Grand Caymans, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, January 2014


Left Wisconsin at minus 20 arrived in Grand Cayman at 80 plus and cold rum drinks.  Spent time managing the head repair (you don’t want to know the details), Fred helped install the new all stainless heavier anchor, Gordy worked on the refrig controller – we will have cold beer and Wendell brought in a Cuban cruising guide on his i pad.  Eduardo the local bartender was Cuban, family lives in Cuba helped in our strategy sessions.


Finally Curtis arrived midday Saturday to round out the crew, the Grateful Red was at sea by five and through the Grand Cayman Sound reef.  Prevailing winds are east north east and we are going east north east – mostly motored to Marea de Portillo. 


Beautiful bay, only boat.  Crew went into town via dingy for our first dinner.  Great time and no dingy altercations on the boat return.  Promptly at 0700 the next morning La Guarda is at boat side – no paperwork must stay on the boat.  We agreed to stay on the boat and La Guarda (a very nice guy) agreed to sell us diesel.  We waited, waited and waited just as we decided to beat up wind 80 miles La Guarda showed up with diesel.  Filled up and motored out at dusk …… Santiago and paperwork here we come.  Arrived at sun rise to the beautiful port of Santiago.


The Santiago La Guarda were professional.  Through boat check including a dog that sniffed for explosives and a dog that sniffed for drugs.  We passed the inspection and were granted one month visas.  It is not legal for Americans to buy or pay for items in Cuba luckily there is a large community of Swedes (a Swedish flag boat in the marina), Dutch (also in the marina), Aussies, Germans and number of friendly Canadians more than willing to buy for us if we paid them in euros that we had bought in the US.  We complied and everyone was happy.

After the La Guarda check, the owner of the boat across the dock comes to me and asks in his French accented English “did you like Pete’s Bar?” and laughs.  After he drops a few more hints I got it – the French man across the dock met the Grateful Red crew of Jack, Curtis and Ken at Pete’s bar in 2009 – the sailor bar in the Azores.  We were crossing the ocean to Europe and he was heading south to sail to the Caribbean.  Five years later he is sailing west to the Pacific and the Grateful Red is sailing north to America.  Sailors and their dreams.


Ken and Miguel (new Cuban friend)



Several Cuban beach babes (and Gordy…)


“Our car” was a red 1955 Chevy station wagon without a muffler and had to roll down a grade to start but held five.  Never understood why the driver honked all the time you could hear the car a least a mile down the road.  Crew toured downtown Santiago.  Not much happening.  We were always brought to a “private” restaurant.  Nice but never any Cubans.  On day three we decided to walk around the bay to a local spot with radio blaring.  After a discussion in Ken and Gordie Spanish we determined that the restaurant was having some type of office dinner and party but we were allowed to eat out on the veranda.  A terrific pork meal with a bottle of Havana Club seven year old anejo for six bucks …….. and half way through the meal a lady dressed in her finest asked if the Americans would participate in their after dinner dance.  None of the locals had ever seen a real live American let alone partied with them.  The “DJ” cranked up his boom box, bought another bottle of Havana Club and the crew danced salsa with the Cuban party.  Truly a fun time for all!

Street food

A bit of Street food!


On to Baracoa – passing Guantanamo Bay – went very wide maybe ten miles off shore.  US Coast Guard patrols out three miles – armed and dangerous!  Made Baracoa with no issues.  Baracoa did not have a marina so the local La Guarda made one crew member stay on the boat at all times.  First American boat on his shift.  Baracoa was another step back in time.  Found a local restaurant on the water, ordered lobster for Gordie, Wendell and Ken  …… then Gordie brought out the contraband …… a quarter pound of real butter.  Dairy products are impossible in Cuba so the Grateful Red refrigerator was prestocked with beer and butter.  The essentials.   Beer, lobster and butter for three was twenty bucks so we left a fiver as a tip.  The owner came running after us because we left money behind  …… when your monthly income is $30 a fiver tip is really appreciated plus Gordie left the remaining contraband butter behind. 


Went to a local club with music – eight piece salsa band.  Again Mr. Kopke danced with the best  …. Ken told the owner that in America we buy a round of drinks for the band when we like them.  Gave the owner eight bucks for a round of cold ones.  A couple songs later the band leader comes over and asks if the band can keep the dollars as the bandleader said “one dollar buys the family meat for week”.  No issues – use the tip anyway that you want …… three more band members came over to thank us for the generosity??  Gordie bought a couple loaves of Fidel subsidized bread for his butter supply and back to the boat.  About midnight a big storm comes though and winds change to the west …… in these parts the winds come from the east 80{e5b62957b3804ab7f47eece8c936dd4b822dafb6efd3f6ca02827a1c1cc3266f} of the time and never from the west.  We were going East, pulled anchor at 0400 and headed to Provo in the Caicos’ with the wind behind us.  I bet the La Guarda was not happy when his American boat headed out leaving all our Cuban paperwork with him.  The Grateful Red is now probably a wanted poster on the Cuban bathroom walls.


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