MIAMI TO CUBA AND THE THANKSGIVING RESCUE

We carry a folding bike on Intrepid, and St Augustine gave it good use as I
rushed along Highway 1 on tiny 12inch wheels looking for alternator belts,
and other boat bits, plus food. Returning I looked a bit like a variety
store version of a French onion man, with cans of oil on the rear mudguard,
rucksack with food, hoses from each handlebar, Westmarine bags swaying,
alternator
belts hanging down..........But we had places to be and on down the ICW with
spoil islands on each sides and lagoons called Mosquito, sailing
when we could, motoring when we couldn't through Daytona Beach of motor
racing on the sands fame to Melbourne which is rapidly becoming our Florida
home (ie we know where things are) and met friend Pat on Swan of Texas a
beautifully maintained Westerly - they winter in Melbourne, summer in
Annapolis, not a bad life - and tried out Mexican and Texan restaurants and
folding bike and I hit the road again (library for internet, Westmarine for
more Pacific spares - well, how many filters/anything else do you need to
cross the Pacific?).

Melbourne and places south had been badly hit by 1 or 2
hurricanes, but the damage was not severe - modern building codes coped
well, although people described whole roofs ripped off and office buildings
swaying in 120 mph winds. But the Government gives loans, and Florida
essentially threw money at it, and repairs were mostly complete 6 weeks
after. But at Fort Pierce we found total devastation - a large inlet comes
in from the Atlantic, and during a hurricane a storm surge had come through
more or less obliterating a whole marina of boats.  We anchored for the
night in gale then sailed along the ICW to Palm Beach (too windy to even get
into or out of marinas) then Boca Raton (where we tried and failed to
finalise a time share), . ....to Fort Lauderdale just north of Miami where
Shirley and Fred had kindly arranged a private mooring for Intrepid. 100's
of
speculative developers in the 1920's (including Ray Kroc who at age 52
started the MacDonald's chain) sold what were known as underwater plots -
land between 2 canals that could be reclaimed - at the time the buyers were
considered idiots, now they are millionaires, maybe there is not so much
between the two.

Out into the Atlantic to Miami where I tried to get to a Caribe dealer and
ended up crossing rail tracks and running across 8 lane highways like a born
again hobo.  We picked up my sister Hilary and Alan, and sailed out of Miami
in a 30 knot onshore wind into an incoming tide - large waves - and south to
Marathon for the day before Thanksgiving - and found a diveboat 1 mile
offshore with motor and all electronics defunct and 2 people on board, being
washed onto a lee shore in 20 knots of wind. Well, what could we do? It was
Thanksgiving after all. Sails down, tow rope out and we towed them 6 miles
round into Marathon harbour. Then a great thanksgiving dinner watching the
sun set over the gulf , and onto Key West
where we checked out the dives and (onland) dives then Hilary and Alan
caught the Greyhound back to Miami. Hilary does all our mail and it was
great to have them both on board. I found the most fantastic diesel
mechanic Mark de Jong whose hobby is fixing engines in 100mph offshore
powerboats. I just wanted a check out on Intrepid's Yanmar and he gave it a
clean bill of health, but with such a depth of know how.....

We rendezvoused with Christian who is taking a year off being deck officer
on Holland
America cruise ships to come with us to Marquesas - we met him in the
Schooner Bar (of course - its the equivalent of the Swan in West Peckham -
all human life hangs out there, and Christian's adopted 'father' runs the
lunch bar there).  Checked out of USA (Where are you headed? Panama of
course - not Cuba because that could be construed as trading with the enemy,
and the USA has been suing people organising trips there) then onto the Dry
Tortugas. Imagine a massive pentagon 3 stories high 150 yards each side 250
guns on a
remote island only just bigger than the fort built in 1820's to 1860's
obsolete before it was ever completed to defend a ........ bit of sand. Most
military follies are forgotten, this is now a national park - and a
beautiful setting it is. 4pm we set off overnight south - and found 3
vessels on the radar just on the 12 mile limit - coast guard or
military?|??? Nicky put in a course for Caymans, we waited and ....... 3
freighters lumbered past. Redirect course due south to Havana in 30 knots
through the Gulf stream, 8 feet steep waves, black as sin, then dawn and
Marina Hemingway, Havana's leisure port.

Still slightly tired, 8 customs, immigration, dockmaster, health, vet....
clambered all over Intrepid, filled out innumerable papers, received $2 in
'tips' in total (for information) and we were in - its a massive marina
designed for super yachts now because of the US embargo perhaps 10% full,
most boats are not 'risking' it ($20/night). Jules (not his real name) drove
us to Havana in his 1980 Lada with doors hanging off - it cost him $3700 6
months ago, and he is inordinately proud of it. We stayed the night in a
particulares (private house) in Old Havana - Havana had more cars than 2
years ago when we visited, more computers (even an internet cafe in Calle
Obispo), many British and EU tourists, a bit more political repression,
(some people were scared to talk to us) but a slightly freer economy based
on a Cuban peso and a convertible peso (= 26 Cuban pesos and $1).   To buy a
can of beer for approx 1 convertible peso a Cuban has to work 3 days (the
average monthly wage is 260 Cuban pesos) - but at least he can buy it. Jules
tried to get to the USA 10 years ago in a dinghy but was caught by the US
coastguard halfway, and taken back to Cuba where he was fined 3 months
salary. Now he has in addition to his car, an illegal 2 metre satellite dish
where he gets 300 channels of US TV including porn; he is on his 2nd 'wife'
introduced us to his other girlfriend, and intends to marry his other other
(American) girlfriend in Virginia as soon as he gets there.  He blends
Caribbean Communism and Capitalism in one, loves Cuba, but is frustrated by
not being able to get the better things in life (or even the ordinary
things) by hard work. We experienced this first hand when the thermostat on
our fridge packed up - with $100 of US meat in it. Jules had a friend (of
course) who tried mightily to fix it, but in the end we needed a spare
part - and in Cuba this meant driving round to all his friends to see if
they might have acquired one.........after 3 hours this was a losing game
and we bridged the thermostat and set off west away from cosmopolitan Havana
to the Cuban country. As I write we are anchored in Bahia Honda 40 miles
west of Havana, lonely mangrove swamps all round, Christian is a fly fishing
enthusiast and explored the mangroves in the dinghy, returning with a
impressive cloud of mosquitoes (but they disappeared by 1 hour after dark),
and there is a fantastic lightening storm (little thunder) going on all
round us, lighting up most of the sky. We will spend Christmas in Isla
Juventad, a dive
centre in the west of Cuba where we will be joined for Christmas by
James,Janet, Ben, and later by Caroline
and Eric for the next leg to Panama.

We wish you all a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and look forward to hearing from you
all. If you haven't received an email recently this may be due to problems
with communications, sorry; I have tried to update the website
www.intrepidofdover@yahoo.co.uk but the migration to new computers is
causing problems, and it may have to await the helpdesk (James). No more
excuses....have a great 2005.

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