26th Dec 11 - 29th Jan 12 - Marina Hemingway and our first tastes of Cuba!

Wed 28 Dec 2011 02:47
On leaving the Customs & Immigration dock,  we made our way into the marina, which is made up of 3 concrete canals, which lay parallel to the coast and are totally protected in all conditions.  One end of the canal was a dead end, which led out of the marina and at down the other end was the marina office, with facilities and a tiny shop, which stocked more Club Havana than anything else!  We slowly motored Nimue down one of these canals for some distance until we saw a group of people waving us to our spot.  Our lines were taken as we moored alongside spot CZ 245 and within minutes the guys were asking us if we needed any work or washing doing.  Rather exhausted from the day’s events,  we advised them politely to come back another day!  Next the electrics and the man came along to fix the rather dated looking boxes, but after a few anxious moments we were plugged in and everything working!  Then the marina manager, who invited himself on board, proceeded to go through some more paperwork.  He advised us that marina fees should be made by the 15th of each month and more annoyingly he kept mentioning the word “tip” (more on this later).
Apart from one large catamaran Yellow Banana, we were all moored one behind another (Scott Free, Moonshadow Star, Twice Eleven and Nimue), so it was easy to keep in contact to make arrangements. 
It is said that Marina Hemingway was once a modern, lively marina.  Nowadays, the splendour has gone and the marina is now very run down. Washroom facilities are poor, with no toilet seats,  no toilet paper or soap.  As there was no hot water in the men’s showers, they have to use the women’s.  Consequently, we gave up and showered on Nimue!
We were required to give the customs CUC25 which is equivalent to US$25, so Tamsin off Twice Eleven offered to take us into the little town about 20 minutes walk away, to exchange some money.    By the way, none or hardly any cash machines exist in Cuba, so it was necessary to take cash. Fortunately we had been advised to take British Pounds, which attracts a lesser commission charge than US dollars.  Once outside the Bank, or more like a tiny shop without windows, we had to wait outside to be called and then only one person could enter at a time.  As always, I was volunteered, but it wasn’t a problem.  I also managed to exchange some CUC’s for local peso (CUP,which is only worth approximately 1/25th of a CUC).  The Cubans have two separate currencies; the CUC is the one used for luxury goods and the tourist and the CUP is the currency Cuban citizens are paid and used for staples and non-luxury items, so you can only shop in supermarkets or eat in restaurants if you pay with CUC’s, but you can only purchase fruit and vegetables off the locals in pesos!  All very bizarre, but it appears to work, although somehow, as a tourist you always feel you are being ripped off!
Road entrance to Marina Hemingway (on a wet day)
Nimue safely moored on the canal behind Yellow Banana 
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All enjoying a local beverage at one of the better looking establishments here with the thatched roof
On our walk from Nimue to the marina office we noticed this unusual set up!
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Michael waiting at the end of the canal.  There is a small supermarket in this building, where produce is very limited!
Now here lies a story.  We met the single handed Canadian off this boat as we moored up alongside the customs dock the previous day.  When we woke up the following day, the same Canadian was sitting on the catamaran Yellow Banana just in front of usWe found out that a few hours into his voyage, he found water in the bilges, so rather than carry on, he turned back for the marina.  Unfortunately it was night and although he was pretty certain of the buoys, he managed to hit the reef and here are the consequences.  Luckily he was okay, and whilst we were there he managed to sort everything out with his insurance company and returned to Canada!  The capsized boat was still there when we eventually left Cuba nearly 3 months later!
We all put on our best ‘bib & tucker’ for the party put on for us (meaning the Cruising Association) by the Hemmingway Yacht Club and after the usual formalities (i.e. exchanging of burgees), we were invited to tuck into a tasty buffet and sip a few of the homemade mojito’s (each glass came full of mint leaves).
Party night at the Hemmingway Yacht Club and Commodore Escrich handing Sandy the club burgee, which was reciprocated with our Cruising Association (CA) burgee
The yacht club is privately run and caters for the more affluent Cuban.  We were able to use the club’s facilities, although their internet was worse than useless and all non-local phone calls (e.g. outside of Havana) had to be made using the payphone outside. 
We had decided to book a local restaurant for New Year’s Eve, which entailed a 20 minute walk in the pitch black on non-existent pavements.  Nevertheless, we made and all enjoyed a standard fare of spit roast pork and yucca (yes those plants we have around the house, but cooked well, they are very tasty and nutritious)!
The restaurant in daylight
Inside the restaurant celebrating New Year’ (new faces David & Tamsin)