AN UNPLANNED VISITA possible to do an international check-in at Marina Siguanea. Guards were immediately dispatched to the quay to ensure that we remained onboard. Officials were called from the main town of Nueva Gerona and the drug- and arms-sniffing dog was brought onboard. No fewer than 12 Cubans were required to check us over and tell us that we could not check in except at an official international port of entry. This was a national port of entry. Each was very polite and smiling, curious to talk to us, friendly, yet firm in their rules. A few hours later, word came down from the higher ups that we were to be allowed to move about the marina, but could not leave the fenced area, not even to go to the hotel for a drink. My wife, Debra, and I are antsy and inquisitive by nature. Two days whiling our time in this gloomy marina were enough. The forecast had the wind down to 20 to 25 knots from the north, which would make for a comfortable ride, reaching along the lee of Isla de Juventud in our heavy catamaran. The officials let us go on with promises to do a proper international check-in the following day in Cayo Largo. We knew from the outset that we would not
There was one habitable structure and a giant white geodesic dome ashore at Punte del Este, but the weather was cold (we were in a cold front, after all), so we were content to cozy up on the boat and watch a movie, The Motorcycle Diaries — no kidding! We had each read Jon Lee Anderson’s definitive, 750-page, solidly documented biography of Che while cruising Mexico the year before.
y now our curiosity was overcoming our desire to hang out in the beautiful cays, and the weather was gloomy. The next day we pushed on to Cayo Largo. While we had recently spent a month in the fabulously beautiful San Blas Islands, nothing prepared us for the sheer beauty of Cayo Largo and the azure blues of the waters there. The sand was blindingly white and waterways meandered to the interior of the Cay. We spotted a couple of boats anchored out and a handful of others in the impeccably kept marina. After being waved to a berth, we were then greeted by Piero, We met all sorts of Cuban ofthe self-described PR man who called the ficials, and most of them were officials to complete our international cheerful and friendly. check-in. They had been expectFlorida ing us as they Keys had received a call from Marina Siguanea. ObviHavana ously, Big BrothIsla er was watching. Mujeres Once again, CU the dozen officials B Cienfuegos A were extremely Isla de friendly, even Juventud sharing a beer Santiago de onboard, and alCuba most apologetic about the numCaribbean Sea ber of papers to JAMAICA be filled out. Piero, self-appointed make it to Cayo Largo in one as our new best friend, answered our day. many questions, arranged credit at the Our first and continubar as we had no Cuban local money, ing impression of this part and drank mojitos with us. Piero has had of Cuba was that is was all this cush job for 21 years. I wondered but deserted. how he got it? Was he really part of the
'Escapade' was lookin' good as she led the fleet out of Bahia Santa Maria during the '08 Ha-Ha rally.
party apparatus, not spying really, but keeping an eye on the tourists? Cayo Largo is a foreign exchange machine, and foreign exchange is what the Cuban government needs most. Facing economic disaster in the 90’s, Castro allowed a rudimentary market economy to take hold to service the tourists who were then, due to the collapse of sugar and the loss of Soviet handouts, the main source of 'real' money. You’re not going to buy food or fuel on the world market with Cuban pesos. Enter the CUC — convertible pesos. At this writing, one yanqui dollar is worth mas o menos 80% of one “kook.” What a slap in the face! You can’t even get one to one exchange for the worthless CUC’s. Their only use is in the parallel Cuban tourist economy. The tourist hotels and the handful of marinas are largely joint ventures with Latin American, Canadian and European countries. Everyone is in business here except for the United States of America. We have a crushing 50-year-old embargo against the kind people of this island. I’m just a simple cruiser, not a foreign policy scholar, but what is there that Cuba cannot purchase, if it had the money, from a country other than the United States? Mexico has joint-ventured the many huge concrete plants and Hugo Chavez keeps pumping oil. I think the Cuban government gets more mileage out of the embargo than the U.S. government. If you’re an American politician in favor of the embargo, you get to carry southern Dade County, which probably puts the whole state of Florida’s electoral votes into your column. However, if you are the "bearded one" as the Cubans refer to Fidel, you get May, 2010 •
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The May 2010 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.