22:07:513N 80:27:153W Our arrival at the Marina Cienfuegos harbor.
We finally got to the marina travelling the well marked harbor for an hour or so. By law we are required to alert the coast guard via vhf radio from 12 miles out. We had dozens of attempts to do so without any response. We then tried to get the marina, again no answer. We were beginning to think that the radio was faulty. We made a call for anyone at all to respond for a radio check, still no answer. When we arrived we were told that they did hear us but offered no explanation for the silence. Perhaps they only respond to Spanish calls. Probably cannot understand Australian.
The Dock-master and an Immigration officer were there to greet us and to take the lines to tie us to the dock. Then the arrival procedure started..
We had visits from,
Health Authorities. A doctor came on board to ask if there had been any sickness. Form filling was done.
Ministry of Agriculture. They check the food on board
Port Captain. Did a ‘Contract’ for leaving the boat here.
Ministry of Transport. To issue the cruising permit
All of these people came on board at the same time at least 12 people. It was chaotic. The form filling for the different departments, Questions in bad English not making it much better. Then they brought on the sniffer dogs, THREE of them. They were Spaniels. Long haired dogs complete with saliva. The dog were all over the boat sniffing everything, slobbering on the beds, shedding their hair, and jumping on fly screens. The boat smelt like dogs for a long time after they left. The dogs are trained to find explosives and narcotics we do not know what the six officers were looking for after the dogs had searched. They were looking in all the cupboards. It seemed that there was no coordination at all. Every one of them took it in turns to go through our stuff.. Some of them would pick something and ask if they could have it. They ended up with a pilates ball, a torch, a broken Canon camera, and a packet of biscuits. They were pleased to hear we had no meat and a little surprised we had such a small amount of provisions from Jamaica. It is difficult to provision in Cuba we are going to check the farmers market today.
The Harbor Master Ramirez charged us CC110 =$110 U.S. we are not sure what we paid for but the Immigration officer came back with our visas and presented them to us as if we had just become Cuban citizens. All these guys are very friendly patient and they smile. They even took their shoes off, If only other countries did the same.
The following day a woman came on board to have a look at the food. We told her that it was examined yesterday but she insisted that it had to be done again.
Three German boats arrived, we told them what to expect, we watched as they reluctantly received the same procedure.
We walked for twenty minutes to get to the stunning city centre. After two days at sea we needed to walk. About 12 guys riding bicycles with a passenger compartment (Bimo?) offered to give us a ride. Cienfuegoes has French colonial architecture, with high colonnades painted in pastels and huge wooden doorways that look like forts. In the grocery store there are queues to purchase eggs, ham and something else that we could not work out. The department store has a display case with a piece of string and assorted bric a brac you might find in a Chinese super market. They did have TVs and toasters. Today we lined up in a queue outside the bank so as to change money, after 20 minutes I decided to go to the other bank two blocks away while Leonie stayed in the queue. The other bank was empty, so empty that I had four tellers looking at me. Their exchange rate was not as good as the first bank (I forfeited about $12). When I got back Leonie had not progressed, in fact she was back more due to some queue jumpers. I don’t feel unhappy that I am down $12.
The people dress in very bright colors they look like flashy Italians. Elaborate fish net stockings are all the go even one of the customs officer was wearing them. There are more beggars in Jamaica but most of the people here are skinny.
We have not seen anyone who looks like the Cuban actor Javier Bardem. They look Spanish Creole and they speak to each other in a very animated intimate way as if they have known each other all their lives.
We are off to Havana tomorrow (Friday) to meet Jim.. We are all booked in at a hotel for three days in ‘Old Havana’…