their boats there.  It sounds like a much better arrangement than Marina Hemingway, at least for a start.  We can take the bus into Havana to get more charts for the remainder of our trip.  For right now, we are in Marathon until the weather lifts (it is very windy and cool here - i.e low 70's) At least we can get some things on the boat fixed - like our depth sounder and our honda generator.

Pioneer anchored in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon


It will also give us time to better plan our coming trip. For right now it is just sit tight.  On Friday night, the local entertainment was watching a very large catamaran drag anchor in the high winds.  It was really moving!  It just missed Pioneer on its way across the channel and was about to straddle a monohull sailboat when all the "men" in their dinghies came to the rescue. Eventually they got the boat and its owners back in place.  Their ground tackle was totally inadequate - so they put out another inadequate anchor and so far have not dragged again.

Ron, working on the generator

We also spent Wednesday and Saturday night at Burdines (a local waterfront bar and restaurant)  The food was good but the entertainment was great - Eric Stone!  His guitar player, Kyle, is only 18 years old and can he play that instrument!!! Wow!!!!

We are still in Marathon, and managed to get together with many other Canadians in the harbour to listen to Eric Stone and Kyle for one more night.  Kyle tried a few bars of Oh Canada combined with the Star Spangled Banner on his electric guitar - amazing! We have been in contact with Chris Parker (Caribbean Weather Service) and it looks like we are good to go on Friday afternoon to head for Varadero, Cuba, from our anchorage here.  We are excited about the trip, which will be motoring in relatively calm seas with our main up for stability. Our guides are Mel and Eric from Metal Magic - they know the routine well.  A Dutchman, Mathew, (single handing) will also be joining us on his wooden sloop.

Mel and Eric from Metal Magic visit Pioneer for a route "planning" session

We have made several new friends here: Benoit and Margaret on Diva (Canadian Diva), Ron and Margie on Amarige, Eric and Mel on Metal Magic, Larry and Linda on Enchantress, Mathew, and Mat.  Mat plans to visit Varadero in March - but we should be long gone by then.



In case we don't get the chance once we leave here,




Benoit and Margaret - Diva (another Diva! )





Mat drops by for a visit




Ron and Margie - Amarige




Ron and the Christmas Surfing Croc





Cuba in December, FINALLY!


On Friday, December 15, Chris Parker, our weather guru said the squalls would be bad for the crossing so we should hang in for another day - which we did.  On Saturday, December 16, he said it would be squally again but less intense, so we decided to go, as our next opportunity might not be until after Christmas. We travelled in a group with two other boats. Matthew, a Dutchman from Holland on his 1948 wood, open cockpit boat, named Fylkir, had the worst time as the rain and waves made his 22 hour journey very cold and wet. 

Matthew on Fylkir at Marina Darsena

Mel and Eric on Metal Magic (a heavy metal boat loaded down with supplies) were bouncing around like a cork in a washing machine.  Pioneer was moving around a lot, and we did get the odd wave come into our cockpit, but we didn't feel at any time that we were in danger, just generally uncomfortable.

 Mel with Metal Magic at Marina Darsena

We all got wet, and are just now drying out the boats and ourselves. We had an interesting encounter with a freighter out in the stream. We were the last in line with the three boats with about a mile separating us from the lead boat.  The tanker decided that it was going to cross our path between us and the second boat.  We saw it coming very fast, had to make some quick manoeuvres and were very happy when we saw it pass safely to our stern. I really don't think that they saw us at all - but we sure saw them!



Ron on Pioneer - just arrived at Marina Darsena


The next day, after a very wet night, we arrived at Marina Darsena in Varadero, Cuba.  The checking in process was very extensive and we were not allowed off the boat until it was over.  The first official visit was from the health bureau - checking our prescriptions and the status of our health.  Next came the veterinarian and the food and drug officials - who inspected the contents of our refrigerator and our veg/fruit supply.  They even brought a drug dog aboard! Then came immigration - who asked for our passports and subsequently issued us visas.  The final group of visitors were from customs, taking down all the data about the boat. Then a second customs group, the boat inspection team, checked the contents of all our cupboards and storage areas. The total cost of this experience was 25 CUC's (Cuban tourist Pesos: 1 = about $1.20 Can.) The marina facility here is very good - except for the showers!  They have guards at the gate and throughout the facility. No locals are allowed in or out so the security is very high. They even pick your garbage up every morning at your boat! By the time the customs had finished we were ready for a drink and a meet and greet with others already in the marina.  We met several other Canadians, who were already there, then it was pizza for dinner at the marina restaurant.

Having a drink with new friends on the dock at Marina Darsena


Finally it was crash time!!! The next day we borrowed a few bikes and toured the local towns and tourist area of Varadero with Mel and Mathew.  One of several highlights of the trip was 90 cent beer and an 80 cent chicken and rice meal.  We even saw Che Guevera's home (which is now a restaurant). There are many beautiful homes across the water from the marina - two that used to be owned by the Kennedy's and Al Capone. They have now been taken over by the hotels and are rented out.  We learned that there is a healthy black market in operation where you can buy meat and eggs and things that are just not available in the stores.

Our official greeter to the warmer climates!


We looked at some bikes (which are very scarce) and may purchase two bikes here, just because it is a great way to get around and we could use them throughout our trip. Before we leave, we could sell/give them to some locals if we decided not to keep them.  Varadero is a popular tourist area and the standard of living here for the locals is very high compared to the non-tourist areas of the country.  High does not mean fancy, life is still very basic for these people. The tourists are not allowed on the local buses here nor can they shop in the stores for the locals. 

Judy and Eric just before the bike tour


The locals use National Pesos (1 National Peso = about 4 cents Canadian), but the tourists can only use them at the local produce market and the odd food stand. You cannot use foreign currency here so you must purchase the CUC Peso and pay for everything in cash.  The local banks and money changers will accept Canadian credit cards and that appears to be the best way to change your money into Cuban currency.  You just have to make sure that you have enough of a credit balance on your Visa card to cover the purchase - otherwise you pay interest!! From what we have seen so far, this trip is going to be all that we imagined.  The people are friendly and helpful and the local ambiance is right up our alley.


Ron raises the Cuban flag at Marina Darsena







Local colour - Che Guevera - See you in Victory, Always





Judy, Mel and Mathew checking out the local gym - $10/month membership!




 Judy has a beer with the boys at a local bar on the beach


We find that our time here in Varadero is spent either working on the boat at the marina, or cycling around the area.  There are a few local bakeries that make excellent bread and other goodies, as well as many restaurants with reasonably priced meals. 

View from a local restaurant where we had lunch


The restaurant at the marina is very good and is very reasonably priced compared to a few places that we saw today. It also has a great bar with beer for 1 CUC peso.



Judy, Big Mel and Matthew at the marina bar

We are using two bikes that are on loan from other boaters who don't need them at the present.  It looks like we will have major problems buying bikes here.  The stores that sell them are few and far between and their stock is lacking (an understatement).  So it looks like we will be without them when we leave Varadero.  One of the gunboats moored near the marina decided that it was time to start up their engines the other day and make a trip out in the ocean (a patrol??).  After saturating the entire neighbourhood with foul smelling diesel fumes, they embarked, belching smoke and looking very forlorn.

Cuban gunboat heading out for patrol


We also found out that when we leave here we don't have to give a detailed itinerary - just our next port of call. The rules seem to be getting lax these days - all to the better!  Next week, Boxing Day in particular, we plan to rent a car with Eric and Maritza and spend a day in Havana.  Hopefully while we are there we can pick up some charts of the rest of Cuba so that we know where we are going when we leave here!

We have been enjoying the local produce and goods that can be purchased on the black market.  So far we have learned where we can get supplies of ham, eggs, cheese, lobster, wines, special meats, etc. The lobster is absolutely magnificent and very cheap.  Today one of our friends brought us several fresh Wahoo steaks (from the same family as swordfish). In our daily excursions out on our bikes we have seen many interesting sights.  The pictures below tell it all!


Judy performs her first haircut in Cuba - the victim, Mel, from Metal Magic




Butchering a pig at the Santa Marta market




Ron tries to escape with the pig's head!





Ron practices his "market" Spanish








Pineapples, anyone - 30 cents each!


Papayas for sale - very cheap - 7 cents lb.






Some of our market "treasures"




One of many restored cars from the 50's - converted to diesel!





Another "oldie"



Judy with her borrowed bike touring the confiscated homes of the past






Judy at Al Capone's Cuban home - now a restaurant run by the government


Ron takes a break on Al Capone's back patio



Judy enjoying the view from Al's back yard






Fishermen making their living off the sea



We can't believe that it is Christmas Eve already! 

Merry Christmas everyone!


Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners consisted of freshly caught Wahoo - and it was a grand meal!  Mel, from Metal Magic dropped by on Christmas Eve and we had enough to feed him as well! On Christmas Eve three more boats came into the marina - one from new Zealand and two from Canada (French Canadian boats).  The marina is still not even half full but it is a little more difficult to get privacy to shower skinny in the cockpit!  Every day we are cycling and discovering new things about the area. 

Judy on the breakwater at the Varadero entrance

On Christmas Day we cycled to the breakwater entrance to Varadero where a man and his sons were fishing.  Ron chattered away with him in Spanish and they showed us how to capture a pelican.  It was a rather cruel practice but very efficient.  You catch the pelican just like a fish, except you throw the line on land toward the pelican.  After "bringing in the bird", they trussed up its beak and wings and were planning to take it home.  We were not sure whether they were going to eat it or eventually let it go.

Father and sons with trophy pelican

 Afterwards we headed into Santa Marta for an ice cream cone at the local market.  The smallish cones cost 4 cents, the big ones cost 8 cents.  At that price we can have ice cream every day! 


Ron takes an ice cream break


Is it ever getting hot these days! The last two days the temperature has been in the high 80's and the wind has died back.  It is difficult to cycle for long in those conditions.  Even though the wind is strong most of the time, it has a very nice cooling effect.  We are looking forward to our trip to Havana and the coming New Year's party at Eric and Maritza's home.

Judy cycles past an old car in Santa Marta




Market Beer Wagon - any container - 16 cents!




Ron waits for another ice cream treat!





Now Ron is happy!!





Abandoned night club from the 60's





Judy on a curb trying to get a wireless signal





This car runs! It's a 50's era Buick with a very bare interior!!!





Fishing boats moored in a canal on the Varadero peninsula


There have been many interesting sights to see as we go out on our daily cycling tours.  Sometimes we buy fresh produce at the market (love those bananas and pineapples!), get an ice cream cone from one of our favourite places (5 cents and 10 cents each), have a beer in a nice shaded park, eat pizza we bought on the street, visit hotels to see if they have wireless internet (no luck so far), and just enjoy the sights. 

Judy checks out some roots!

Every day is different.  Most people are very friendly, the odd one is not......we pay the latter no attention. 


Interesting sign: "When a communist is born, a difficulty dies"


Ron inspects some local art



Some of the homes are run down but not many are dirt poor as many are in other parts of the country. Many homes are very lovely and kept immaculate.  We have not been to Havana yet, but are hoping to do so in the new year (car rentals are hard to find right now).




Judy tries to call home!





Onions for sale at the street market






A home of a well off Cuban in Santa Marta





Ron "in his element" getting close to local politics!



Happy New Year, January 2007, From Varadero, Cuba

Eric, one of the boaters we came over with, lives in a nearby town, Boca Camarioca.  Several of the boats in the marina were invited to a New Year's party at Eric and Maritza's.  The party lasted 12 hours - the longest we have ever whooped it up! They barbecued a pig hind, lobster tails and fish plus many other dishes.  It was just an absolutely great party!

Huge Pork Leg Roast done to perfection!


Before dinner, we toured the town and downed beer at the local store.  We met some very interesting local people, Eric's neighbours, and learned how to African dance from one of them.  Leading up to midnight and at the bewitching hour, we set off a collection of expired boat flares. Many were duds but some - like the parachute flares, were quite spectacular. Twelve hours later we returned home - exhausted and very full!

Eric and Maritza's Home




Stopping for a beer at the local store





A neighbour is preparing for New Year's 2008!



Exploring abandoned bunker tunnels in Boca







Party Fireworks ring in the New Year!




Dancing up a storm on New Year's!


Cubans really know how to ring in the New Year.  They start their party in the afternoon on New Year's Eve and continue it well into New Year's Day and the next.  Everywhere we looked, people were dancing and partying.  It was quite a contrast with Christmas, which was celebrated very quietly at home. There are not many churches that we have seen - people seem to make the expression of their religion a private thing.  I remember the home of the lady we get our eggs from - many religious pictures adorned the walls and yet we haven't seen a church in the town!

We have continued to work on the boat - Ron mostly doing the work, as electronics and the head are his baliwick. Judy has been working steadily on the navigation problems - finding charts of the south coast.  Apparently there was an explosion at the chart printer's factory and "no more charts"! So we have scrounged up some old charts and some electronic ones.  Those and Calder's cruising Guide have enabled us to plan an itinerary for sailing the south coast. The marina here had three chart kits, which we bought, and a neighbouring boat had two more that we are borrowing.  We need seven chart kits to circumnavigate - we are now in a position to circumnavigate if we wish.


Judy "The Navigator" hard at work!




During our passage to Cuba, we had some rough weather and one of our spreader lights came loose.  The other day, Judy got strapped into the bosun's chair and hauled up the mast.

Judy aloft!


She was easily able to reattach the light but unfortunately the plug inside the spreader came apart, so we will have to wait until we return to North Carolina, or Florida when we will get the cap stays and shrouds replaced - then we can get at the inside of the spreader.  We still have the use of one spreader light so we are not concerned. 




Ron keeps a watchful eye on the mast "clinger"



The big job before we leave here is to install two new transducers on the hull and then to run the wires up to the depth meter at the wheel.  We have identified several places for possible transducer placement.


View of Marina Darsena from Pioneer's spreaders

The marina we are staying at (Marina Darsena) is very nice and was quite beautiful with excellent facilities when it was built in the 50’s.  But now it is a little tired.  It needs some sprucing up, and some paint and a good electrician and plumber – all of which are not available.  The docks are excellent, and that is good.  There are very few boats here and most are foreign owned by tourists.  The few that are Cuban owned have been confiscated by the government and are neglected and left to sink. There is an excellent restaurant and bar in the marina.  We have water and electricity.  We had to test the electrical plug in’s to see if they worked, before we chose a slip, then we had to take plumbing parts from another part of the marina that isn’t being used to allow us to hook up to the water.  In its time, the marina plumbing and electric hook ups were state of the art.  However, now they have no one who knows how to fix problems when they happen and no parts to replace ones that are broken.  It is a common theme throughout the country.  The showers are not maintained at all and are common showers – men and women together.  Needless to say, the mould and mildew and cracked tiles, and lack of hot water are enough to discourage you from using them.  So, we shower on the dock (with bathing suits on) using our hose that has warm water in it from the sun beating on it all day.  We can also shower in our cockpit, after dark, without bathing suits.  We do that most often.

We are planning for a land trip to the interior of Cuba before we leave this marina.  We have not been able to set up a travel itinerary yet for that trip, but we will soon be working on it. Meanwhile we ride our bikes almost daily, visit our friendly market vendors and, of course, purchase those yummy ice cream cones from Georgio. 

Every time we go into Santa Marta we make connections for goods that aren't readily available.  We have now discovered two great sources of wine from Spain, another source for fish and shellfish (including lobster) and a source for barbecued pork legs.  Every outing is a learning experience.  Today, the treat in the market was grapefruits, the other day it was watermelons.  There is always something new to tempt the tastebuds!  Judy's favourite vegetable/fruit is fried plantain - every night it is included in the stir fry.  Ron is the chief cook - Judy lucked out there!  Ron loves preparing dinners, and they are delicious. Below are some market pictures of our favourite vendors.



Friend Georgio - Mr. Ice Cream Man!!!





Good looking men selling veggies - what a treat! (comment by Judy)




Good friend, Ramon





Mr. Bicycle Check Man! - 1 peso (5 cents) to check your bike at the market

The common currency used by the average Cubans in the markets, for transportation and in the peso stores is the Cuban Peso (also called moneda nacional).  One Cuban peso = 5 cents Canadian.  Tourists are not supposed to use the peso, but when you shop in the local markets and buy ice cream and pizza on the streets, the peso is accepted.

  So, you can imagine how cheaply we can live here.  Today, for example, we went to the open market, where there are local vendors in stalls that offer fruit, vegetables, and the occasional slaughtered pig for sale.  One special days, part of the market is out in the street and people are selling their produce out of the back of wagons (horse drawn) and old trucks.  These are the best days because produce in the street is cheaper than produce in the market.  In the street you buy right from the farmer.  In the market, you buy from the farmer’s agent (who takes a little slice of the pie), so the prices are a little higher.  For example, in the market a fresh pineapple costs 10 pesos (50 cents).  In the street market the price is 3 for 10 pesos (about 17 cents each).  Both sources are still very cheap and the quality is good.  Before we take the produce onto the boat, we scrub each piece with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water – to get rid of all the germs and bugs.  So far it works well because we have not gotten sick to this point. 


Judy cleaning the market produce before taking it onto Pioneer (bugs????)


There are many items that are not available in the markets and stores, that are available through the “underground market” with payment in convertible funds or CUC's (one CUC = $1.30 Canadian).  This includes items like, beef, ham, eggs, wine, cheese. It is mostly people like us who buy in this market.  The sellers are Cubans who have connections and who are able to siphon off the goods from the local tourist hotels.  The prices are in Cuban dollars CUC's, but still cheaper than we can buy the stuff in Canada.  Lobster and seafood are very popular items for us.  We have a connection who gets these from a fisherman.  Each lobster tail costs 2 CUC .  We bought 6 huge wahoo steaks (a type of fish similar to swordfish) for the equivalent of  $6.00 Canadian.  A huge block of Edam or Gouda cheese costs about $13.00 Canadian.  The latter is too big for us to eat so we split it with another boater, and our half will still last us for 3-4 weeks.  We bought 30 fresh oranges from a friend the other day for 1 CUC ($1.30 Canadian).  Fresh squeezed orange juice is cheaper than buying a litre (from concentrate) of orange juice in the store.  Wine costs $2.50 CUC per litre and vodka costs $3.00 CUC.  It is not hard to be a drinker here!  Ron enjoys the wine while Judy's drink of choice is vodka and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Besides the old cars that are everywhere – most with the old gasoline engines replaced with diesel engines – and the countless motor scooters and bikes, the Cubans ride on buses just for them – no tourists allowed – and in horse drawn wagons that go up and down the streets just like buses. 

In town transportation system, Cubans only - Santa Marta

There are no bus stops, they just flag the bus or cart down.  In Varadero they have fancy horse drawn buggies that the tourists use.  Tourists cannot use any type of transportation that is meant for Cubans and where payment for service is in the peso.  A ride on the horse drawn cart is one peso (5 cents).  Many horse drawn wagons and carts can be seen all over Santa Marta – many used just like a bicycle – to get from one place to another.

No Cuban can take a tourist, or non-Cuban, in their car with them.  There are patrols that watch for this and if you are caught transporting a non-Cuban, you will have your car confiscated.  There are special buses for the Cubans and the tourists - no mixing allowed!  A tourist must take a taxi if they want to get around.  The only transportation a tourist can take here is the tourist buses, a taxi, a rental car, a rental scooter, or a bicycle (we have chosen the latter for the time being).  Two other boats here in the marina had bikes that they were not using so we are borrowing them for the time that we are staying here in Varadero.  We have tried to buy bikes here but no luck so far.  Many people have them (although they are old bikes {from the 50’s again} that have been kept in good shape).  There are none in the stores – sports shops and department stores do not exist here.  They have a few small “tiendas” (shops) that sell a variety of items from clothes to groceries.  These are what they call dollar stores because everything is priced in the Cuban dollar (or C.U.C.).  Most items are far too expensive for the average Cuban, so only the richer Cubans and the tourists shop there.  The common currency used by the average Cubans in the markets, for transportation and in the peso stores is the Cuban Peso (also called monieda nacional). Tourists are not supposed to use the peso, but when you shop in the local markets and buy ice cream and pizza on the streets, the peso is accepted.

Very well kept old car - Santa Marta




Old car with pick-up truck conversion




Judy and Deb (s/v La Vida Dulce) share a beer


Debbie (pictured above, with Judy), has been very helpful and an inspiration for us.  She has been living here with her husband, on their boat, for six years.  She is a native Albertan!  Recently, her husband passed away, but that hasn't stopped Debbie's zest for life.  She is a constant source of insights into Cuban protocol, where/how to get good/cheap rum, coffee, fish, shellfish, eggs, various meats and just about anything you might need. Recently her sister, Connie, visited from Alberta.  Connie was as friendly as Debbie and we definitely enjoyed their company over a few happy hours.  Connie took some mail back to Canada for us so our mum's and family will soon be slogging through 6 page  letters that describe our life here in Cuba.  The mail here is so unreliable, we have stopped sending postcards as more Cuban experienced boaters tell us, they probably won't arrive.

Every day is a unique one here in Varadero.  Mel and Mathew came over for a visit the other day and we have dubbed them the "M and M Show" because they enjoy so much nattering at each other.  We managed to capture Matthew getting the best of Mel during their visit. 


The "M and M Show"


People will stake their horses and goats just about anywhere where there is green grass to eat: in public parks, beside the roadways, at the dump.  The horse drawn cart owners use part of a runway at a nearby abandoned airport to tether their horses and deposit the dung that they collect in sacks under the horses tails.  Better there than in the streets, I guess. If a tourist were to see the airport sign across from our marina, they would think it is an active airport, not so! Most of the airport runway is fenced off and an armed guard patrols daily.  One more way to keep the Cubans at home. 

Ron inspects the airport that belongs to the sign that Judy points out





The part of the airport runway not fenced off is used as above for horse dung deposits, buggy "joy rides" and even a go kart track.  We have only seen the track used once in the month that we have been here.


Judy rides amongst the dung piles on the side of the runway






Rarely used go-kart track at the end of the runway!




Back road route to the Santa Marta market




Judy has her first repeat customer - Mel




How many male cruisers does it take to fix a Honda generator?




Laima - an Ottawa boat in Varadero





Rick and Beni - aboard Laima




Judy catches a minute to rest before the big departure


And so it is now the beginning of February and we are about to catch a weather window to Havana.  Carole and Marc aboard Balladin are 1 day ahead of us going to Havana.  Rick and Beni, aboard Laima, are leaving the same day as we are but heading east along the north coast and over to the Far Bahamas on their way to Martinique, where they will leave their boat for the summer months. We will miss all of our friends in Varadero but it is time for Pioneer to move on and explore new horizons.

February in Havana and Points West/South


We left Varadero on February 1st at 6:00pm for an overnight sail to Havana.  We are required to clear out of and into every port in Cuba.  At approximately 5:30 pm. we had to go and get the Coast Guard because they were waiting for their dog (drug sniffer) that had failed to show up on time.  So the Guarda Frontera (Coast Guard) rep checked us quickly while he drank some of our offered beer and sent us on our way.  We were so quick with the checkout that all of our friends who were staying behind had to run to the end of the dock to wave goodbye as we motored out of the harbour. That was the fastest clearance we will probably ever experience!

Heading out the Paso Malo at sunset on our way to Havana

The trip to Havana was peaceful.  The moon was full and lit our way for the entire trip.  Seeing the skyline of Havana was quite amazing.  The sun was rising just as we were passing by; unfortunately the smog was clearly visible and not very inviting. 

The Havana skyline at dawn

The sun rising over the Cuban coastline, outskirts of Havana

Our destination was Marina Hemingway - near Santa Fe - about 6 miles west of Havana.  The entrance to Marina Hemingway is a narrow channel between the reefs and it is very tricky in bad seas.  As anticipated according to forecasts, the water wasn't rough and the swells came from the right direction - south.  We stopped at the Guarda Frontera dock and went through a lengthy clearance process with coast guard, customs and immigration, rather involved considering that we were already checked into the country. They  inventoried and confiscated all of our flares, which will be returned to us on our departure from this port.  They also sealed up our two portable GPS units, leaving them with us, but we are not to access them until we leave. They are concerned that GPS equipment may get into the hands of a Cuban, enabling locals to plan and undertake a sea escape to Florida. The search, "sniffer" dogs came aboard this time - on the deck only, but left muddy paw prints over everything. After about two hours we were sent on to our berthing spot in canal #1 - right behind Marc and Carole on Balladin.

Canal #3 at Marina Hemingway


Canal #2 at Marina Hemingway

That day we just took it easy as, during the passage, we had not gotten much sleep.  A little bit of reading, some shut-eye, putting the boat back in order after the Guarda had probed into all corners, and putting the sail covers on.  The biggest treat of the day was taking a hot shower in their clean facilities that are close to our boat. That night we went to the yacht club for a fish barbecue - excellent!  The next day it was off to the small market in Jaimanita for limes, pineapple, garlic and fresh squeezed orange juice.  It is a little more expensive than Varadero, slight when the conversion is made to Canadian dollars. 

Small open market in Jaimanitas

In February the mangos will come into season and that will be very exciting and tasty!  We met with a contact in town who can get us some foodstuffs like we got in Varadero - ones that are not available in the stores. Fortunately we had stocked up well before we left, so we didn't need anything just then.

Small fishing boat canal near Hemingway Marina


Young Cuban girl and old car being restored









A step up from the horse carts in Varadero




Birthday cake anyone?






Love those old cars!





More cars to enjoy!


Prisoner heroes being held indefinitely in the U.S., presumably Cuban spies




"Your Example Lives

Your Ideas Endure"

Che is like a God to the Cuban people



The "dog days" of winter in Cuba

So far, during our stay at Hemingway, the weather has either been hot and still or wet and very windy.  Right now there is a stationary cold front close to us so we have had light rain and heavy winds all day.  In talking with our friends in the Bahamas on the SSB, we have learned that they are facing the same strong winds, but no precipitation. Last night, we went to the local disco here in the marina, with Carole and Marc from Balladin. There was a Cuban band playing American music from the 60's and 70's - they were great!  We learned how to line dance, Cuban style, and got a chance to see Cuban women doing their thing out on the dance floor.  We were amazed that hips could do such gyrations.  Their actions on the dance floor left little to the imagination and were a level up from the movie "Dirty Dancing". 

Judy outside Marina Hemingway

The showers here are a treat - clean, lots of hot water and close to the boat. They also have a swimming pool here associated with a conference centre.  We can use the pool as long as there isn't a conference happening - which we think is most of the time! There is also a woman, named Judy, who does the laundry.  Today we had a load washed and dried by her - another treat!

We have run down a lead on wireless internet at a hotel about 7 miles away. Hopefully that means that this week we will be able to publish.  Please check out a new category we have added - Ron's Ruminations - this is a "Ron Only" page.  Judy hasn't even read it!  Maybe after we publish, Judy will be allowed a peek!

When the weather cleared, we took the opportunity to visit the old part of Havana with Marc and Carole.  We went in by car with a Cuban driver and came back the same way. 


Cuban fisherman working on his boat in Old Havana


The city is one of the oldest (over 500 years) that we have seen on this side of the Atlantic ocean and the architecture is breathtaking.  Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is in a process of renovation.  Many buildings look like they are ready to fall down, others are surrounded by scaffolding waiting for the masons to give them a face lift while some look quite beautiful in their restored state. 

Cannons and cannonballs used to block off traffic on some streets

It was a school holiday during our visit so we had to line up with all the young kids to get our ice cream fix.  We walked for several miles to find Chinatown so Ron and Marc could get their Chinese food fix.  The food wasn't too bad and we haven't gotten sick yet from it! 

Cuban "ghost lady" with the biggest cigar we have seen!

We also located "El Navigante" (The Navigator") the store that sells Cuban nautical charts.  So far no luck in tracking down the elusive Chart's Kit #2, the only one missing to complete our set of all nine Cuban chart groupings. Ricardo, the manager said to call him in a few days - that maybe he could find us one.  We will go back to Havana for another day of touring with a better plan for where we want to go.  We took 175 pictures during this first visit.  We tried to pick out the best to give a feel for the atmosphere in the city.

Some glimpses of the architecture in its various stages of restoration:

Port terminal building









Old church




Ceramic urns adorn a roof on a newly renovated building



Renovated bell tower amid weathered buildings







Renovated Apartments





Old building in need of renovation









Capitol building




Narrow streets!







A side street in Old Havana








Classic buildings with ornate cement work






Renovated building





Renovation in progress





The finished product!







The Hotel Sevilla


Among the sights that we enjoyed were the old cars and the people.  There seemed to be more old cars in Varadero than here in Havana.  We even got a chance to ride in one from Havana back to the marina.  The glimpses of children playing in the streets and adults on their balconies, looking down at the crowds, was also quite interesting.



A street band with dancers on stilts




Marc and Ron enjoy the antics of a street vendor






Ron chats with students on a school tour









Little girls at play


Flower vendor in the old city




Wash day for this apartment dweller








Old Chevy Bel Air









Ron's favourite!



Neat little "Cuba Cars"


Of interest to us during our quick day tour were some of the museums, the art on display, statues, the old water system and the use for old cannonballs.



Bowling anyone?



One of many statues









Ron admires some street art



Art created using sand









This iron work of two on a bicycle contained bird's nests in the heads!






This is a ceramic wonder!





Ron checks out the old water ducts that lie under the city



A copper monk invites you into this hotel







Old plane at the Museo de la Revolucion






Tanks, missiles and airplane remnants at the Museo





Old truck at the Museo

What more fitting conclusion to this section than a shot of the recent news headlines in the local paper.  Guess we may not be here for the funeral after all......



The primary Cuban newspaper, Granma, is published in four languages. 

There is a great move afoot to keep the people and the world convinced that Fidel is well and still in some degree of control.  The people love and respect Fidel such that apparently no change would occur during his reign and possibly neither soon nor significantly after his passing.

On Feb 15th, we left Havana and Marina Hemingway for points west.  We left in company with another Canadian boat, Balladin, from Montreal. The checking out process was quite lengthy (about 2 hours).  It is amazing how the Cuban system makes work for its people.  Most of those that we see during arrival or clearance are quite friendly but they are completely inefficient in what they do - hand writing out everything and repeatedly entering the same information. 


Russian Ferro-Cement homebuilt job





Cake Cart - Jaimanitas






Classic Car in Jaimanitas



Every Cuban is a mechanic!



Cuban dog in Jaimanitas - we share our ice cream!







205 foot long Money Pit!





Leaving Hemingway with Balladin




Pioneer heads out the reef channel - Hemingway






Sunset as we head to Cayo Levisa



Time to manage our garbage !






White Star at Cayo Levisa




Cuban coastline at Cayo Levisa





 At every port so far they have managed to monitor our stay by withholding (until our departure) something that we need.  In Varadero it was the initial cruising permit, in Hemingway it was our flares, and in Cayo Levisa, it was our cruising permit (they told us they would give it back to us when we leave, which they did!).We sailed overnight from Hemingway with a planned noon arrival in Cayo Levisa.  The first part of the trip was a vigorous sail close hauled then a leisurely sail in light winds, also close hauled. After midnight the winds switched to the north, the wind picked up to 25 to 35 kts. and the seas increased to 10 feet.  We were sailing faster than Balladin (about 3 miles ahead) and lost contact with them at about 3 am.  We continued on to our destination trying to contact Balladin.  As we were entering the reef passage to Cayo Levisa we managed to hear from them.  Their boat was smaller than ours and was tossed around more by the high seas and 40 knot gusts so they had to stop early.  They anchored at Cayo Paraiso for the night and caught up with us the next day.

Marc and Carol from Balladin come to taxi us ashore!


Once we passed onto the reef the seas dampened considerably but it was raining and cold.  We were glad to get our anchor set and start the drying out process.  The Guarda Frontera came out to see us and were quite friendly and helpful. 


Wet buns arrive at the Cayo Levisa boardwalk!


Beauty in the sand - Cayo Levisa


Cayo Levisa is a resort island for tourists and has a beautiful beach.  We spent one afternoon touring the resort and picking up coconuts for their tasty meat.  Our diet has been mostly fish, shellfish, veggies, fruit and now coconut. It is great to be at anchor once again.  The marinas have been OK and compulsory but the anchorages are so much more comfortable!


Hotel Levisa - a Cuban paradise!



Beach at Cayo Levisa






Carol, Marc and Judy on the Levisa pier


Pioneer anchored at Cayo Levisa






Raynald and son, Vincente, from Cattamie





Tourist dock at Cayo Levisa









Ron feeds Pioneer!



The following are sunset and sunrise shots as we worked our way west along the north west coast of Cuba, heading for the infamous CAPES! These shots were taken at Cayo Levisa, Cayo Rapado Grande and in the Canal de Los Barcos at the Cayos de Los Lena.

































The anchorages on the reef along the north west Cuban coast were very quiet and secluded.  It wasn't until we got to the Cayos de Los Lenas that we became the first in a collection of four Canadian boasts waiting to round the Capes.  We knew them all, so we hosted all for happy hour!  Unfortunately, the bugs thought it was happy hour as well!  It was a good thing that we were on our way the next morning - Judy lost count of the numerous welts all over Ron just from raising the anchor!

Typical Cuban style buoy - entrance to Ensenada de Juan Lopez


Judy tackles a coconut and wins - yummy!










Cattamie and Balladin join us at the Cayos de Los Lena



Happy hour treats on Pioneer




Rounding the capes at the north-west corner of Cuba can be a real test - and this trip was not disappointing! The voyage around Cape #1, Cabo San Antonio, was the worst.  We had expected rough conditions - no surprise there! It felt like we were in a washing machine.

Cattamie at Cabo San Antonio


The forecast was for south winds at 10 knots and if that was what we had faced, it would have been a piece of cake.  The winds were in reality ESE at 15-20 kts, gusting to 25.  At about 4 p.m. we reached the second Cape, Cabo Corrientes.  We decided to stop in that area at Maria La Gorda and anchor for a few hours to see if the seas would calm down.  They did, a little, so at 7:30 p.m. we left for the Bahia de Siguanea at the Isla de Juventude, while Cattamie and Balladine aimed for the Cayos de San Felipe.

Judy at the helm as we round the capes


It was a night of sailing very close to the wind and our auto pilot started to act up, so we also had to steer the entire trip - very tiring! We sailed most of the next day arriving at Marina Siguanea about 4:00 pm. 




The Guarda Frontera from Marina Siguanea speed past us -off to some emergency!


As we write this section, we are still anchored in the bay near the entrance to the marina, as our draft is much too shallow for the shallow marina entrance.  It has given us an opportunity to fuel up, fill our water tanks and even get a ride into the capitol of Isla de Juventud,  Neuva Gerona, where we bought ample supplies of vegetables and some fruit.


Local fishermen dropping their traps near us at Bahia de Siguanea


After we set our anchor and had the compulsory clearance visit by immigration and the Guarda Frontera, we set about restoring Pioneer to some semblance of order.  The trip had been rough and we managed to get some salt water backing up in the sink when we were on an extreme portside heel. 

Judy de-salting the food storage cupboard


We will avoid that from now on because some water got into our food storage area, but since all our containers were watertight, no food was damaged.  But it did mean cleaning out one cupboard with fresh water and soap (it needed it anyway!).  Judy had to go through many contortions to get to the bottom of the cupboard and remove all the salt water residue. 

The next day we visited the marina and made arrangements to get fuel and water.  All had to be brought to the boat in Scout using our gerry cans - but that is not so bad as it allowed us to run the fuel through our filter here on the boat as it went into our tank.  We have been watching our fuel consumption carefully and managing it pretty well.  We are now consuming 1/2 a gallon per hour while running at between 4-5 kts.  We are trying to sail most of the time, but coming around the capes, the idea was to get around quickly while the getting was good.

Since leaving Marathon, Scout has been rolled up and secured on our foredeck.  Now we were safely out of turbulent water so it was time to launch.. Check out the launch formalities!


Ron unties Scout from Pioneer's bow



Pumping up Scout - great exercise for the legs!









Judy at the official launch!









Ron shuttles fuel and water from marina Siguanea to Pioneer - it got a little wavy and Ron got more than a little wet!


The Marina Siguanea is by far one of the most run down marinas we have experienced, but, on the other hand, the people are the most friendly and helpful ones so far and that is a great compliment to them. 



Hurricane damage at Marina Siguanea


The hurricanes in the late 90's have left their mark here and the Guarda Frontera even has a guard tower from which to survey the surrounding area.  No chance to sneak into Bahia San Pedro under their watchful eye!  The Hotel Colony, close by, appears to be a dive resort with clients coming daily to Marina Siguanea to take the dive boat out for the day.

Visitors dock at Marina Siguanea





Guard tower and military boat at Marina Siguanea


Ron negotiates a ride into town with one of the mechanics







The dive boat comes into the marina at the end of the day






Isla De La Juventud and Points South

The Isla De a Juventud (Isle of Youth) is an agrarian island with grazing cattle, citrus, banana and coconut groves and many vegetable plots.  Unfortunately it was not citrus season and many vegetables were out of season.  However, in Nueva Gerona (the capitol of the island) we did manage to load up on the basics, green peppers, onions, carrots, bananas, plantain, radishes and tomatoes.  In total we spent about 3 dollars to renew our fresh produce supply.

Chatting at the beauticians!


Relaxing in the streets!






The visit by land also gave us an opportunity to scout out the docking situation and begin to make arrangements to dock there on the weekend. We had managed to get a ride into Nuevo Gerona with one of the mechanics at the marina.  The trip is about 47 km. one way. While in the city, besides shopping for fresh produce, eggs, etc. we met a very nice Cuban lady who showed us where the bakery and the Cadeca (money changers) were.  Then we met an Italian fellow and a Cuban street vendor who were most helpful in helping us get to know the city.  The street vendor made the best sandwiches!!  Once in the agromercado (produce market) Ron began to have fun with the vendors and there were laughs all around. The main street has many entrepreneurs working for extra cash. 

Curly fries with sugar - YUM!

Most interesting are the women who paint your nails.  Hopefully they also do toenails!  Checkers is the game for the men and everyone partakes of the ice cream stands (Yummy!) and curly potato fries coated in sugar.  It actually tastes delicious!

  Ice cream for all ages!







I like chocolate the best!


In order to dock at the visitors dock at Nueva Gerona, you have to call in 1 day ahead of time from the marina.  Hopefully this will work out for us.  There were 2 boats at the dock when we went into town and they usually only take 2-3 boats.

We have arrived in Nueva Gerona, with Pioneer, and all was well to tie up to the commercial dock.  At this dock they have the fast ferries that cross over to the mainland as well as a few tugs and room for 3-4 cruising boats.  Our second day here, we were joined by Balladin and Cattamie - all of us seeking shelter from the coming cold front.  It was a good thing that we came here because the cold front was very severe over Cuba. Even on the narrow river, the wind whipped up and bounced us around a little.  The dock was very high and made of cement with large truck tires along the cement wall.  We had to secure our fenders so that they stayed between our hull and the tires.  At low tide, our freeboard and toe rail were below the bottom of the dock, but the fenders managed to keep us from slipping under.  There are many fishing boats tied up at this end of the river and several going in and out.  These boats were larger and obviously commercial fishing boats.  We bought two large red snappers on the street from a "friend of a fisherman" and they were absolutely delicious!.  We split the fish with the other two Canadian boats and still had four meals out of it.


Jose Marti and one of his many dogs!

Today will be our last day in Neuva Gerona - we will be moving on to the Cayos for some R and R from city life. On our trip around the capes, our auto pilot stopped working.  On investigating the problem, thinking that it may be a mechanical one, we discovered that indeed it was.  The aluminium arm that connects the auto pilot to the wheel cable had broken - result, we needed a welder who works with aluminium.  After a few inquiries, we ended up at a boatyard that was able to help us.  They did the weld while we waited and it was an excellent job.  It slipped right back into place when we got back to Pioneer.

Judy, Marc and Carol wait for the ferry passengers to debark before going to our boats

Now we just seem to have one problem that remains - the washdown pump.  It has seized up again.  This is our second pump and both pumps seem to get filled with salt water and rust.  Not a great design.  At least we know how to fix it but it means taking it all apart, cleaning it and reassembling it.  We will do that at our leisure over the next week.   Meanwhile, some more pictures of life in Nueva Gerona!

Carts line the street waiting for the ferry passengers






Another "good old car"!




The boat where Fidel was held prisoner







Ron buying his curly sugar fries


Main street in Nueva Gerona








Barber Shop- Nueva Gerona Style







Making Booths for Carnival at Nueva Gerona




Carnival decorations on every light pole









Ron hunts for a gas station! - note the can tied to his backpack....








Dock wall at Nueva Gerona



Cattamie heads out with the ferry from Nueva Gerona










Balladin heads off down the river






Ron spies on the Socialist Party Headquarters!!!





Cactus tree adorns the side of this house




School kids on their lunch break






Pop delivery in Nueva Gerona

Common transportation in Cuba









Boatyard where Pioneer's auto helm bracket got welded







Fishing boat on the river near Nueva Gerona

It was great to see Nueva Gerona and meet so many friendly and interesting local people, but it was also good to be on our way again to Cayo Largo.  The plan was to take three sailing days and any number of rest days at anchor to get to Cayo Largo. We had three stops along the way - Cayo El Navio, Cayo Campos and Cayo Rosario.  The first stop was reasonably well protected from the prevailing North East winds but the last two were not and the evening and morning breezes that seem to come up at sunset made our anchorages quite active.  As a result, we decided not to stay more than the one night, preferring to be on the move than enduring the rocking and rolling of Pioneer at anchor.  So now we are at Cayo Largo.  This area is a far more  protected spot for anchoring than we have experienced so far.  However, those night breezes still whip through the area.  We have opted to stay at the marina here for a few days to equalize our batteries while we are on shore power.  We will also feel better about leaving Pioneer to explore the island and buy fresh produce.  Our supplies that we got in Nuevo Gerona have run out! During our trip to Cayo Largo, we took many pictures of the beautiful sunsets.  Check them out!



Sunset at Cayo Campos







Sunset at Cayo El Navio



More at El Navio







Pioneer at Marina PuertoSol - Cayo Largo








Ron's fine feathered friend at Cayo Largo







Ron replaces the engine belts at Cayo Rosario


As it turned out, we ended up spending 11 days at the marina at Cayo Largo.  We met many international sailors there - from Holland, Belgium, France, Australia, Austria and Germany.  That is the way it is in Cuba - many nationalities visiting the "big island".  Sarah Grace was from Bristol, England. She and her crew (Chris, Sophie, Otti and Mimi) had sailed here across the Atlantic and were starting to plan their trip back.  They seemed to love their two year adventure.  Otti invited us over for tea one afternoon and baked a delicious cake - quite a treat! A group of Austrians, from Vienna, were great fun to be with and even baked us some olive bread - yumm!!! We spent some enjoyable hours with Cecile and Michel from Corto II (Canadians living in Guatemala).  Michel was quite the spear fisherman.  He came in from an afternoon of fishing with 6 huge lobster and a hog fish which he presented to us - delicious! Barrie and Chris on Apsara were the first Aussies we have met sailing.  They had already crossed the Atlantic and were setting their sights on crossing the Pacific to get home to Australia. 

Scenes and Friends at Cayo Largo:



Sarah Grace and her crew!









Otti and Mimi enjoy our dragons










Barrie (on Apsara) and Sophie (from Sarah Grace)









Cecile and Michel (Canadians) on Corto - heading back to Guatemala




Geert and crew on Sea Scout (Holland)





Pharmacy on Cayo Largo







Admiring the vegetation!








Jose Marti is Everywhere!


Cannon keeping the borders safe!









Great new friends from Vienna, Austria


The best dockmaster in Cuba!






Everyone is fishing for dinner!





Ron gets a crown reseated from this Cuban dentist! - cost $25





Beautiful birds abound in the mangroves




Mangrove swamps








Walking the backstreets at Cayo Largo


He's everywhere - He's everywhere!









Local graffiti???




Judy cleans a Hogfish - Thanks, Dad, your filleting knife worked well!





The Bonita came next!




Judy's pet waits for dinner!







Do you think he can swallow that fish head???



Coconut milk, anyone?


Sailing from Cayo Largo to around the north West capes


On March 21st we got our international despatcho (clearance from the country) and headed out beyond the reef for the beginning of our long journey home. The first two days were spent getting to the north west capes and getting around them.  With the wind on our stern quarter we ended up having a relaxing sail almost the entire way. 

This is Judy's bed during all offshore passages!



The Capes on a perfect sailing night!







Ron enjoys a fish snack that we picked up on this route around the Capes


The last 8 miles was a bit of a challenge as we rounded the last cape and the wind and current were on our nose.  We made it to our familiar anchorage in the Cayos de la Lena, the Canal de los Barcos.  And there we waited at anchor until our trusty weather guru, Chris Parker, told us we had winds that could get us back to Florida. 





While in the Canal de Los Barcos, we kept ourselves busy and yet tried to relax and get some rest before the long voyage to Florida.


Ron cleans Pioneer's hull - hoping for an extra knot of speed!


Typical evening in the Canal at anchor








Ron takes a (skinny) dip to cool off!


Judy devours many a novel while waiting for the weather







Dr. Pedicure prepares to operate!






From March 23 to 31, we waited and finally got the go to make the plunge.  The sail back was challenging and rewarding at the same time.  Pioneer is a strong, heavy boat and she handled the wind against wave situation we were in very well.  We sailed the entire trip - all 65 hours of it - heeled over in a typical close hauled sailing angle. 

Sunset in the Straits of Florida



From Saturday night to Tuesday night we lived, ate, sailed, slept and kept watch on an angle.  When we finally got to Key West, we looked like drunken sailors when we tried to walk on a level surface!

Judy at the helm in the Gulf Stream



Freighter dodging in the Straits of Florida - here a tack, there a tack, everywhere a tack, tack!





Our sailing adventure from Cuba to Key West took 68 hours (lots of tacking!), but we needed to head out when the winds were brisk, even though the direction was not the best.  We had some concerns about an oil leak on Pioneer's engine and we wanted to make it to Key West without using the engine - which is exactly what we did.  While in Key West we are staying at King's Point Marina to have some work done on Pioneer's engine before we head back to North Carolina.  This marina is well situated with all the right people to help us out.  Besides, it is great fun here in Key West.  We have even rented a scooter to get around, do our shopping and sightsee. 

Ron on our "Harley" in Key West









Pioneer gets a new flag - FINALLY!



Souvenirs of Cuba!


The customs clearance was interesting. We found out that because of the US embargo on Cuba and Homeland Security rules, we should not have sailed directly between the two countries.  Next time we will have to jog over to Mexico or the Bahamas before we head back! The customs people were most helpful and accommodating - that made the process fairly simple.

While we wait to complete our work on Pioneer, we shall thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere of Key West.  It is like a souped up version of SaltSpring Island here.  Lots of hippies, lots of tourists, lots of interesting places to see.  The only negative is, of course, the cost.  It is expensive here when you are used to spending 10 cents for a grapefruit and $1.50 for a huge lobster tail! Hopefully, we will be on our way by the end of April with all our boat work done.  This marina is a great place to get many different jobs done.  We have done some specialized work as well as much of the yearly scheduled work here as opposed to in NC.  Pioneer should be back on the water highway within a week. As things turned out we stayed here for the entire month of April and a few days into May.  Oh for the life of a sailor, when plans are set in warm jello!

May turned out to be our month of covering the nautical miles!  On May 9th in the afternoon we set out from Key West with any number of destinations in mind.  We planned to go as far as the Gulf Stream and the weather would take us. 

Cruising at dusk in the Gulf Stream






One of several "feathered" hitch hikers that kept us company on our journey





These birds seemed to enjoy the ride and were very bold


One of the birds that traveled along with us could only be classed as a "stowaway"  because it flew down into the cabin and even explored our forward berth before it happily flew back out into the cockpit.



Looks like a fighter jet ready for takeoff!







The "stowaway"  attempts to winch in the sail, but alas, we are under power!





Yellow Bird meets our SSI dragons!





Judy relaxes at the helm - love that auto pilot!



Since sub-tropical storm Andrea was out there causing problems, we had to go into port at Fort Pierce, Florida, instead of Charleston, South Carolina.  In order to make good travelling progress, we took the waterway up to Fernandina Beach, Florida. 



Interesting sights on the waterway





By the time we reached Fernandina, the storm had fizzled out and we managed to catch up with sailing friends from last year - Sally and Conrad on "It's About Time".  While on the waterway we had met up with Nathan, the new owner of "St.Jude" and so when we left Fernandina for Charleston we were a three boat convoy! 





On the mooring balls with "Its About Time" at Fernandina




Sailing into Charleston with "non-paying" passenger





Dusk in Charleston Harbour




St. Jude left us in Charleston and continued up the waterway while Pioneer and Its About Time waited a few days for another weather window to Beaufort, North Carolina.  While in Charleston we explored the old city, and met with cruising friends at the Charleston Crab House.  It was a welcome break after our busy travelling schedule.


Bill and Sue (s/v Nice and Easy) at the Crab House







A table full of cruisers at the Crab House



Conrad (s/v Its About Time) celebrates his 56th birthday with a very "healthy gift!



Watching x-rated movies???









A view of "David and Goliath" as we exit Charleston Harbour






The Charleston to Beaufort leg of our journey was the best for sailing and we even managed several hours of "wing on wing" in 12 to 18 knots of wind on the stern.  We arrived at Beaufort at first light and headed up the waterway to our home marina at Minnesott Beach.  It's About Time came into the marina with us and we had several days with them before they headed north to Baltimore.


Its About Time follows us into Wayfarers Cove



Spending time with NC friends, Perry and Susan (s/v Grace - also a CR38)









Ron downs his last bottle of NC High Gravity beer


Enjoying an evening with friends, old and new, at the Tiki Bar in Oriental





So far we have been here for five days and we haven't even had time to clean the salt off Pioneer. We have been visiting with many cruising friends instead of getting down to work - but that is very OK because the best part of cruising is the friends that you make!  Friends always take priority over work! 


Relaxing at Tom's cottage - Judy, Sue (Nice and Easy), Charlie (La Coquette), Cindy (Johesa) and Lynda (from New Bern)


Tom and Kathy serve up the pork tenderloin









Charlie (La Coquette) and Bill (Johesa) relax at the barbeque





Finally we meet up with Carl and Debbie (s/v Diva) in Oriental as they head north to get out of the summer heat in Florida




We plan to head off to Canada in the second week of June for some time with family and friends there.  Meanwhile we are cleaning up Pioneer, getting the salt off, cleaning out some unnecessary items and dropping them off at a storage locker in Arapahoe.  It is amazing how much salt and sand you accumulate on a boat after cruising for six months!


Home | Our Boat-Buying Trip | About Pioneer | Our Sailing Dream | Preparing to Sail | Preparing to Cruise | '05-'06 Bahamas | Off Season '06 | '06-'07 Cuba | Off Season '07 | '07-'08 Bahamas | Off Season '08 | To Cuba '08 | In Cuba '08-'09 | Cuba to Minnesott '09 | Off Season '09 | NW Caribbean 2010 | NW Caribbean 2011 | Ron's Ruminations | Judy's Jubilations

This website is for the enjoyment of family, friends and fellow sailors.  The authors can be contacted at harhender@totallyfloats.com