Tales of the Itinerant Sailor

Cruising 2009

Political Peril and the Itinerant Sailor

By

Steven Jones  

The Reunion

Good sailing conditions until I round the western tip of San Antonio, then the Trade Winds.  The Noserly Phenomenon.  I still reach the escarpment, where the depth changes from more than 1000í to 15í in about 5 seconds, before daybreak.  But I have entered this channel several times in the past and donít even quiver.  The challenge comes later in the morning when I enter the approach to Ensenada de Siguanea, now called Marina Hotel Colony.  The entrance has silted over and various markers (sticks) have been placed in the channel that must have meaning to whoever put them there.  But not to me.  I elect to stay to the starboard side of the sticks.  Good choice.  By 0900 hours I am dockside and checked in well before noon.  The amenities for guests have not improved at all since I first arrived here in 1998:  bad electrical and water connections, dirty showers and toilets with no seats nor toilet paper, infested with mosquitos, and one night a frog. But the personnel are all very personable and do their best to make me feel welcome.

Marina Hotel Colony

The Marina Hotel Colony

I catch the employee bus at 1700 hours that goes to Argilia Libre, about an hour away, including a lengthy stop at Hotel Colony, a popular hotel for tourists interested in fishing and diving since the 1940ís.  At the tienda I ask for directions to the homes of my two friends:  Yusdania, my pen pal for the last few years, and Dalia, the daughter of the family I first met in Neuva Gerona when I first arrived here.  The attendant hollers down the street and a young girl responds, takes me directly to the home of Yusdania.  I am greeted warmly by the family and treated like the lost prodigal son for the next week. 

Every day I walk the one mile to Hotel Colony and catch the local bus to visit these people.  The walk back at night is quite an adventure, slapping at mosquitoes all the way and wondering what is lurking in the darkness. 

I usually arrive about noon and lunch is soon served.  They insist that I eat first; the rest of the family will eat afterwards.  The usual fare is rice, beans, cucumbers, maybe tomatoes and onions, and chicken or pork.  Always very tasty.  For fruit there is an abundance of pineapple and mango, both of which are in season, and sometimes strawberries.  And pasta, which I buy for them, as well as the meat, at the dollar stores in Nueva Gerona, an hour away by bus.  It appears as if they have coupons for bread and eggs, which are delivered to their homes, but all other food must be obtained at the reasonable, but limited, Cuban market in Nueva Gerona, or the very unreasonable dollar stores.  I say unreasonable for Cubans, but not so unreasonable for me, although the dollar is discounted 20%.  Still, it is the least that I can do in light of their hospitality. 

Ride 'em Cowboy

Ride 'em Cowboy

So, for the next week I am a man of leisure.  I spend time at the beach at Hotel Colony (still not repaired from the damage of the hurricanes two years ago), shopping and visiting friends in Nueva Gerona, enjoying the farm life of two of the daughters who live with the husbands and children within hollering distance of the family home in Argilia Libre, and just hanging out with the family trying to help with their domestic needs.  Nearly every home in Cuba has television and some CD equipment.  Usually, in various states of disrepair.  Where do they get the money?  I donít know.  But they assume that I, an American, know how to ďfixĒ them.  Silly people.

And I want to be part of their lives and to experience their culture.  I am present when Daliaís daughter delivers her first baby.  When it is time for mother and child to go home two days later, I provide for the taxi for the 45 minute trip to Argila Libre. 

Hotel Colony Beach

Yusdania, right, and her neighbor, Maria, at Hotel Colony Beach

One night, on the bus ride back to the Hotel Colony I witness a vast migration of land crabs from the land to the sea.  The bus driver makes several stops along the way to let off men carrying gunny sacks.  Presumable, these sacks will be full of crabs when they board the bus on the return trip.

Toward the end of my stay, the family wants to make sure I have enough clean clothes.  The next day I bring my dirty laundry with me.  The two sisters take my clothes to the neighborís house.  She has a washing machine similar to others that I have seen in the Caribbean that has a wash and rinse component and a centrifugal force spinner.  Dryer?  Donít need one.  Just take the clothes across the road and hang them on the barbed wire horse fence.  They ask about an iron.  For T-shirts?  Donít be silly!  I show them how to fold the clothes as soon as they are dry and they are winkle-free.  They are amazed, first that I, a man, am even helping with the laundry in the first place, and that I know how to fold clothes.  Of course I donít turn my clothes inside out to wash, as is common in the Caribbean.

The Cuban Procedures The Cruiser Friendly Officials

Cruising 2009: Political Peril and the Itinerant Sailor
Copyright © 2010 Steven Jones. All Rights Reserved.

Contact: siriusii@hotmail.com