Fotonovela – Marina Hemingway

Of Miles and my month-long stay in Cuba, the majority was spent in Havana, at the Hemingway Marina. Although we found a boat willing to give us a ride back to the US on our second day there, unconvenient north winds kept us docked for two and a half weeks. With our budget dwindling to nothing and no clear sign we would be able to leave the island, we survived on less than $6 a day, and a whole lot of creativity.

01We snuck in the marina at night, by lying to the taxi driver that we had friends on a boat waiting for us to return to the US. It wasn’t a complete lie. We did, we just didn’t know them yet. Within a few minutes, a small dog started following us. You can see him coiled up here, next to the giant cinder block we called home for the night. My first pick was for a lower, more stealthy cinder block, but both Miles and my intuition led us to take a risk closer to the road. In the morning, all the other cinder blocks were under water.

02Meet El Perro, the marina dog! His love for Miles was immediate. I called him “the little terror” – LT for short. I wasn’t too keen on him following us. His constant barking made it very difficult to be inconspicious. But, it was too late, Miles had also fallen in love. “It is how he talks” Miles said, “but does he have to talk so loud?”. “He is protecting himself and us.” Miles said. No need to argue further, although Miles never fed him or claimed him as his dog, he was. He waited outside buildings or boats until Miles returned, and followed us to town on our quasi-daily food runs. He couldn’t come with us back to the US – captain’s orders. When we left, he ran along the docks and tried to jump in to follow. Miles looked away. We don’t talk about it.

03On our second day at the marina, we met a captain willing to take us. Our destination mattered none to us, as long as it was a country where our american bank cards worked (they don’t in Cuba). We had an offer from a crew from the Czech Republic, going to Isla Mujeres “come only if you don’t get scared. We want to go in the storm to practice.” We had an offer from a large wooden ship to the Keys, but there was dissension among the crew-mates on that boat. Miles learned the backstory at another one of those dance parties he started while I was asleep. That was the night when he returned to the boat without his pants … true story … He made many friends that night.
The next morning, I made him learn “excuse me, have you seen my pants” in Spanish and followed him for the fun of it. He only remembered “los pantalones?” but did find his pants.

04On our second day at the marina, we met a captain willing to take us. Our destination mattered none to us, as long as it was a country where our american bank cards worked (they don’t in Cuba). We had an offer from a crew from the Czech Republic, going to Isla Mujeres “come only if you don’t get scared. We want to go in the storm to practice.” We had an offer from a large wooden ship to the Keys, but there was dissension among the crew-mates on that boat. Miles learned the backstory at another one of those dance parties he started while I was asleep. That was the night when he returned to the boat without his pants … true story … He made many friends that night.
The next morning, I made him learn “excuse me, have you seen my pants” in Spanish and followed him for the fun of it. He only remembered “los pantalones?” but did find his pants.

05And Miles became an expert coconut gatherer and opener. We drank the water from the green ones and grated the pulp of the older ones to put in white rice for extra calories. In retrospect, it was actually a fun time. I got a bit stressed with all the cancelled departures. We also both lost a lot of weight from walking 4 miles round trip every time we wanted to buy a head of cabbage and a few cucumbers (our main foods)

06We spent many hours at the nearby all-inclusive resort. They knew we weren’t guests, but graciously fed Miles free coffee as often as we asked. We only had trouble with the guards on the last day, which was the day when Darryl and Mandy took us out for dinner, and THEY were guests of the resort, so we actually had a legit reason to be there. This is the game I won – don’t let Miles tell you otherwise.

07El perro liked helping me during yoga. One of the marina guards came to ask if I was okay. I guess people don’t do yoga on lawns in Cuba.

08He’s got down-dog down!

09On the 5th day, the captain brought us some lobsters that had been sitting in his fridge in town. Miles was psyched. I grew up with lobsters so I was less thrilled. messy business.

10This is Hugo’s house. Hugo lives in Santa Fe, the town a few miles away from the marina where we walked to get our cabbage, cucumber and garlic. I asked if I could take a photo of his amazing house, covered in shells, he invited us in. We spent the rest of the day listening to stories, drinking the best coffee known to man, and enjoying old revolutionary Cuban tunes.

11“Of Che, Fidel or Hugo, which one loves Cuba the most?” was written on the wall (in Spanish). The answer, obviously is Hugo … here with Miles in his bedroom.

12So, why the shells? Cubans are issued houses, but not the material to renovate them. Because everything is included (education, medical, staple food, etc), salaries are very small, too small to buy paint of even concrete (I’m talking $40 a month salary, about). So, Hugo figured shells and broken glass is free on the beach, plus this way he cleans the environment and gets to be creative. he’s been at it for 27 years. All rooms and furniture in his house are covered. Photos don’t give it justice … neither do they reflect his genuine laugh and welcoming ways.

13El Perro, looking adoringly at Miles. By then, we had started “training” him. He was a bright dog. The day after I complained to Miles that “his” dog was obnoxious (“he’s not my dog” – Pink Panther), El Perro stopped barking. I guess he heard me.

14Gathering coconuts for our last supper …

15On the last night, the captain said we didn’t have to pay him for the fuel we promised to pay until we got to Florida. Suddenly, we had dozens of dollars to spare. Just in time for the Friday night pig roast at the yacht club.

16Our last sunset in Cuba, taken from the boat.

17On the last day, we tipped like mad everywhere we went. We had been so careful with money that we actually had surplus. We even indulged in a bike-taxi ride, and El Perro got to ride on Miles’ lap.

18One last look at the place we called home for a few weeks. Notice the dog house Miles built from boat debris. El Perro was safe there, and protected from the rain.

19So, here we go. 36 hour-traverse. It looks flat in the photos. Don’t you believe it. Even the captain (here at the wheel) was sick.

20This is 30 minutes in. I was still a normal color.

21This is an hour in, and that bag and I would be close friends for the remainder of the trip.

22Meanwhile, Miles is running around like he was born on a boat, setting sails, improving the boat’s performance with minor adjustments, cooking for the captain below … a smile on his face and wind in his hair, all the way to Florida.

The end … for now.
Next … Hitchhike from Cape Coral, FL to San Diego, CA.