The last day of our trip. I've signed up in Atlantis for a time slot between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. so the doctor can come to the pier and do a PCR test.
The evening before, shortly before nightfall, we take down the mainsail so that we are not too fast. Plus, it's a bastard job that is better done in daylight. We are good in time. We are doing a shortened night shift because we want to enter the port of Barcadera shortly after 5 a.m. When I hand over to Jens at midnight, everything is still according to plan.
At five o'clock in the morning I get up, the on-board computer shows a bad ... position. We've been sailing practically on the spot for five hours, the wind has turned pretty much to our disadvantage. So we decide to start the engine and run for the last six miles. The engineering work of art from Sindelfingen comes to life with the usual rumble. We take the genoa down, the gearbox does its usual beating when I put the gear into gear. The engine roars when I accelerate. Otherwise nothing happens.
The genoa is back in operation in no time, we would almost have been driven backwards against the only buoy far and wide. Whatever we do - the propeller refuses to cooperate. Getting to Atlantis is more difficult than expected. We have to sail it out to the last meter.
The Barcadera clearing port is informed at 7 a.m. At 8 o'clock it is clear that a dinghy is coming from the marina as a towing aid. At 9 a.m. we made the meeting point, but we didn't reach it until shortly before 11 a.m. We sail back and forth, the wind eases and the current gains the upper hand. Shortly before 11 am, Hans from the Renaissance Marina can finally take us in tow. He tries hard and the 40 hp engine can only barely drag us to the customs pier. Lines over, tie up, wipe sweat from my forehead. 68 miles, but one hour is still missing to the Etmal.
Clearing in was done quickly, the people are friendly and of course the customs officers on board didn't steal anything. At this point it should be over, we are tired and have to sleep. Tomorrow I'll show you some pictures from Havana.
Everything is said and written down. But one thing is certain, the tenth day is the last full day on the water. We can almost see Atlantis. The bones hurt, we are tired and exhausted. Driving against the wind for ten days left its mark on both of us. Driving against the wind for ten days has left its mark on Sissi. We look forward to the quiet at the quarantine anchorage.
Tomorrow we will reach the port of Barcadera at sunrise. There are still 30 miles to Aruba, our tenth Etmal is 79 miles.
The wind is blowing with its usual strength and we are cruising through the Caribbean Sea. Cuban salsa music that we copied on site can be heard from the speakers. If you could dance salsa, you would be able to push any beautiful woman across the dance floor to these sounds. We have a mission. We are looking for a mysterious, forgotten island. This island is missing from all nautical charts. Why are we doing this
A few days ago we were sitting in a dark, dirty Cuban bar in Santiago that no tourist has ever strayed into before us. We drank rum because there was no beer. We didn't trust the water. The rum tasted good, it tasted sweet and reminded of the sea. Suddenly an old Cuban came to our table. He smiled at us, only a few black teeth could be seen between the gaps between the teeth. His skin was wrinkled and blotchy. In a large gap in his teeth he had placed one of the thickest cigars we have ever seen. He wanted to know where we came from.
When we said “Germany”, the old man was very happy. He is now 93 years old and in the time before the revolution he went to sea. He also came to Germany, to Stralsund and Warnemünde. The beer would have been good and cheap there. He wanted to know if that's still the case today. And he had to tell us immediately that he thinks the Bundesliga is great and that he is a big fan of Bayern Munich. I spit out my rum.
Jens explained to him that mentioning this association always made me feel sick and vomit. He orders a round of rum for the three of us. The old man was still interested in us. He didn't mind my nausea and asked when our plane was going back to Germany. We told him that we are here with the sailboat and that we want to continue for the next few days.
If we buy another glass or two of rum, said the old man, he would have something very special for us from the time he went to sea. That made us curious, I went to the landlord and ordered the next round.
The old man emptied his glass in one gulp and said goodbye briefly. He had to go to his apartment, but it was just around the corner. Before Jens and I could finish our rum, the old man was back. He unfolded a crumpled and worn nautical chart from 1904 on the little pub table and looked quizzically at the long row of rum bottles behind the counter. He drew on his cigar for a long time. At my hand signal, the host immediately brought the next round. It felt like there was more rum in the glasses with every round.
We recognized Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao as well as the coast of Venezuela on the map. Another island had been drawn northwest of Aruba with barely recognizable pencil marks. We will call it Atlantis. The old man said that in 1947 he was a sailor on a cargo sailing ship. The ship got caught in a heavy storm and all three masts were broken. After being driven across the Atlantic for two days, they hit land and stranded. The captain would not have known there was an island there.
The island was green and fertile, and the people were friendly and helpful. They helped the seafarers to get their freighter afloat again. Every sailor immediately made a girlfriend or two. The old man raved about lakes with crystal clear water, primeval forests with fruits that you only had to pick and with an animal world that was unparalleled. Whoever wanted to, caught a bird and grilled it. Tame wild boars grunted between the trees. It was paradise on earth.
The residents supported the castaways in setting the new masts. There was new provisions, delicious fruit and fresh vegetables, juicy beef steaks and crispy bread. It was very difficult for them to say goodbye, the old man told us at our table and looked into his empty glass. Not all sailors would have left the island at that time, some stayed forever. You never heard from them again.
The landlord no longer needed a sign, he was immediately at the table with the bottle. He also had three big cigars in his hands, a present from the house. The captain would have tried to enter the position of the island on the nautical chart. Because of the storm, the position was not so accurate. He would now give us this nautical chart. When we're in the area, we should be careful not to get shipwrecked. Jens and I said goodbye. We rushed to the harbor so as not to miss the last ferry of the day into the marina.
Jens and I have now been sailing a zigzag search grid in the area in question for a few days. We are excited to see this island, which is missing on our nautical charts and on Gugel maps. At the expected position, the satellite image unfortunately only shows a dense cloud cover. The radar is on, we can't miss it. We haven't seen a ship for days, we are off all shipping routes. The hangover from rum is long gone. The nautical chart is on the chart table, water slowly drips onto the old print. Atlantis, we are coming! Our Etmal is 89.2 miles. Another 85 miles as the crow flies to Atlantis.
The frustration of yesterday has given way to a certain euphoria. We can do it and we will do it. Our original plan to drive into the area from which we could drive the engine to our destination was pulverized by the Atlantic waves. We can only motor the last few miles, the waves are too big and the countercurrent too strong.
But now we are using the resources we have in a much more efficient way. We read the weather map more closely and use the wind turner in our favor. That moves us forward. Not as fast as we would have expected, but much faster than if we were driving the engine.
First we drive north for six hours, the wind prevents us from taking a direct course to Aruba. Shortly before dinner, the expected wind shift arrives. For the next twelve hours, it enables us to set a direct course towards our goal. When the wind turns back, we head north again. And so on ... We actually wanted to have arrived today, that was wishful thinking on our part. We completely underestimated the countercurrent. Now we've learned how to deal with it.
During my evening watch I watch two films, this time we are spared from storms. A strange noise distracts me from the cinema, next to me a flying fish wriggles in the cockpit. I put it back into its actual element as quickly as possible, so it can fidget as much as it wants.
At half past one a flickering light distracts me from my third film. The dimmer in the salon couldn't take all the salt water. Even though the lamp is switched off, it flickers cheerfully. I get the tool and remove the dimmer. The water raged terribly. The dimmer is cleaned with fresh water and drained.
The morning wind shift comes two hours earlier than expected. Jens drives a turn, I'm thrown around in the bunk. We're going north again, that improves the angle to Aruba. The day before yesterday we had an angle of 120 °, now we are at an angle of 135 °. When we get to 150 ° we can sail it directly. Then we are largely independent of the windmakers. The only downer is that we still have to travel 150 miles as the crow flies. Our Etmal is 83 miles.
We try everything to improve our speed. It's a crux. Either we drive the perfect course, but then we are slower than a DHL package. Or we drive an acceptable speed, then we don't really approach Aruba anymore. So the compromise solution is an unfavorable course at slow speed. Our plans for the future after Aruba actually include another long blow to the Passat. We have to reconsider that. It would be much easier to reconsider if Jamaica finally opens its borders. But we won't see that again this spring.
A rain shower turns the wind another 40 ° to our disadvantage. After an hour and a half it is over and we are back on the compromise course.
Jens rediscovers skills believed to be lost. Since we left Lagos (Portugal), we have never had to worry about trimming our sails again. The wind always came from behind and was strong enough. Now it comes from the front and is sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker. Jens asserts the big one properly, it is now at the right angle to our genoa without wrinkles.
The compromise course becomes almost the perfect course, we should have dealt with the subject earlier. But who will complain about spilled milk, it is as it is. With the new course and speed, we can expect to be in Aruba on Tuesday.
Everything is as always. The on-board routine has set itself. Jens goes to bed after dinner, I'm on the first watch. The wind forecast promises us a turnaround in our favor for the next few hours, which is combined with a little more wind strength. Jens also says I would have all the fun, because less wind is predicted for his watch and the wind will turn to our disadvantage again.
So I am sitting in the cockpit reading a book when the wind picks up from 20 knots to 40 knots out of the blue. At the same time, heavy rain sets in. A picture-book squall. I fire up the radar and consider reefing the sails. The radar warm-up phase is 90 seconds, during which time I realized that we were safe on the road. Our well-trimmed sails and Sissi can easily cope with that. The wind pilot also puts it away and keeps the boat safely on course. I'm soaking wet in the cockpit. After a quarter of an hour the ghost is over and everything normalizes.
An hour later the next squall comes. This time the radar is on, I should have seen it first. But I didn't see him, the rain doesn't set in until later. But then violently, as I know it from Aruba. This time, too, the wind rises to 40 knots, I see the rain pattering on the solar cells. I didn't want that much fun at night.
Out of the blue it hits hard, a wave hits Sissi in the aft area. 12 tons of sailing boats are thrown to the side in a fraction of a second. My head hits the cockpit roof. That gives a bump. Jens calls out from the aft bunk that water has penetrated through the side window. Fortunately, the side window is still in place. The rules of the Atlantic are tough.
After carefully checking the weather forecast, the fun should be over by one in the morning. Jens will relieve me at three o'clock. So all the fun stays with me. Thanks. Meanwhile, Jens pulls a fresh, dry sheet on his bed. You don't treat yourself to anything else.
In the morning a bang wakes me up. Shortly afterwards, I hear that the electric autopilot has started working. I crawl out of bed. Jens informs me that one of the control cables of our wind pilot has torn off along with its deflection block. Another repair in the morning. It is frustrating. We only approach Aruba centimeters and each of these small defects throws us back several meters. Seventh Etmal 71 miles. Another 150 miles to Aruba as the crow flies.
A used day. At least for me. After repairing the oar, I finally want to make myself some sandwiches for breakfast. Not only am I soaked in sweat, I also have a huge headache. We haven't taken much of the windshift so far because we drifted a few miles west while it was being repaired. Annoying.
I'm standing at the sideboard and just cutting my bread when a wave comes across and Sissi shakes properly. I bend my foot, bread, bread knife and I fly through the salon. Now my left ankle is the size of a soccer ball, the trend is towards basketball. Or something like that. At least I don't have to walk around a lot for the next few days. The hiking trails on Sissi are very limited.
For a few hours we have been heading east again, the download of a new weather forecast promises us that the wind will turn back for about 8 p.m. Then we go back to Aruba. The second reef is now integrated into the mainsail, we have finally been able to pull ourselves together for this work. Sissi walks straight ahead much better now. We will benefit from this in the coming days.
We still have a few cans of haggis on board and we have a Scottish evening. Jens is at the stove, I can't stand properly with my broken foot. The haggis is accompanied by puree made from sweet potatoes and mashed peas with a little mint. It definitely looks authentic, the sweet potatoes give the dish a Caribbean twist. After dinner we turn again and are heading back to Aruba. The wind is turning back a few degrees in our favor. Our fifth Etmal is 70 miles.
Mile by mile we make progress on our way. On the navigation computer it looks like we're not making any headway, but that's wrong. Even at three knots, it's 72 miles a day. And we only have to sail two more days, then we are within engine range. Then we have to choose. Let's take the engine to cheat the last few miles and arrive on Monday, or let's do another turn, drive away from Aruba and arrive on Tuesday. Either way, the end of the journey is in sight.
For once, nothing broke during the night. So we can do what we normally do every day. Sit around and doze off. We also need fresh bread again and dinner needs to be planned - a process that now requires a lot of creativity. When it comes to fresh foods, we also have a sweet potato and a few cloves of garlic. The rest are canned food and pasta. So far we have always liked it.
On my breakfast bread today I put sausage from the last can with the label “Hausmacher Presskopf” from the Haase butcher in Bonames. The best before date is March 20, 2020. As soon as you open it, a delicious and appetizing smell pours through the boat. All our canned goods from Bonames have expired, some for over a year, but only one of them broke. The date on the cans is much too conservative, they all last much, much longer.
Stocking up on fresh food in Cuba is completely impossible. How should we buy fresh groceries when there is not enough to eat for the Cubans? At least they know where to get in line. I'm working on a few more pictures from Havana. I have already prepared three dozen, and another dozen will probably be added. From Santiago I sent a message to Juliette in Aruba, asking her to top up my SIM card. This means we can go online immediately in Aruba, even if we are still in quarantine and have to anchor until the result of the Covid test is there.
For dinner I make us pasta with tomato sauce Mediterranean style with sardines and olives. It is very tasty. The night is quiet, we can both sleep well. Unfortunately, the next morning brings the sobering result that we are way too slow. It's still 200 miles to Aruba. There would be enough wind to sail fast, but the waves thwart our plans. We won't arrive at this rate until Wednesday. Mini-Etmal of 57 miles.
Almost every sailor's dream. A steady wind of five to six wind forces, always from the same direction. The sails are pulled tight, the ship is sloping nicely and the bow plows through the waves. The spray splashes around the helmsman's ears, the ship runs at top speed. Uh Pooh. I hate that. It's the toughest ocean passage I've ever had to go. Sailing from Cape Verde to Barbados for three weeks with the wind from behind is not as exhausting as fighting the trade wind for three days in the Caribbean Sea. The steady wind constantly produces waves that are quite decent at four to five meters high. Speed is out of the question, if we go too fast, the bow digs into the waves and it rattles immensely.
Who came up with the idea of going back to Aruba? There are still 330 miles to go and that is the beeline. We can't drive them directly. We'll probably have to drive 500 miles, that's six and a half days at our speed. I don't even want to think about it. We can't cheat with the engine, we only have diesel left for 170 miles.
The sleep deprivation is slowly becoming noticeable. For therapeutic purposes it is used against depression, if I remember correctly. On board, it is not likely to lighten the mood. When I lie down on the couch, my eyes immediately close. When I'm dozing off, Sissi hits a violent wave and the anchor crashes into the water. Then I'm awake again. Jens feels the same way, he too has not been able to get a proper sleep so far. It will probably stay that way until Aruba.
In this respect, we look forward to the 24-hour quarantine on our anchor chain when we have arrived and have completed our Covid test. Then we have no obligations and can finally sleep in.
In the afternoon we are accompanied by some dolphins. They swim alongside Sissi and jump out of the high waves. It's beautiful to look at, but unfortunately only with a lot of luck can be photographed. We're not that lucky. The memory of it must suffice. They are great animals.
With paper, pencil, set square and compass, we calculate the course that we can just drive so that we can reach our destination with the last bit of diesel without turning up. I would say the odds are a little better than the 50%. If the wind doesn't turn another 10 ° to our disadvantage, it can work.
The tape seal has become leaky. It's a shame, but it can't be changed. It still holds up to a certain extent above the salon, only the forward bunk has mutated into a stalactite cave. Since we are supplied with huge amounts of electricity by the wind generator on our course, we briefly consider using the fan heater for drying. As long as it continues to drip, it is of course completely nonsensical. So we turn on the radio and listen to loud heavy metal music for an hour. That also consumes electricity. All batteries are and will remain filled to 100%.
The night is comparatively calm, the wind has subsided. However, it has also changed its direction to our disadvantage. Jens suggests that we jibe. We both agree that we can no longer moor in Aruba directly. Said and done. After a few minutes, Sissi is driving a very crazy course. We have to realize that we no longer have any rowing effect. F * ck !!!
That happened to us two years ago in Stavoren. The rope that transfers the forces from the steering wheel to the rudder jumped off the rudder quadrant. It is the same today. I have to clear out my entire bunk to get the rope. In contrast to the port of Stavoren, there is at least enough empty space here, we cannot drift against anywhere. It takes me almost an hour to repair it today. Jens has to somehow hold the rudder straight with the emergency tiller so that I can get the rope back into the guide and tighten the screws. Now the sweat is dripping from all parts of our bodies, our T-shirts are wet as fresh from the washing machine. We need a shower. Sissi is running fine again. We will now drive the new course for one day, then according to the forecast the wind should turn back in the old direction. Fourth Etmal 77 miles.
The museums in Havana are closed. The Revolution Museum is no exception. The Museum of Modern Cuban Art is also closed and so is the Pharmacy Museum.
This is a special assignment for me. My former work colleague and friend Uli is in the process of setting up a pharmacy museum in Neubiberg near Munich. He asked me to visit the pharmacy museum in Havana, take pictures if possible and bring all kinds of brochures or illustrated books I can get.
The search for the museum is difficult at first. None of the taxi drivers we ask know where the museum is. Maybe I asked the question the wrong way, I asked about the historical pharmacy. We're just poor, without our phones and without the Internet. Really offline. Only Jens’s camera makes these recordings possible at all. After we initially had to give up in front of one of the three historic pharmacies because it is closed for renovation, we finally find the Reunion / Sarre pharmacy.
Photographed from the sunny side, the representative building looks pretty closed. It's a Sunday, we want to give up and come back the next day. But as soon as we walk around the corner, we can see that the front door is open. The museum is not just a museum, but a real pharmacy where medicines are sold.
There isn't much going on in the pharmacy on Sunday. Or maybe they don't have any medication. We ask if we can take photos. We may. Then we get a friendly explanation that the museum is closed. Jens takes a few pictures through the front door when suddenly the pharmacist comes and indicates that we should follow her. We are guided through some of the rooms in the museum and Jens takes photo after photo.
We cannot go upstairs and the rooms in front of which a security fuzzy sits are also taboo for us. But we get some nice shots together.
All sorts of tools that a pharmacist needed to make the medicine can be found here in the showcases. When the museums have reopened, I can only recommend a visit to this museum if you are already in Havana.
Unfortunately I can only bring the pictures for Uli, he has already received a Dropbox link. Uli, feel free to use the images on your website. The highlight of our very private unofficial tour is the opening of the door of the safe, in which the expensive ingredients and drugs were.
In the end we donate $ 10 for the restoration of the museum or for a dinner for the pharmacists. I dont know. Anyway, it was a great private tour and the exhibits are nice to look at. In any case, you won't find a museum like this on every corner.
After approval by the authorities, we decide to leave Cuba as soon as possible. A quick check of the weather forecast reveals a good wind from the aft direction, which is supposed to blow us as far as Haiti. Haiti itself is very high and produces a slipstream that we want to overcome with engine power. Then, due to the wind direction, it is no longer a problem to land in Aruba and head straight for it. That's the plan.
As is the case with plans, they don't last much longer than Cuban rules. We leave the Bay of Santiago and first catch a nice wind, set the mainsail and genoa and try to get out of the 12-mile zone as quickly as possible. After three miles the glory is over, the wind is gone and the engine is allowed to work again. I suggest to Jens to tie a reef into the mainsail. Jens is too lazy and thinks that the forecast does not give that much wind. We're both happy to show our tail to Cuba.
After we leave the Cuban waters, the wind picks up again. This time from the beginning, not as predicted. But the amount is sufficient, we can sail again. Both sails are fully set, Sissi is heading towards Haiti at high speed, which we want to pass at a suitable distance. There is a strong current there that we want to avoid. I still have to climb onto the foredeck and tighten the shrouds. Obviously I didn't do it properly in Cuba. Jens still doesn't feel like reefing the mainsail. Then it just remains unrefined. Will be fine.
During the night the wind picks up, we get up to 35 knots on our nose. Now the unreefed mainsail is taking revenge on us. We only try to get around the problem with a towel-sized genoa. Plus, we're getting blown closer and closer to Haiti and the countercurrent zone. Sissi drives unfamiliar inclines. It is practically impossible to move about on the boat. We have to hold on with our hands while our feet rock in the air like the chimpanzees in the monkey house. I tell Jens that I will start bouldering in Frankfurt. It can't be worse than on the Sissi. I won't start counting my bruises.
The first night is uncomfortable, we are thrown through our bunks. The forward berth and later also the salon are transformed into a stalactite cave. For months I have been looking for the leak in the forward bunk, now I know that it is not just there that there is a leak. And now it is also clear to me where the water is entering: at the outer edge of the hatches, where they are placed on the deck. It affects all hatches. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it at this point. In the middle of the night a little bird sits down on our solar panels after first attempting to land on the spreader. He sits there until dawn before venturing back into the air. Unfortunately we were unable to classify this bird.
The next morning the wind eases more and more, we are really close to Haiti and in the calm zone. And in the countercurrent. The engine hums and Sissi only drives 1.5 kn over the ground. Two small Haitian fishing boats circle around us, want to know where we come from and ask for money. With the swell it would be almost suicide if we somehow got so close to the fishermen that we could hand something over to them. We wave to each other, then the fishermen go back to their jobs.
We drive the engine diagonally against the current in the direction in which we most likely expect wind. So we come to a speed of 2.5 kn. The first Etmal is just 102 miles.
The situation is unchanged for now. We die through the doldrums. Only around 10 p.m. does a steady wind come in from the predicted direction. We are slowly leaving the wind-dead zone. Jens has been in bed for a couple of hours so I set the genoa alone (very easy exercise) and reduce the engine speed. Our speed is increasing. Around 1 o'clock in the night the diesel can finally send to sleep. When I wake Jens at 2:30 a.m., we make a good 5 kn speed. Together we put the wind vane into operation, then I go to sleep. The heat from the engine makes it unbearably hot in the bunk.
As always, I have the first night watch, then I wake Jens. Shortly before Jens comes into the cockpit, a booby sits down on our fenders stacked at the stern. The birds get bigger. We didn't sleep well the first night, and neither did we the second night. I'm thrown through the bunk again. Jens reffts the genoa, I hear the background noise for the first time in the bunk. So far I've always been the one who reefed at night. Around eight o'clock I wake up to the noise our anchor makes when it drills into the waves. We have to reef even more. I come into the cockpit and see a good 30 kn wind on the indicator. Wow, that's 10 kn more than predicted. The waves are impressive. We continue to reef the genoa so that we are only sailing at a speed of 3 knots. But the anchor no longer drills into the waves. It is still raining in the forward berth. Jens tells that the booby disappeared shortly before sunrise.
To take off into the air, he simply jumped into the water and started from there. Cool.
We change course so that we run before the wind. Sissi is immediately calm in the water. Then I climb onto the foredeck with a life jacket and seat belt to seal all the hatches with tape. Let's see if that works and if my working hypothesis with the leak is correct.
For the next blow from Aruba to the northeast, we will check the weather forecast more closely. The drive away from Cuba is more of an escape than a carefully planned sailing trip. We forgot to check the wave forecast. The waves are now very, very uncomfortable and keep turning us off course. Not only Cuba, but also the Atlantic has rules that are relentlessly adhered to. However, the rules on the ocean don't change. If you ignore them, you get bruises and a wet forward bunk. You are only yelled at by the wind. The second Etmal is only 88 miles.
We don't enjoy our trip, we exist on the sailboat. We are dead tired. We're unwashed and sweaty. A shower is out of the question in this swell, even washing with a washcloth would only cause bruises, but not the desired cleanliness. It's still warm and humid in the boat. Our clothes stick to us. The engine cools down slowly. Wherever you reach, whatever you touch, everything is covered with a film of salt. The wooden panels on the ceiling of the salon are partially swollen and warped by the water that has penetrated.
The temporary repair with tape achieved the desired effect. At least it doesn't drip from the ceiling anymore. I want to make this more permanent and start looking for the sealant I'm sure is on board. After a while I find the tube of Sikaflex, which expired two years ago and its contents are rock hard. So it is clear that we have to live with our rainforest until we find a hardware store.
I can take a shower in a quiet minute. It feels great. Then I have my night watch and I am showered with sea water several times. I'm already salted again and the effect of the shower is gone. Nothing changes in the further circumstances, the third night is just as quiet as the first two nights. At least the course line on the on-board computer looks a bit better the next morning, we fought hard for the few miles to the east. There is still a long way to go to Aruba. The third Etmal is 79 miles.
Perhaps you were wondering why there was radio silence on the blog after Christmas. It wasn't because the internet was broken in Cuba or the marina. I lied a little about that. The truth is as follows ...
December 27th starts beautifully. I get on the ferry to Santiago, my camera in my backpack and my cell phone with the Cuban flag in my pocket. Jens stays on board, he couldn't stand the meal in the restaurant the day before and doesn't want to stray too far from our wonderful on-board toilet. I take another nice picture at the ferry terminal.
In Santiago, I want to stroll from the pier into the city when I hear a few calls from behind and my name as well. I turn around and three young Cubans aged 25 or under come running towards me. They open their wallets and show me their IDs. Police. What have I done wrong? I can't think of anything at first. My passport is being checked. A uniformed policeman on a motorcycle also appears. He takes my passport, the other policemen accompany me to a scrap-looking minibus whose starter doesn't work and in which they drive me back to the marina.
Jens is already sitting there with the officials, he is guarded by uniformed men. Our problem will soon be resolved. We have a drone on board, which we also declared on arrival. We are asked where the drone is and can definitely answer this question conclusively. A short time later the drone is on the table in front of us. Several uniformed men shout at us or ask us questions at normal volume. Jorge interprets. Among other things, we are asked whether we have sold or wanted to sell electronics. No, we didn't want to. We dont have. I just forgot the USB stick that I gave to one of the Cubans.
After a few hours of questioning (Jens and I are questioned alternately, the other has to stay outside) our boat is searched. They collect our two laptops, our four phones, the satellite phone, the video cameras, my photo camera and we're offline. During this search, they try to assume that I want to hide a cell phone from them. At first it lies on the coffee table next to Jens 'notebook, namely Jens' phone. One of the police officers photographs the scene. Five minutes later I am yelled at and asked where the phone has gone. After a short search, another policeman finds it under the mattress in the forward bunk. From that moment on it is clear to me that it is not kosher here. Fortunately I was never in the forward bunk during the whole time, this accusation was later simply swept under the table.
Endless logs are filled out. Endless lists of paragraphs are read to us. Threatened prison terms. Finally, a list of the confiscated items is printed out and I can sign it. Our ship's papers are also withheld, we are not allowed to leave the country.
What the police officers did not notice was the fully functional navigation computer, which also runs Linux. I have posted blog posts about this in the past few days, there weren't very many and we couldn't take the PC with us to Havana either. They also didn't notice Jens's camera with our groceries, so we were able to take photos in Havana. What I didn't notice were the sticky fingers of one of the police officers searching. He put a hard drive in Jens's pocket that never appeared on the list of confiscated items. Unfortunately, we noticed that too late.
Our friend, who lives here near the marina, was put in jail for a week. It was assumed that he wanted to buy electronics or even the drone from us. In prison he then found out what the real problem was. Somebody let another (!) Drone fly over a prison. That made us the main suspects. However, our drone is not airworthy at all, the battery is broken.
After several days of waiting and the uncertainty about the work of the Cuban police, we drive to Havana. We pay a visit to the German embassy. We want the professionals to assess our situation. We want to know whether it makes sense to take care of a lawyer and what a lawyer in Cuba can do for us in our situation.
The embassy is open to the public from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Despite our German passports, we have to stay outside on the street. A woman comes to the fence, asks what we want and disappears back into the building with our passports. After a quarter of an hour she reappears and has three questions from the consul on her slip of paper. We answer the questions. After a few minutes she reappears and says that the consul is amazed that we are not in prison. She tells us that there is nothing the embassy can do for us. But if we were to go to jail, they would be informed and then make sure we got food. This visit is a little disappointing. We take it positively, after all, we're not in jail, we're going into town and smoking a fat Cohiba.
One day after our return we get our devices back. Just not Jens’s hard drive. I notice (too late) that an SD card is missing from the video camera. Not so bad, it only has 16 GB: Much worse is that the USB dongle for the external keyboard and mouse was stolen from my laptop. But at sea you have everything twice, I have another external keyboard and a mouse.
Conclusion: We haven't had our devices for almost two weeks. A hard drive, an SD card and a USB dongle were stolen.
Thanks to the hard disk encryption, they couldn't log into my laptop and never asked for the password. My phone cannot be charged or read via cable, I got it back completely discharged. They couldn't do much with that, the battery was almost empty when they got it from me. Jens has reset his phone to the factory settings, unfortunately I can only do that in Germany because the nautical charts on the phone are absolutely necessary for our trip.
By the time this blog appears, we will long be in international waters. We'll get back to you soon.
Note: If you go to Cuba with your boat, you have to know what you are getting yourself into. Small deals such as changing money or buying cigars in the hand are prohibited but tolerated. You should be very, very careful with electronics. Bring toothpaste and sunflower oil with you, as they are missing here and the locals are very happy about it.