Day 3 - Tactics

Position: N 28° 00,7' W 079° 39,0' UTC 1700

Nautical miles left: 2604

Total nautical miles: 2922

Our original plan was to sail through the Bahamas which is the closest way to the Azores. But, yesterday we downloaded a big grib-file for the coming 7 days, and it showed that if we did as planned we would end up in weak winds most of the time or with headwind, forcing us to use the engine. The other option was to continue north with the Gulfstream and go above Bahamas and then east, the question was how much longer would that be. In the end the difference wasn't huge, around 45 nm more. When considering the fact that the Gulfstream adds almost 4 knots to our speed the decision wasn't hard to make, beating to windward or go with the flow, since we are long distance sailors we chose the easy way north, of course. So after less than 24 hours we are at the point where it's time to turn east, from now on we head directly towards Horta on Faial, the Azores. The total distance has therefore changed and to further ad to the confusion Sofia mixed up the numbers in her last post, before we had 2876 nm in total and after the route change we have 2922 nm. So far the 24-hour distances have been great, but we will soon leave the Gulfstream and be on our own again. Now it really feels like we are on our way, I like it! Let's see what kind of weather the coming days will bring us, it doesn't look like this crossing will be as easy as the last one but hopefully we won't have to tack too much. / The Captain

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Second Day

So now we are off! I can hardly believe that it's time for crossing the Atlantic. I really have to tell myself that this is it, now I won't stand on solid ground for a long time, otherwise it just feels like a normal crossing and nothing more to it than that. Although there are some small indicators of the difference onboard Cantare. We have loaded the boat with a lot of vegetables and fruits! Before Cuba all the fruits and vegetables were very expensive so when we had the opportunity to buy some more price worthy stuff on Cuba we took the chance. And the boat is very well packed right now. Little Volare is nicely stewed under the table in our saloon and in the fore cabin's portside bed we have stacked a hole lot of things. This means that we have only 3 beds available for 4 persons. One in the fore cabin and two in the saloon. But that is actually no problem since one of us needs to be on watch in the cockpit. We now have 3 hours watches 2 times a day. Mine is the best one: 6-9! But after half the crossing we will change and I will get the worst one: 3-6. Well well, Maria who has that watch now says it isn't to bad. You just need some time to get used to it and then you adapt yourself to getting up at 3 a clock in the morning. The big problem now is probably what are we going to do with all our time off?! What am I going to do onboard Cantare for 30 days? I have started slowly with just reading books, sleeping, doing some workout, thinking about life and working on my tan. It's working out fine… and it's just 29 days left to go now!

/Catrine

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Bye bye Caribbean!

Position: N 23° 36,955´ W 81° 04, 240´ 2200 UTC

6.20am this morning the coast guard woke us up, they were supposed to come at 7.00am to collect our visas and give us permission to leave Cuba. However, the sooner the better, since we wanted to leave as soon as possible. Emelie was signed on the boat and the clearing out procedure went really smooth. After some last preparations we could finally, at 8.15am, leave Cuba to hit big ocean again. So far we haven't been fortunate with the wind though, it is north-north-easterly, head to wind. Despite Emelie and I tried all our trimming tricks this morning, the wind is too weak to sail, we were doing 1,5-2 knots. But we knew it could be light winds and we had to get going today in order to escape a low coming in a couple of days from now, so now the engine is running, we got the main up and are doing pretty ok speed in the sunset, we are on our way! However, I can't say it feels like we are going to cross the Atlantic Ocean again. The take off this morning was very chill and as far away from the hyped and totally stressed out preparations and start in Las Palmas you can get. It rather felt like we took off for the next Caribbean island. Because now we only spent two days preparing, Monday and Tuesday. We were very efficient, worked hard and got fantastic help from our lovely boat neighbors in the marina. As you might sensed or maybe experienced yourself, it is not easy to find provision in Cuba, some things can only be found on the black market only or not found at all. Thanks to our neighbors we could for instance get propane for cooking from a black market source, something that would have been impossible otherwise. We got help from a very friendly sailor with a motorcycle to provision. He and I drove around trying to find supplies and I trying my best not to fall of the motorcycle, injuries weren't an option before crossing, but wow, it is so much fun riding a bike! And as you all now I am so glad to be insured by the insurance company Europeiska when out on adventurous missions like that. To give you a little hint of how it works here around, at the first potential propane place we couldn't get any propane because the seller was in prison for selling propane.. Egg is another thing that is hard to find, but we managed to get 40 eggs! To put it in a context, the ration of eggs for Cubans is 5 eggs a month, if you can't get eggs from the black market that is… Once again, a BIG THANKS to everyone who helped us get ready for the crossing, you are amazing!

Now we have 2786 nautical miles a head of us, so expect to hear a lot more from us than you have done recently. And thanks for all the good luck wishes we have gotten on the satellite phone, so much fun to read! /First Mate Sofia

 

 

 

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Getting ready for the North Atlantic


We are leaving soon, tomorrow it is time to start our second Atlantic crossing, the one that will take us back to Europe. There will be new updates every day on the blog, please send us comments to our sattelitephone, we will need entertainment during the coming 3000 nautical miles! La Capitan



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A Small Greeting from Havana

I'm sorry we haven't been able to update our blog recently, but as I think you all know we are in Cuba, a country where internet only exists at some hotels. At the moment I'm sitting at one of those luxurious hotels in the middle of Havana city, and just paid a small fortune to get an hour internet to be able to do my tax declaration… I will also take the opportunity to let you know that we are all fine and have had a wonderful time in Cuba, the country out of the ordinary, together with the Norwegian boats Escape and El Mar! Not only has Havana been our destination, we have also visited Viñjales, a small little town in a beautiful valley in the western part of Cuba. The days here in Havana are spent city sightseeing and during the days in Viñjales we explored the stunning nature from the horseback and danced salsa and enjoyed Cuban music at night. As you might realize there is so much to tell about the adventure here, something that will have to wait another couple of days though, we are staying another two days here.

 

Time is ticking here but I have one more thing to share with you, Emelie has just arrived!!!!!!!!!!!! The crew for the Atlantic crossing is gathered! We will go back home to Cantare in Varadero on Sunday and start preparing for the crossing! Now it is time for a welcoming drink with Emelie! Hasta Luego!!! /First Mate

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Finally in the marina

Yesterday we managed to get to the marina. We had to beat to windwards for a few hours and then it was a downwind sail companied by a few dolphins before we could enter the western channel. To celebrate we had lobsters ashore in the evening. Now we are off to Havana by buss, easier and quicker than taking the boat. We will stay there a few days and also make a trip to Viñales before we welcome Emelie back on the 23rd of April. After that it's time for Atlantic preparations. / La Capitana

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Exploring Eastern Cuba by Car

Even though it is hard thinking positive of Cuba at the moment when we are stuck at anchor, not allowed to go ashore, I will try to think back of our experiences from the little drive we did in the eastern part of Cuba. Cuba is a fantastic country in many ways, indeed! The people are very friendly and mostly smiling and so far we have seen stunning nature and architecture. Music and Salsa on the streets? Yes, it does exist and I have had a couple of dances with better and worse gentlemen something I have longed for before coming here! But oh my, I repeat, oh my… This country really is something different, something you can't imagine until you have experienced it yourself. Time has basically stood still here since the Revolution 1959. The big question is how long will it last? When will the Cubans regain their freedom and further the possibility of fulfilling dreams?

 

When Martin and Mirjam the Swiss couple from Ranja, the second smallest yacht in the ARC, Ranja only larger than Ron's Zahara, but with a killing parasail, dropped us off in Santiago the Cuba we were on our own again. The best way to explore the country if you don't feel like hitchhiking without guarantee of getting somewhere or crowd in an overfull bus like cattle on their way to slaughter, is renting a car. We ended up in a brand new automatic Hyundai Accent and since I was the only one who luckily had brought my driver's license I ended up driving. I have so longed to drive, I have really missed it a lot and in those other car rental situations I have been in during this trip there have been gentlemen involved who have been more than willing to drive and I must admit that there is one advantage of being a passenger, you can have a beer at every stop. I didn't expect my first drive after 9 months would be in a big city with an automatic brand new car though. But everything went smooth, the Hyundai was fun to drive and my two backseat drivers were very calm and so was I thinking of the fact that we are fully covered by the insurance company Europeiska. Three foreign girls in a rental car in Cuba aren't that common and among the horse drawn vehicles we sort of stood out from the rest.

 

Our car trip started in Santiago de Cuba and then we went east along the south coast towards a little town called Baconao. Maria had read about a crocodile farm situated there and ever since she had been dreaming about patting the baby crocodiles. On our way there we passed Acuario Baconao an aquarium with hundreds of fishes, dolphins and sea lions. We decided to come back for the dolphin show after visiting the crocodiles. Finding the crocodiles was harder than expected and at one point we ended up in the jungle, but with a strong Hyundai that was no problem. After a delicious lunch consisting of barbecued fish you eat with your hands (we got two fishes each since they had no potatoes or other side dishes), we eventually found the crocodile farm. I wouldn't call it a farm though, it consisted of three different corrals with water and each consisted of a crocodile. The first crocodile we saw was about 2 m long and in his 20-ties. The brave or shall I say foolish crocodile keeper jumped into the corral and tried to get the crocodile's attention by annoying him with a stick. It was effective and the crocodile angrily showed his teeth and started biting after the keeper who continued irritating the crocodile by dragging him in the tail. Cruelty to animals or what? No wonder the crocodile keeper recently had spent three months in bed after being bit by the crocodile. Crocodile number two was an oldie in his 50-ties around 3m long, and didn't pay much attention to the crocodile keeper's attempt to get his attention. The third crocodile, the cutest, was the three month old little baby crocodile, around half a meter long. It was very fun petting the sweet little crocodile and we also got to hold it, with its mouth secured so it wouldn't bite us. Maria was satisfied; she had finally met a baby crocodile.

 

We left the crocodiles just in time to get to the show at the aquarium. We seemed to be the only tourists in the whole area so after a private crocodile show we ended up on a private dolphin and sea lion show on the aquarium. It was fascinating seeing the well trained animals doing marvelous tricks. After some negotiating Maria and I got a very good price on a dolphin swim, something that is on my must-to-do-list. What amazing animals! We got to swim with two male dolphins (of course) and in the water you really experience how huge they are. They were so well trained and I couldn't help but get totally overwhelmed by their tricks they did with us. The best part was the foot ride I got, haha, the dolphins lifted me up with their noses on my souls and I got a ride throughout the pool causing me almost loosing my bikini due to the speed. We have lots of movies from the dolphin swim (not from the exact bikini loss though, I'm sorry) and loads of other movies and pictures from our Cuba experiences. Next time we will find internet we will share them with you, however you will have to be patient, I don't think we will find proper internet until we reach Europe (the Azores).

 

We were planning on taking a shortcut to Guantánamo from Baconao, unfortunately the road was damaged so we had to take the long way there and go back to Santiago the Cuba first. But with lots of fuel needed to be used and funny hitchhikers it was just an amusing drive. We offered the dolphin trainer and a girl from the restaurant at the aquarium a ride back to Santiago the Cuba, who where very happy. You see vehicles in Cuba are very rare, people simply have no cars, they can't afford it and instead they have to spend so much of their time walking/bicycling/hitchhiking to get to work or wherever they are going. And very often their destination is it not situated around the corner, rather far far away. Along the roads there are innumerable people waiting and hoping to get a ride. We were more than happy to offer the two remaining seats in our fancy car to needy and I can't count the number of hitchhikers we picked up along the road. Don't worry Eva and Helena (our mothers); we focused on picking up women and mothers with children that looked very innocent. Even though we often couldn't communicate very much due to the language problem they could show us the right way and we saved them some hours of waiting. Speaking of waiting, Cuba is a country of waiting and standing in line. You have to stand in line for everything; at one place I even saw two different lines, one for women, and one for men. Cubans queue for the fruit market, they queue in front of the restaurants, they queue for the doctor, and they queue to get a ride on an overfull bus. The list of things the Cubans are standing in line for is endless. 

 

It was a very beautiful drive to Guantánamo, but the radio wasn't cooperating, no good music just a lot of Spanish bla bla bla and I can't count the number of time I changed frequency. But suddenly, around 20km from Guantánamo, we got an American radio program broadcasted from New York, hit music only, no talking and in the Huyndai the party begun. Must be the Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base sending out the program. The main reason for going to Guantánamo was the Guantánamo Bay. There used to be a view point from which you could overlook the Bay and watch the American and Cuban soldiers. Unfortunately, the view point was closed but apparently with a certain permission (from immigration) you could go to the boarder but that we didn't know when we arrived in Guantánamo in the sunset. (Lack of information is another thing you need to deal with in this country). We found the road leading to the bay, but of course, we were soon stopped by a road block and the military guard had no sense of humor and would not let himself be talked into letting three innocent Swedish girls pass no matter how hard I tried, "just to have a look" wasn't an option. Our friends on Escape had faced the same road block and were as disappointed as us and Tom's intense argumentation hadn't taken them any further either. As for the rest Guantánamo is nothing else than a sadly poor city with rural almost not drivable dirt roads and houses that look like tin sheds, our rental car did so not fit in and either did we! However, it was a very interesting experience and nowadays we belong to the few who can say they have had a hotdog in Guantánamo.

 

Yes, as I initially mentioned we are still stuck at anchor waiting for the wind to calm so we sail to the marina. Hopefully it will be calm enough tomorrow morning but one never know, unfortunately we haven't figured out how to influence the weather yet, our charm doesn't seem to be good enough, strange! But as soon as the boat is safely moored in the marina and we are ashore we are off to La Habana! /First Mate

 

PS. 1. Since we are lacking internet we cannot see any comments here on the page nor do any comments ourselves at the moment. But we are really looking forward to reading them once we find some net and until then I hope you all know that you can send text messages to our satellite phone for free!

 

PS. 2. To sam@fortescu.... Could you please send us another text with your email address included since we cannot see your whole address and then we will come back to you as soon as we can! But yes, in Carribean our watermaker has been very useful!   

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Cuba's other side

Cuba's other side

Our first encounter with Cuba during our days in Marina Vita and on our road trip was fantastic in many ways, although, we sometimes glimpsed how hard life can be for the Cuban people with all the strange rules and the lack of money and supplies. But as always you don't really get it as a tourist and I guess we never can, but lately the Cuban ways have affected us directly and we are feeling a bit frustrated.

After Sofia's last post we got an email from Escape telling us that the anchorage outside Cayo Coco was affected by swell and not very well protected, they suggested we meet up in a bay outside Cayo Guillermo instead. The distance we had to sail the next day was twice as long as that to Cayo Coco so we stood up early and sailed almost the whole day arriving next to Escape in the afternoon. After a stroll ashore (found nothing but a beach restaurant) we went over to Escape. Tom had news about the weather, stronger winds from the northwest were predicted for Tuesday or Wednesday and we agreed that the anchorage outside Cayo Guillermo wasn't good enough for us. We had during Low Water less than 0,5 m water under the keel and the protection from a norther or northwesterly wind was bad. Since we were looking for beaches and internet, most likely found in a tourist area, we all agreed to go to Varadero. The distance from Cayo Guillermo was about 160 nm, forcing us to once again rise early to be able to make it before Tuesday night. We left in light winds which during the day increased. Sofia was worse again and couldn't do anything but lie in her bunk. Catrine and I took turns in the cockpit, sometimes it rained, sometimes we were hit by gusts and during the night I saw lightning. Without any proper night sleep for more than 4 days Catrine and I were exhausted when we closed in on the channel leading into the shallow waters on the east side of Varadero. At least Sofia was starting to feel a bit better again. Escape called us over the VHF, but we could hardly here them. They were trying to say something about the bridge, after a while we figured out that it was broken. To go from the east side to Marina Acua in Varadero there is a canal and a lifting bridge, apparently the bridge wasn't working. We told Escape that we would call them when we got closer and continued with the wind behind us. Soon we were companied by big dolphins, Catrine's first view of wild dolphins, watching them jump and swim around made us smile. When we called Escape again we heard that they were in the Marina Acua, they had taken the western entrance instead. We discussed whether we should turn around and go that way as well or if we should continue towards the anchorage in Cueva del Muerto outside the canal leading to Marina Acua. We decided to continue towards the anchorage, there we could get rid of the seaweed and the other stuff that grow on Cantare's hull and take the dinghy ashore. The way to Marina Hemingway would be longer since we would have to sail back and then around the Peninsula de Hicacos but on the other hand we would reach our destination before it got dark, which we wouldn't if we turned around. As we got into the anchorage bay we could see the bridge and went over to it to make sure that it wasn't working. It wasn't, we were told by a man on one of the boats tide up along the canal. Alright, it was worth a try.

On 2,8 m we dropped the anchor and then started to prepare ourselves for a trip ashore. It didn't take long before we were greeted by men in uniforms on a motor boat getting ready to tie up next to us. They asked for our passports, ship's papers and cruising permit, but they didn't come aboard. After filling out forms and asking us a few questions about the boat they told us that we were not allowed to anchor here. We could stay for one night but then we would have to leave in the early morning. As if that wasn't enough, they also told us that we were in no ways allowed to take the dinghy ashore, we were to stay on the boat. I explained to them that we probably wouldn't be able to leave tomorrow because of the strong winds and our small engine but they insisted that it would be possible in the morning when the winds normally are lighter and asked us if we wanted a place in the marina. We were chocked, Sofia thanked the men, that was more than I was able to at the moment, and they went away. We set the alarm on 6 am but before it went of I knew that we wouldn't be able to leave, during the night I had heard the wind howl and decided that it was to dangerous to go against the breaking waves in the entrance channel. I asked the girls weather they wanted to stay here and argue with the officials or if they wanted to go to another marina on the north end of the peninsula. They agreed that it was better to stay here than spending the whole day forcing Cantare against the waves and wind in maybe less than 2 knots speed to reach the other marina in the end of the day. Sofia seems to be much better today and was up and about as normal, after a while she decided to call the harbour master on VHF channel 16 asking for permission to go ashore. The man who answered was very friendly and told us that he would call the authorities and ask. Sadly he returned to us a few minutes later with a no. It was not possible for us to go ashore, but at least we were allowed to stay anchored until the weather gets better. Escape had of course overheard the conversation and Tom sounded almost as dreary as we felt when we talked to him afterwards. Here we were not far apart, the difference between us huge though, they are allowed ashore because they are in the marina and we are not. I guess that might be a bit like how the Cubans feel about the tourists and themselves.

This morning I finished a book called Broken Paradise / Ghost Heart (Drommehjerte in Norwegian) by Cecilia Samartin. It's about two Cuban cousins, one of them leaves Cuba with her family after the revolution, the other one stays. The book is amazing and although it is fiction, since the author was only 9 months old when her family left Cuba, it is built up by stories her family and friends have told her. It feels realistic and is deeply touching. Read it if you are interested in how people felt when the revolution took place and during the years after it, the people here are still affected by it and so are we for the moment. / La Captitan

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Bajamo

Me gusto Cuba! Cuba is an amazing country, it's so different from other modern countries. Being here is a fantastic experience and I'm so glad that we will spend our last month in the Caribbean at Cuba. Sure it's a bit more complicated but it's so worth it!

The day after checking in we decided to go on a road trip with our friends Martin and Miriam from the boat Ranja. They picked us up at our marina with their rental car and we drove of to Holguin. Martin and Miriam had already been in Cuba for about a week so during the drive they shared their experiences so far which was great hearing. At Holguin we stopped and grabbed a pizza at a street stand. Guess what it coasted us?! 5 CUP each which is approximately 0,3 Euro. Pretty cheap! First we had planned to stay over night in Holguin but since it was still early in the day we continued our trip to another town called Bajamo.

At Bajamo we had our first encounter with a "casa particular". A casa particular is the place to go if you want to rent a room inside the house of a Cuban family, which I definitely recommend instead of staying at a dull hotel. It's really fun to get to see the inside of the Cuban homes and trying to communicate with them in Spanish. We had read that some of the rooms in the casa particulares could have a double and single bed so we were on the lookout for that, so that I, Sofia and Maria could share one room instead of two and cut down on the cost a bit. But that was easier said than done. The hostess of the casa particular that we first stopped at claimed that it wasn't allowed, that we would never find a room like that in Bajamo and that we had to rent two rooms. In rapid Spanish of course. Thank God that Miriam is good at Spanish and helped us with the translation. But we weren't fully satisfied with this explanation though and decided to try another place. Further up at the same street we had spotted another casa particular and we went over there to check if we could have better luck. A really nice lady welcomed us and showed us a room. The room was nice but there was only one double bed… to bad. When we explained to her that we wanted a room for all three of us she also started saying that it wasn't possible. Hmm, okay maybe we had to rent two rooms here in Bajamo because it was a smaller town but we would definitely not agree on that in the bigger towns we thought. So me and Maria decided to take that room and Sofia found another one.

After drinks with the others at our balcony we went out to get some food for the evening. We found a big street where they had put out dining tables all over it. It looked nice and what really looked nice was the prices on the menu. The prices were in the local currency CUP which makes it really cheap for us tourists. We all ordered beer and food like chicken, rice and salad, and in the end we had to pay 2 Euros per person. That's a good price for dinner and drinks!

After the dinner we strolled down the streets of Bajamo. Sofia heard some distant music and keen on dancing salsa she suggested that we should check out where it came from. So we did. The music was coming from what looked like a normal house and just as we were about to leave since it wasn't a club, someone opened the door and waved for us to come in. Huh!? Should we really go in there, to a private party? Yeah sure why not. As we went through the door they lighted up the room and it felt like they were doing it just so that everyone could get a good look at us. People were really staring! But in a nice way I think and soon they dimmed down the light again and continued their dancing. It was a party for a girl called Lucy who was turning 15 which is an important birthday for Cubans. So we felt a bit older then most of the average guests. But they where really nice to us, typically of Cubans, and offered us beer and food. So we stayed there for a while and did some stiff dancing compared to the locals.

The next day we had breakfast at our casa particular which was really nice. It's common that you eat breakfast at the place where you are staying for a fee of about 3 to 4 CUC. CUC is the other currency here in Cuba and 1 CUC is a little less than a Euro (I think, correct me if I'm wrong). Well anyhow, the breakfast was splendid and the lady that had hosted me and Maria was so sweet. That's the beauty with staying at casa particulares I think, that you get to meet all this nice friendly Cuban people. I love it and just wish that I could speak some more Spanish so that I could talk more to them. Most of them don't know English so if you are going to travel around Cuba I recommend that you know some Spanish.

After Bajamo we continued our journey which will be described in upcoming blog posts. Right now I'm inhaling the smell of a lovely soup that Maria is cooking so I think I will call it a day.

/Catrine

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Easy Sailing with Ellen MacArthur

The former invalid person onboard, also called First Mate, has sort of returned from the death today. When we left Bahia the Vita yesterday I had to try really hard to look as healthy as possible, the last thing we wanted was to be kept in the marina by the harbor master who otherwise maybe would have called the doctor again to have me medically investigated before we could continue. I claimed my tiredness and my bend over walk had to do with too much partying and too little sleep which the marina employees believed in and found very entertaining. And as always, First Mate is more than happy to entertain, but this time it was little painful I must admit. I was happy to return to bed when we had cleared out of the marina and I had steered us out the bay when Maria programmed the handheld GPS with the waypoints towards the island Cayo Coco, where Cuba's best beaches are to be found. Cayo Coco is together with another 400 islands situated in an archipelago called Jardines del Ray which means Gardens of the King. The girls took the day watches with help of wind vane monitor and I took the bed watches until I couldn't stand the sweaty sheets any longer. Then Maria gave me a little shot of white rum which I swigged, the immediate effect failed to come though but since the wind vane steered beautifully, beam reaching on starboard tack all night long I insisted on doing my night and morning watches with the help of some painkillers. What motivated me more for the watches was not the white rum, rather the book of Ellen MacArthur, Taking the World, I was reading at the moment. If she could break the world record in 2005 and become the fastest solo sailor round the world, I think I could make those hours. Ellen MacArthur sailed a 75-feet trimaran round the world in 71 days, she is pure girl power in a sailing world dominated of men. However, luckily the world is changing and there are more girls entering the sailing sport. We are showing the islands here around Carribean that girls actually can sail by themselves. And I was very happy the other day when our stalker told me about a girl who had kicked some male egos in last regatta he joined. She was meant to be trimmer but when some other guys joined the crew she was put on the rail, not until the guys screwed up she was allowed to show her capability and did awesome! A phrase I love and try to live my life after, a phrase that is very important for Ellen MacArthur too and was written on her world record boat is YOU CAN DO IT… If you want something really bad in life, you can to it, no matter what!

This afternoon we arrived in the archipelago Jardines del Ray, we didn't reach as far as Escape before it got dark and hard to navigate among the coral reeves, but will sail there tomorrow and intend to have some lazy beach and boat days. If the resort prices aren't beyond the stars we might check in for some "all you can eat/drink/surf on the net". You see Cubans are not allowed to use the Internet (!!!) and it hardly exists anywhere. What is an email address a question I have gotten from people I have given our Cantare business card toSo no, Internet is not as widely spread as you sometime think and we are happy to be able to use the satellite phone to update our blog. We have heard though that some of the hotels have internet for their guests, hopefully that is true and we can get some access. Sadly our lives are, despite the Cubans, deeply affected by the Internet and we need it from time to time, I mean now it is declaration times :-) Over and Out/ First Mate. A First Mate who is slowly recovering from her strange diarrhea with Maria's white rum shots.

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Sailing to Cuba

Information about how to enter Cuba with your own boat is hard to find, the pilot book that most sailors rely upon are more than 10 years old and therefore it isn't strange at all that few really know how it work until they get here. Before coming here we searched Internet and talked to fellow sailors who also intended to sail here, still we where not sure where the Port of Entry was until we were 12 nautical miles off the Cuban coast. That is where Cuban territorial water begins and where you should make your first contact with the authorities. That much we had concluded from the pilot book and www.noonsite.com. Our newly bought Cuban paper charts (corrected December 2009) showed that Marina Vita in Bahia de Vita was the most easterly Port of Entry, but most Internet sites stated that Bahia de Naranja was the place to go in the east. ´

 

On VHF channel 16 we called Marina Vita as the sun rose above the horizon. They answered in English and we were told to proceed towards Bahia de Vita, which really was the most easterly Port of Entry on the north coast.  Close to the beginning of the channel leading in to the bay we took down our sails and hoisted the yellow flag. Catrine and I were almost jumping around with joy, finally reaching our dream destination.

 

This is actually my second visit to Cuba, last time I was here was with the school ship T/S Gunilla in 2003, but then we only visited Havanna and the western part of the country. After that journey I told Catrine about the country and showed here my photos, ever since she's been wanting to come here. Last time in Cuba I was very fascinated by what I experienced, how different it is, the history, the friendly people and the feeling of safeness. On some island in the West Indies I have felt a bit uneasy because of how the men approach us and in some places we have avoided walking in certain areas during the dark hours. I remember feeling safe on Cuba in 2003, this together with a big curiosity for the many interesting places I never got to see last time made me want to come back, being able to experience it together with Catrine is a big bonus.

 

When we got close to the marina we were told to anchor out in the bay and wait for the doctor. It didn't take long before he arrived and climbed aboard, he asked us about our health and then we had to fill out a form, the most interesting question was weather our rats or mice had any diseases. He was really nice and smiled a lot, the conversation was mainly in English although he sometimes said things in Spanish, especially since he learned that I know "un poco Español". After he had stamped a few papers he told us that we could take down the yellow flag, hoist the Cuban and go into the marina where the rest of the clearing in procedure would take place. In Cuba you are not allowed to go ashore, not even on the dock, before you are cleared. Two men helped us with the ropes and we were soon tied up in the marina.

 

Escape, who arrived the day before, had welcomed us to Cuba over the VHF on our way in, now they walked up to Cantare. Long time no seen, it was good to see them again. Susanne was injured though and to see how bad was not fun. She fell down from a ladder when they had their boat on land to repaint it and broke the collar bone and injured her ribs and pelvis bone, slowly she was limping towards us. The hugs had to wait though, since we weren't allowed to step off Cantare.

 

An immigration officer came by and picked up our passports then we sat down on deck waiting for more info. Four persons came aboard after 45 minutes and the paperwork could begin, I had to fill out two forms and sign a lot of papers. We were questioned about our intentions with the visit, our occupations, the boat, previously visited countries and a lot of other things. Most of the conversation was in Spanish although they tried to translate into English when we didn't understand. I was glad that I can a bit of Spanish since it seemed to speed up the process. The veterinarian checked some of our food stores and the fridge, we didn't bring with us anything fresh except garlic, butter and cheese. Now I have found out that it is alright to bring in fresh food like chicken, eggs and meat as long as you don't take it ashore and it is in good condition. It is like that with all food, you can buy what you want in Cuba but once you have taken it aboard the boat you are not allowed to take it ashore again. The last part of the clearing in procedure was being searched by the sniffer dog. It was a very cute one and it didn't take long, since we have almost no floor space for it to walk on. All the time the officers were friendly and smiling, telling us a few useful hints about travelling in Cuba and flattering us without being rude, apparently we are the first all female crew yacht in Marina de Vita.

 

The only disagreeable part of coming here was the fees, there are fees for all of the officers and in the end we have now paid 60 cuc for clearing in the boat, 15 cuc per person for tourist visa (valid 30 days) and 15 cuc for a cruising permit, which will be issued when we leave our Port of Entry. To receive or leave crew on Cuba you pay an additional charge of 5 cuc and when we leave the country we will have to pay 10 more cuc in departure fee. Totally that makes 130 cuc (a little less than 130 euros), more than we have ever paid before to clear in. Still it felt great to finally be able to step ashore on Cuba! / La Capitan

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Santiago the Cuba, Guantanamo, rental car, dolphins, crocodiles, socialism, casa particulars...and so on

There are lots more to share with you of our experiences of eastern Cuba. However, you will have to wait another day or so, I'm not feeling very well today and is unfortunately not in a writing mode. So far we have been luckily free from major diseases and injuries, but today I woke up feeling like a stone, for every single movement I try to do my body is aching. Hopefully it's just some minor flu or something that will be over very soon. I'm in bed sometimes freezing and sometime sweating with a stomach that isn't in the best shape, but no problem, the girls are taking good care of me! /First Mate

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Updates from Cuba

Last Friday morning we arrived as planed in Bahia de Vita. The clearing in procedure was not as lengthy as we had feared. But I will tell you more about it later as we are on our way to dinner at Escape tonight. We have been on a very interesting road trip in "el Oriente", the eastern part of Cuba, since last Saturday and returned to Cantare half an hour ago. Internet is hard to find here, this is posted with the satellite phone, in the coming days we will try to find somewhere to check our emails but please be patient if you are waiting for a reply, it might take a while. It is still possible, and much appreciated by us, to send text messages to our satellite phone or even call it. Of course there will be more updates about our latest adventure soon, and there is a lot to tell you! Hasta Luego! /La Capitan

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Happy Easter from Cuba!

Yesterday we arrived safely in Bahia de Vita, a little bay in the north east part of Cuba. We had a really interesting sail here, not only did we caught the biggest fish so far we also got a little strange meeting with the U.S. Coast Guard. And arriving here in Cuba was an experience itself with the long procedure of clearing in the country. We promise to tell you more about this in later updates, now we will start celebrating Easter not by dressing up like Easter witches but by exploring Cuba with some friends. Happy Easter to all of you and please, eat some eggs, pickled herring and raw spiced salmon for me, I really miss that from home! /First Mate  

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Finally - a fish

Yesterday afternoon, while Sofia was uploading the post via the satellite phone, we could hear how the line was being dragged out from the fishing rod. We were all inside the boat getting ready for a movie afternoon and as the line continued to being dragged out I became stressed. I needed to get out in the cockpit before the fish took off with all our line. But there were cables in the way, I was trying to get my lifewest on at the same time as I ducked under the cable connected to the satellite phone. Sofia told me to be careful, though all I could think about was not loosing the fish. When I got out in the cockpit and back to the rod I tightened the brake, I had to tighten it a lot to get the line still, a big fish! We were all very happy about having a fish on the line and desperately wanted to land it. On our way to Grand Turk we lost two fishes, they both took off with the lures so I had bought two new pink and red lures in Cockburn town, one of them was now proving its worth. I could see the fish jump far behind us, it seemed yellow and was most likely a Dorado (also called Mahi Mahi and Dolphinfish). When I got it closer, which took a while since it was struggling hard to get free, we could see that it was a big female Dorado, maybe even bigger than the Dorado we caught on the Atlantic crossing. By the time the fish was alongside the boat Sofia was ready with hook, knife and vodka. On the second try she managed to put the hook through its body and landed it on the cockpit floor. It was bigger than the Atlantic Dorado, it took up the whole length of the floor and later we measured it to be 1,05 m. A new record! This was the first fish we have caught since New Years day and we much enjoyed having fish on the menu again. We had it for dinner yesterday and will have it for lunch and dinner today, they say fish makes you smarter.

We now have about 90 M left to Bahia de Vita on the northeast coast of Cuba, if we continue with this speed we will have to slow down or we will get there while it's dark. Tomorrow we are on Cuba! /The Captain

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