Friday, 29 March 2013

No 12/13 Governors Harbour, CI

Hi from Clare,                            Thursday 28th March 2013

We have enjoyed a quiet week in Governors Harbour, Grand Cayman along with our friends Patrick and Amanda on “Egret” and Phil and Nicky on “Ajaya”. We have shared meals, drinks and good company every day.

We took the bus into George Town to see the Duty Free Shopping and walked the streets with thousands of passengers from the cruise ships. The weather has been very windy and at one point, while 1700 passengers waited for pick up, there was a dispute between the cruise ships and the Caymanian tender drivers as to which side to reload them because of the swell. Fortunately for us we are well protected in Governors Harbour and we have good shopping and internet access close by.


Street scenes in tourist Georgetown


We could do some more exploring but we are enjoying taking it easy. Phil and Nicky took the bus to the east end of the island and ended up stranded. The advertised return bus failed to show and they were a bit anxious as night fall approached. Eventually they got back to their boat by hitching a ride with a one of the locals.


One of the many Cruise ships & Amanda, Clare, Nikki, Phil and Patrick at drinks on Egret

The island is very upmarket with many homes priced between one to five million. Patrick (Egret) has an English friend who lives and works here as a lawyer. He said the development on the island is like a run away train. I guess low income tax is a draw card but in addition the island is very attractive with lovely sandy beaches and aqua sparkling warm water.


Andrew has been very industrious polishing the deck and I have been spring cleaning below. Eye Candy is looking pretty good.


We will head for Mexico on Sunday or Monday when the wind drops.

Love Candy xx

Friday, 22 March 2013

No 11/13 Grand Cayman

Hi from Clare,                                                             Wednesday 20th March 2013


We spent a few quiet days on the deserted island of Cayo Rosario in Cuba waiting for the wind to drop. We explored the beaches and did some snorkelling and caught two large lobsters. We concluded that spear fishing ruins a snorkelling event. Instead of looking at all the beautiful fish; our focus is “too large, too small, too fast, there’s one – shoot”. However we do enjoy the fruits of our labour.

We left Cuba Friday morning with 20 knots behind us and a 2 metre swell on our beam and rolled to Grand Cayman. We averaged 6 knots but we saw 9 knots of boat speed and 30 knots of wind. By the time we got cleared into Grand Cayman around lunchtime Saturday we were pretty exhausted and slept for most of the afternoon.

The hunter & Grand Cayman sunrise

Sunday we explored the capital city of George Town with its numerous international banks and duty free shops. The place was dead as the shops were closed with shutters down on all the jewellery stores. It was one of their days off from all the cruise ships that arrive during the weekdays.

We met up with new English friends Phil and Nicky on “Ajaya” and spent a few hours on their catamaran in the morning and then drinks on Eye Candy that evening. Phil is an ex Bavaria agent in England and we had actually contacted him in 2004 before buying Eye Candy. Apart from their Bavaria background, Phil and Nicky have just sailed up from the Panama, uncharted territory for us, so there was much to talk about.

The following morning we were rolling badly as a SE swell was coming into George Town harbour. So now we are around the corner and anchored in Governors Harbour inside North Sound. North Sound is protected by a reef and Governors Harbour is entered by a channel through the mangroves. We are enjoying peaceful nights in flat calm conditions. Fortunately Grand Cayman sprays for mosquitos and so the mangroves are not a problem.

Governors Harbour anchorage


Grand Cayman is quite a contrast from Cuba some 180 miles away. In fact Governors Harbour is very much like Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale with beautiful houses and manicured gardens. We are enjoying large well stocked supermarkets, shopping malls, made footpaths and traffic lights – back into the western twenty first century.

We have met up with English cruising buddies Patrick and Amanda on “Egret”. We have sailed with Patrick and Amanda on and off for a few years. You may recall in a previous newsletter I mentioned that they lost their rubber when they crossed the Atlantic. Well we are safely anchored together and enjoying Governors Harbour.

Yesterday we took “Egret” and our two dinghies out to Stingray City. This is a shallow sand bank inside the reef where the local tripper boats bring hundreds of tourists daily to see the stingrays. We anchored “Egret” close by and took the dinghies over. The water is chest deep and the tripper boat handlers hold on to the stingrays so we can pat them and feed squid to them. The top of the stingray is rough to touch but the underside is very soft and slippery. They suck the squid up like a vacuum cleaner.

Stingray City & Clare & Amanda feeding the rays

After that we went snorkelling on a very pretty reef with colourful coral and tropical fish. Spear fishing is forbidden in the Caymans and our spear has been confiscated until we check out; that’s fine with us we can enjoy snorkelling without hunting.


We will stay here for a few weeks and explore the island. We have internet access in town which is just a short dinghy drive away. This afternoon we will post this newsletter and upload photos to Nos 9 and 10.

love Candy

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

No 10/13 Havana Cuba

Hi from Clare,                                Monday 11th March 2013

When last I wrote we were anchored off the marina in Cienfuegos hoping to get a pen in the marina so we could go to Havana. Fortunately we spoke to an Italian couple who were leaving for a week and they offered us their pen. They also very kindly organised an English speaking taxi driver who took us to Havana, found us accommodation (with some English) and then picked us up a few days later. The driver, aged seventy four, had served in four wars and was an ex Brigadier General in the Cuban army. He was an interesting companion; a big bear of a man and larger than life.
It probably didn't help that our accommodation was in Old Havana in a street that was being dug up. It was hot and dusty and we had to manoeuvre around a concrete mixer and a back hoe working by the front door. The street was cluttered with pedestrians and Cuban workmen. However once inside the outer door we entered a cool and breezy internal courtyard which accessed a number of private homes. Our very comfortable accommodation was 30 CUC a night (average Havana rate) and I don't think I have ever seen a cleaner or more immaculate house; and plenty of hot water for showers.

Old Havana is the premier tourist area and if you wanted to be negative you could describe it as dirty, polluted, with smelly drains, crumbling buildings and broken streets. The touts are annoying and the food is very average. However once you get past that, there is much to see and appreciate.

Old Havana started in the early 1500s and in 1982 UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Site. It has a system of Squares, Cathedral Square, Old Square, San Francisco Square, Main Square and Square of the Christ. The Squares are surrounded by restored palaces, large homes, Cathedrals, churches and public buildings. One such square would be a city's pride and joy but Old Havana has five of them.

Cathedral Square & Old Square

San Francisco Sq & Main Sq.

In the New City we visited the Museum of the Revolution which is housed in the former Presidential Palace of the Cuban Republic. Just outside the Palace is a preserved part of the City Wall which was torn down in the 1800s and also SAU-100 self-propelled gun fired by Fidel Castro during the US invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
The Museum exhibits the most important facts and historical events surrounding the Revolution. We saw photos from the Bay of Pigs incident of Fidel instructing his men. We couldn't help but notice that in many photos Fidel was leaning forward and was right in their face; suffice to say there wouldn't have been any doubt in their minds as to what Fidel wanted. No coming back later and saying "I didn't hear what you said."

Museum of the Revolution/Presidential Palace

Capitol Building & Grand Theatre

We also saw the Cuban Capitol (built in 1929), with a striking similarity to the one in Washington and the beautiful Grand Theatre of Havana (built in 1837), the seat of Cuban's National Ballet. Just around the corner we took photos of the pretty pastel coloured houses and then the older and far from pretty run down homes with fuel drums and junk cluttering their small verandas. The air pollution in this part of the city was unbelievable with numerous old cars belching out thick clouds of black smoke. We wanted to sit and people watch but we had to get away from the traffic.

City accommodation

Interior Courtyards
We went across the bay to Casablanca to visit the Morro-Cabana Historical Park and the San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress (built 1763-1744). The fort is high on the hill overlooking the harbour entrance and the city of Havana. We could have taken a taxi via the Havana Tunnel but decided to be adventurous and travel with the locals on the ferry for 5 cents. We caught the wrong ferry and ended up in the small town of Regla where very little English is spoken. We pulled out our map and asked for directions to Casablanca. The young ferry attendant couldn't speak English but performed a wonderful charade of getting back on the ferry, returning to where we came from, not getting off when the ferry stopped, then travelling to Casablanca on the same ferry. His actions were walking, sitting, waiting and then walking. All this was done by pointing to the various destinations on the map and speaking to us in rapid Spanish. He was very animated which amused both us and his workmates. However he did get the message across and we understand, but not contented with that, he sat us on a seat until he found a passenger who could speak both Spanish and English. We were then entrusted into his care to ensure that these silly tourists ended up in the right place. It will be one of our memorable experiences of people going out of their way to help us.

San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress

We left Havana and returned to the boat late Thursday. Friday was spent doing chores and preparing to move on. We did an overnight sail on Saturday night to Cayo Rosario on the south west coast of Cuba. The wind was behind us and with a 2 metre swell on our hind quarter we rolled all the way.
We had arranged to meet up with Kiwi couple David and Brenda on 'Bandit'. We last saw them in Barbados in January 2012. We have spent two days together going between boats for chats, morning tea and evening drinks. The local fishermen came around yesterday supplying us both with Lobster and so we have been invited for dinner on 'Bandit' tonight - guess what's on the menu.

Tomorrow 'Bandit' will move east to Cienfuegos. We will stay here in Cayo Rosario waiting for the right opportunity to head south to Grand Cayman. Tomorrow there is no wind then a cold front is coming through bringing strong northerly winds. We will head south on the back of that front.
When in Havana we uploaded photos to newsletters Nos 6, 7 and 8. When we get to Grand Cayman we will upload photos to newsletters Nos 9 and 10. Please look back at the photos.

Love Candy xx

At 11:57 AM11/03/2013 (utc) our position was 21°37.15'N 081°56.41'W

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Monday, 4 March 2013

9/13 Ceinfuegos and Trinidad

Hi from Clare,                                                                        Saturday 2nd March 2013


This week has been a mixed bag. We haven't received fish from the local fishermen but we dived with sharks. Eye Candy's 2.1M draw excluded us from staying at Casilda marina as planned so we sailed on to Cienfuegos. The twenty pen marina here is full so we are now anchored off with ten other boats. The weather has been sunny and calm and now it is windy, raining and chilly. We explored the town of Cienfuegos and had the Lonely Planet stolen from our closed backpack. Yesterday we engaged the services of an English speaking taxi driver to take us to Trinidad and show us around. This expedition went off smoothly and we had a most enjoyable day.


On Monday we anchored in Cayo Anclitas with two other cruising boats and a live aboard dive boat with a dozen or so Russians having a dive holiday. The dive operator came over to Eye Candy and signed us up for a dive the following day at 1pm at slack tide when the visibility is best. The dive was amazing along coral beds, down through an open canyon with schools of beautiful fish and then back to the dive boat to play with the sharks. The dive operator hung an enclosed box of food beneath the dive boat. By the time we got back there we about ten silky sharks circling. The Dive Master grabbed one on a certain place on its tail which completely demobilized it. He nursed it like a baby and then stood it nose first on his other hand and let go its tail. The shark just stood on its nose until the Dive Master took it by the tail again and then let it go. The Dive Master repeated the procedure with a few sharks and Andrew got the pat one of them. It was the most amazing thing we have seen to date. The only time the sharks got a bit excited was after we got out of the water and the food box was hauled aboard; they thrashed around on the surface looking for it.


Cienfuegos is a relatively modern town which caters for the two economies and the two currencies. The shops range from modern clothes, perfumeries, beauty shops, book shops and restaurants down to vegetables sold on the street and government shops providing basic food for the locals with allocated tokens. There are no electronics shops or jewellery shops and the occasional supermarket (for the want of a better word) has very limited stock and insufficient variety to cater for what we would consider normal food shopping. Some shops have guards on the door limiting entry. They spend all day opening the door to let someone out and then signalling for the next person to come in.

Transport ranges from modern cars, thirty year old Russian cars, air conditioned coaches, local busses which are open back trucks, single push bikes and motor cycles, push bikes with passenger buggies, horse and buggies and horse and cart. In Cienfuegos there is one Government run internet café. Locals are not permitted to use the internet and we have to show our passport to gain access.

I would love to be able to tell you when the city was founded and how old the buildings are but some horrible person stole our Lonely Planet from our closed backpack and so I am at a complete loss. Next time we go up the street we are going to leave our backpack open and fill it with mouse traps.

Cienfuegos Main street & Mall

Cienfuegos Town Square & International Baseball Stadium


At the marina bar every evening there sits a French/Canadian guy by the name of Papa. He works in Cuba a few months each year, speaks fluent Spanish and is part of the establishment. He is so well known at the bar that he is allowed to bring his own large bottle of Rum and bottle of Coke. The bar provides him with a glass and ice (certainly couldn't do that in Australia). Cruisers quickly learn that if you want anything, ask Papa. He organized our deal for an English speaking driver (Osmany) to take us to Trinidad and show us around. The cost was the same as the tourist bus fare plus we had to buy lunch for the driver.

It was an eighty kilometre drive through sugar, coffee, tobacco, mango and banana plantations. Horse and cart was the predominate mode of transport on the road and the farmers were on horseback. We stopped along the way to purchase mangoes and bananas for very little money. The country housing is small and basic but as Osmany said "there are no wealthy people, but nobody is starving, everybody is the same. Cuban people have all we need".
Tasting sugar cane juice & Farmer on horseback

Buying mangoes & average country housing


Trinidad was founded 500 years ago in 1513. The old town is Unesco World Heritage listed and is just gorgeous with its large pastel coloured colonial mansions, cobble stone streets and distant mountains providing a dramatic setting. Its wealth was built of the back of the slave trade and sugar plantations.

We commenced our tour by drinking a La Canchanchara which is a very potent rum mixed with water, honey, lemon and sugar and watching a five piece Cuban band do their thing. We then wandered up to the Plaza Mayor and visited the Museo Historico Municipal where we learnt all about the Castro revolution and the Banditos.

Trinidad Town Square & Lunch at Sol Ananda

Local Church & professional cigar roller

We had lunch in one of the oldest mansions in Trinidad. It was built in the mid eighteenth century by the Town Mayor and transformed in 2011 into a period restaurant by its Architect owner. A beautifully presented restaurant but we thought the food was pretty average.

Then by chance we tacked on to the back of a guided tour for a bus load of French Canadians. We all look the same and so we went unnoticed. We visited another mansion built in the late eighteenth century and houses the Museo Romantico displaying period furnishings, china and such.

Street views of Trinidad

Continuing with the French/Canadian tour group we then saw a display of professional Cigar making. This was pretty good because if visiting the cigar factories photos are not allowed. Apparently it is the young leaves on the bottom of the Tabacco plant that produces the best
taste and aroma. These young leaves are rolled in a stronger leaf and thirdly a soft leaf for the final outer case. The lady we saw could roll approximately 70 cigars a day.

We made our way back to the car and headed for home stopping off to buy some much needed fresh vegetables and some pork chops (the first meat we have found since George Town in the Bahamas). With the benefit of local knowledge, our driver Osmany made it very easy.


We have just returned from the Internet Café in Ceinfuegos. We could not post this email or update Nos 6, 7, 8 and 9 with photos. The Blogsite would not run properly on the earlier version of Internet Explorer. We were both disappointed as the photos add so much more to the words. However we are heading to the capital Havana on Tuesday for three nights. We are hoping to get Wifi there which will solve the problem; only time will tell.

Love Candy xx

At 4:02 PM28/02/2013 (utc) our position was 22°07.61'N 080°27.27'W

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