Varadero to Havana

Saturday and the weather window was still looking good – so we walked across to the marina office to pay our bill.   Without the receipt you can’t get a customs clearance to move onto the next port.   Next stop was the customs to let them know that we would like to leave at three on Sunday.   All sorted…..

We then returned to Morphie and did final engine checks and put waypoints into our plotter – then we moved her off the med mooring and docked her alongside.  There are not many boats left here in this vast place.  Later on we returned to our favourite pool and said our sad farewells to Durnia.

Alongside ready for the off Saying goodbye

Back to Morphie and we did final engine checks / waypoints before we headed out to the cash restaurants – decided to try the Mexican but didn’t fancy the menu – so ended up back in the Argentinian steakhouse again, which was OK.    Then we wandered into the hotel foyer to check the internet and we did a bit of people watching while the security guards watched us!  They have treated us OK but some of the other cruisers have had real difficulties moving around the complex – not really fair when we’re paying to use the facilities in our marina fee.

Last night in Varadero

Sunday morning we walked to the coffee shop as we had found that they sell French baguettes first thing in the morning!   So we hurried over there – mission accomplished – and Richard did final checks while I got our passage food ready.    Later on the customs girls turned up – looking anything like customs officials – especially the fishnet stockings and the skirt no wider than a belt!   We got our exit paper and we are ready to go….   Slipped away from the dock at three as planned – saying a final goodbye to Varadero – and headed out through the channel which is well marked and pretty wide most of the way, just watch out for our friend Mr Flatpack!!!

Heading out Flatpack

We decided to go out the way we came in rather than cut through closer inshore as the coast of Cuba bends and we would get a straighter shot at our next destination.  We turned to start our downwind run on genoa alone – the sea was bigger than expected and the currents stronger – and the wind was about 20 knots too.   We were flying – surfing down the waves with boat speeds above 8 knots – and at one point our ETA at Hemingway Marina was going to be in the early hours of the morning.   But we were anticipating a very strong current going against us as we get close to Havana so we didn’t worry about it at this stage.  We reefed down and enjoyed the sunset as we headed into our shifts after dinner.

Sailing into the sunset

The moon came up and it was beautiful – lighting up the sky so much that it didn’t feel like night at all….making it easy to spot the significant number of ships around. The night continued and it was very rolly so we both found it difficult to sleep but did our best as we kept getting slammed from all directions with rogue waves.    The wind calmed down a little so we shook out the reefs during the night.   

Moonlit night

My shift and, of course, I get the cruise ship.   He was heading at our bow so I radioed him – yes he could see us – do not worry he said.  Well, that’s fine for him to say, but I thought less than a quarter of a mile turning directly across us as he entered Havana was a bit close for my comfort zone – so I changed course and pointed at his stern.  Looks like a long way away from the photo as he finally crossed but believe me he wouldn’t have been if I had stood my course!

Cruiseship crossing

As we neared Havana on Monday morning the current against us was significant – and we slowed down to two knots across the ground.   Amazing skyline…

Sunrise at sea Havana skyline

We never did get shore power in Varadero and the overnight use of all the instruments was taking its toll on our batteries so we decided to motor sail the final 20 miles.    We picked up speed a little and made it to the entry waypoint…which we’d taken from the physical chart we had as we had spotted that the Garmin chip was hopeless for the detail of Hemingway Marina.   The channel is well marked and wider than we thought but it was pretty shallow either side with breaking waves over the reef that we were passing through.  Thankful for the advice to do this entrance in an east wind….  Check out the differences on the charts below.

Garmin chart Actual chart

We came alongside the customs dock – showed our clearance – and we were told to go to Canal 1.  We were a bit disappointed as we knew that Canal 2 had better protection from northerlies and, allegedly had power and water.    Well…..Canal 1 also has power and water….and actually the power is the right voltage!  Yay!   We had fenders and lines already on our port side (for the customs dock) so rather than swap them all over we turned around in the canal and got Morphie docked alongside.   The dock hands tied her up for us – connected our power and (low-pressure) water – and the dockmaster came on board to do more paperwork.   All completed – hands shaken – and we then did our spring lines.    We were a bit shocked to see the huge rock protruding from the wall just ahead of us in the water – glad we didn’t need to take some extra room!

Tied up in Canal 1 Rock ahead of us

We then washed Morphie down and chatted to some cruisers we had last seen in Varadero.  They told us that the hotel across the road had no internet tickets so we had to walk to Havana Club to log on.  Wanting to tell everybody we were safe we went on the trek – it was a long dirty, dusty, walk.  Just what you need after an overnight passage with little sleep!!!  Anyway we got there – admired the beautiful building – and purchased some internet cards and a celebratory beer at the beach bar. 

Club Havana Havana Club beach Club Havana 1

Tiredness was overcoming us so we quickly headed back to the marina – locked down – had a shower, watched a beautiful sunset, and then went to bed!

Welcome to Hemingway

Havana sunset Havana sunset 2

Tuesday morning we went exploring the marina – this place is rundown and pretty dirty, but we knew that….and even the canal wall has disappeared in places!   

CAnal 2 Dead yacht More old cars

Broken canal

There is an abandoned hotel at the edge of the complex and a couple of stores – although you have to watch where you put your feet even in the shop as the floor is all broken up.   We found an unusually parked car as we wandered to the Hotel Aquario which is alongside Canal 2.   This is also run down and has a real strange view of art in my humble opinion LOL.   Interesting to see a couple of racing yachts being stored here too….

Abandoned hotel Novel way of parking Hotel Aquario Watch where you put your feet Art Art 2Racing yacht 1 Racing yacht 2 We went into the hotel – yes no internet cards – and asked about using their pool.  Yes for 10 CUCs each per day (at 1.33 to the pound) – so went and had a look to see if it was worth it.  Doesn’t look too bad from the photo but definitely not clean and Richard decided he would need a few jabs before venturing in…   So looks like our pool days are over for now – shame!   We also found out that they have discontinued the shuttle bus to Havana so we need to research other options – there is a bus service for sure.


Walking back we went into a snack bar at the end of Canal 1 which is where local taxi drivers hang out to see if we could do a deal.    The beer was bad so we went next door and found a three lane bowling alley, football on the TV and general noise!  The Cubans are very excitable and loud so we made a quick exit after one.  We wandered to the end of the dock and found another bar – which looks over the water – and isn’t too bad if you can avoid looking at the litter of old cans lying around in the sand….   They had a Chinese next door and some people were eating – it looked good so we tried just a dish of rice and it was quite tasty if a little dry.  Not bad for 3 CUCs.   

Heading back we chatted to our immediate neighbour Pieter and his crew.  They are planning to go into Havana on Wednesday so we have decided to go together to see if we can get a deal on a taxi….   Back to Morphie and we had an early night.   One observation about Marina Hemingway is that we were led to believe that the general public could wander the docks and hustle you for work / tips / gifts etc.  But we’ve found that the security here isn’t bad and we haven’t had any requests for cash yet.   That said, wouldn’t fancy leaving the boat here unattended during the evening.

Wednesday morning we met our neighbours and wandered down to where the taxis hang out – and we came across an old American taxi which was willing to take all six of us (at a squeeze) in one car for 20 CUCs.  Bargain… we headed off….on the 40 minute drive.

Taxi to Havana

We arrived into Havana and went our separate ways.   We have toured the city before and visited the museums – which we remember vividly – so really just wanted to wander around, soak up the atmosphere, and admire the beautiful architecture.   The place is just the same as it was 10+ years ago – but much busier with more hustlers;  more beggars; more construction;  more tourists;  more pollution;  more dancing; a huge cruise ship;  and generally just more madness and mayhem than we remembered!    It was scorching hot and the main difference we spotted was the amount of street food being offered – but there were still queues of Cubans at all the local shops – from bakers, butchers, (empty) department stores, banks and the mobile network office…..   We wandered around admiring the sights avoiding the unofficial ‘tour guides’ and the ‘photo opportunities’ with locals dressed for the cash-generating occasion.    We decided our feet had had enough so we took a buggy ride around the City – which we thoroughly enjoyed – seeing the tourist areas and the local areas side by side reminding us of the poor conditions that some people live in here.      We ended up in a local restaurant having an average meal (on the rooftop up and down some pretty horrendous stairs!) but with great musicians before we headed back to the Capitol building to find a taxi to take us back.   We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Havana again.   Check out the sights for yourselves below:

Havana 1 Havana 2 Havana 3 Havana 4 Havana 5 Havana 6 Havana 7 Havana 8 Havana 9 Havana 10

Havana 13 Havana 14

Havana 20

Havana 16 Havana 15

Havana 11 Havana 12

Havana 18 Havana 19

Havana 23 Havana 21 Havana 22 Havana 24Havana 25 Havana 26 Havana 27Havana 29 Havana 30 Havana 28Havana 35 Havana 31 Havana 32 Havana 33 Havana 34We got a great deal – 15 CUC in an old Lada – and so back to Morphie for a quiet evening on board and another early night!

This morning – Thursday – and we awoke to a north wind.   The sea is raging and boats are trapped here until it subsides – probably Saturday / Sunday….    So people are pulling themselves off the wall by taking lines ashore to the other side of the canal but we don’t have any cleats on the other wall opposite us so we’re just staying put and watching our fenders.  

Morphie pinned North winds today Line ashore

Not sure what we are going to do with ourselves – we have decided not to return to Havana again – so I guess we’ll just have to catch up with the long list of boat jobs.   While I’m blogging Richard is busy making some fender boards and some wooden blanks for our ports just in case one of them ever gets damaged.    

The internet is really poor here so please be patient when waiting for the next blog..   Bye for now