This morning I am woken up at 8:30 am by the loud calls from Norbert. Jens is already up and drinking coffee in the cockpit, but Norbert wants to speak to the captain. So I dig myself out of the mosquito net and climb into the cockpit as well. Norbert doesn't have a test result for us yet, but says that he'll be on the phone in a moment. The fact that I am woken up because of such nothingness makes me unbearable at first, but with a few cups of coffee the world looks different.
An hour later, Norbert comes back and brings us the good news: Our test results are negative. It's very positive. After 93 hours of waiting and about 10 days of isolation since Aruba. We make a flag parade and pull the quarantine flag down, the Cuban up. It immediately feels a lot better not being in quarantine anymore. The walk through the area around the marina and the drive to Santiago have to wait because we still need the written test result. When we move around Cuba, we have to carry the visa and the negative test result with us in addition to our passports. Okay, I can wait that long. It is progressing.
Customs, food control and the veterinary did not come. We have no problems with that. Neither of us need a horde of officials rummaging through our boat, turning everything inside out and leaving a mess. Norbert explains it as follows: If we had come from Jamaica, customs would have been interested in us. Jamaica is known for marijuana and Cuba has a zero tolerance policy in this regard. But since we come from Aruba, we are not interesting for customs.
Now we can plan for the coming days. Norbert called the station and found out that the train to Havana leaves every four days. The next departure is tomorrow, but it's too early for Jens and me. So Norbert will make a reservation for us for December 23rd. do, then we are on the morning of December 24th. in Havana. He also takes care of private accommodation for us so that we don't have to go to an expensive hotel. We're glad. Norbert also exchanges a few US$ for convertible pesos for us, so we don't have to stand in line in the money exchange office.
When we have our papers in hand, it's time to take a walk around the marina this afternoon. Even in a somewhat unfree country one can experience the feeling of freedom.
On the fourth day in Cuba, we are still in quarantine. We ran out of fresh food, we expected 48 to 72 hours to wait until the test results were there. It's getting off to a pretty good start this morning. I'm still in bed when Jorge comes to Sissi and speaks to Jens. He would expect the phone call in half an hour to deliver the test result. The half hour first becomes a full hour, then it becomes two hours and then three. The clock continues to run, the test result is a long time coming.
We cut a video for our quarantine song, we have enough footage. Otherwise, the only change is either to take pictures of the passing cargo ships, to take pictures of the ferries (it's boring, we now have all the pictures you can take from the marina) or to watch the pelicans hunting. Here's the challenge of catching the pelican diving into it. I have not yet succeeded in doing this in Cuba; I have succeeded in making the only such recording so far on Bonaire.
Jorge asked us if we have anything on Sissi that he can please his grandchildren with. Norbert asked if we could give a few of the good FFP2 masks for his wife to his daughter. We can, I'll give him a pack of five. The third harbor master has not yet begged.
Jens is baking bread again. The first bread was eaten quickly, we also gave Norbert a piece. With the local temperatures and humidity, it can only be saved for a few days. Good bread is rare in Cuba, people get it for food stamps and can't just buy it in stores. At least that's how I understood Jorge.
Another marina employee asked if we might have an old cell phone on board that we no longer need. Of course we still have an old key cell phone on board for emergencies, but I haven't told him that yet. You don't have to shoot all the powder in the first few days. I'll happily give him the Nokia, but not right away. Jens dug up an old Swiss army knife for the grandchildren.
We play three games of chess, of which I lose all three. I make stupid mistakes. This is certainly not due to the brilliance of Jens' game, but also to the fact that I'm slowly getting fed up with boredom. If the internet wasn't that expensive, we could watch Netflix. It's fast enough. To be honest, we have the fastest internet connection we have ever had in the Caribbean.
Youtube of course blocks our quarantine video, after all it is an obvious copyright violation. So I upload the song to my own web space, Google has no options there…. Have fun!
If we don't get a test result tomorrow, I'm slowly but surely getting insufferable. I didn't go to Cuba to sit around in the marina forever. The ambience is nice, but it has worn out a bit. If you add the time of the crossing, we've been in quarantine for nine days.
It's our third day in Cuba. It is the third day that our quarantine flag flutters on the mast. We wait the third day for our test result and hope that the wait will soon be over. The music goes through my head Otis Redding, "Sitting on the dock of the bay". We watch as Sissi is lifted by the tide and goes back down. On our concrete walkway, it is easy to see whether we are currently high or low tide. We photograph seagulls and ferries and other boats. It's all about as exciting as watching the grass grow in the garden.
We have four different versions of the song in our music collection. We hear them all. Of course, I like the original best, but Elvis' version is great too. There's also a version by Sammy Hager that grooves pretty well. Only the version by Peter Maffay can actually be deleted from the record straight away, there is no life in it.
The harbor master of the day is also a very friendly person. He promised to let us know immediately when the test result arrives. While Jorge and Norbert speak very good English, it is a bit difficult for today's harbor master. We can still understand him well. Unfortunately, I didn't understand his name. We're slowly running out of fresh groceries. We either have to use canned food or we can finally go out and go shopping.
The local marina has better sanitary facilities than the one in Aruba. It's not difficult because there were no toilets or showers in Aruba. There are both here. One can argue about the cleanliness, it is cleaner than in some marinas in France or Croatia. With so many staff in the marina office, you could still clean a little more often. The faucets on the washbasins have taken on quite a patina. The water pressure in the showers could be improved - I had already mentioned it. In the photo, the tap is fully turned on. But it works, the water is pleasantly cool and the way to the sanitary building gives us the opportunity to leave the boat once in quarantine.
At this point I would like to explain how it works with the Internet. The nearby hotel has an open wifi. There we book our antenna amplifier with router. Then we take one of the internet scratch cards that we bought from the harbor master for two US$ each and can log in. After logging in, there is an internet connection for one hour.
So I will write this text before we go online. I also prepare all the pictures for upload. When we are online, everything has to happen very quickly. We'll fire from all cylinders. Jens also prepares what he wants to broadcast in our internet lesson. Since we are apparently the only users of this WLAN, we have a pretty good bandwidth, I was quite surprised yesterday. Since we log our router into the WLAN, we can access the Internet with all of our devices. When all the uploads are done and there is still time, we can do inefficient things like WhatsApp, Skype and so on. The bandwidth is sufficient for making calls.
Jens had to laugh today. I told him that photographing the ferries is just like taking photos of trams or buses at home. At some point I'll make him a friend of local transport and a photographer. There aren't many other options.
You can also choose from the Don Pedro, who drives around again and again, and a myriad of seagulls and pelicans.
The employees of the marina have smartphones, but they are not used to make calls. Pictures are taken with the smartphones. I've also seen one of the employees pulling out a phone number from his phone. But then he went to the nearest pay phone and called her.
It kind of feels like the early 1990s. Many people had cell phones, but most of the time they weren't used because of the cost. There was access to the Internet, but the time-dependent tariffs made it expensive to use.
I rediscover my camera. So not the one built into the cell phone, but the right camera with the proper lens. It was just lying around on the boat since mid-July, because somehow I had already photographed everything in Aruba. So I take the picture again of the ferry, the seagulls and everything. In Cuba there will be a lot of new things to discover and take pictures of, but they will have to release us from quarantine. Again and again our eyes fall on the harbor master's office. But the harbor master does not show up. So let's play our quarantine song again loudly over the on-board stereo ... I want out of here !!!
We clean up. We'll clean the boat a little, because we have nothing else to do. We sit around waiting for customs, the veterinary authorities, the food inspectors and the drug detection dog. We wait, wait and wait.
Around noon, Norbert introduces himself to us. Norbert is the person responsible for today. The harbor masters always work 24 hours a day, then they have two days off. Jorge will be back on Thursday, we will meet tomorrow's harbor master tomorrow. Norbert can sell us access cards for the Internet. One card is good for one hour of internet use and costs two US$. The prices are pretty steep, but we didn't expect anything else. That's why I'm writing this article so that I can only upload it to the blog later. Jens bakes bread. The fact that we gave a garbage bag for disposal yesterday costs us dearly today. It costs five US$ to dispose of a sack. We decide to park all garbage that doesn't smell in the anchor locker and take it with us to Jamaica. Disposal is definitely cheaper there.
Norbert is of the opinion that customs will no longer be seen today. It was still very important to the people yesterday that our satellite phone was sealed as quickly as possible. We also have a drone on board that we have never used before, but which conjured pure horror on the faces of the Cubans. A drone is an absolute no-go in Cuba. Strictly forbidden, it should also be sealed. Before that, an official takes a few pictures of the drone. No customs, no sealing. We still won't let the drone fly.
Norbert says that we should relax. We haven't done anything else for days since we left Aruba. The relaxation has to come to an end. Maybe we will get the negative test result tomorrow.
Life takes place outside of our little cosmos. The ferry, which connects the marina with the city three times a day, can be seen every now and then, it takes a very long time because it has many stops on both sides of the fjord. Small fishing boats and transport boats go back and forth. I'm removing the salt crust from the cockpit windows so we can see better.
At some point the pilot boat drives out and escorts a small cargo ship into the fjord. It looks like they don't have a container terminal in Santiago de Cuba, because the ships that we have seen entering and leaving so far either had their own loading cranes or are Ro-Ro container ships onto which the containers can be driven by trucks .
At the marina fence, we keep seeing curious passers-by who want to see the new sailing boat. Some call over to us, but we ignore it. After all, we are not allowed to leave the marina yet. On the day we can go outside for the first time, we will be surrounded by a bunch of locals, just as donkeys surround us when we hold a few carrots in our hands. Only the carrots here are dollars.
The humidity in Cuba is much lower than in Aruba. While it was mostly 75% there, we are now down to 65%. That makes life more pleasant, because when there is no wind we are no longer drenched in sweat immediately, but only after a few minutes. Fortunately, there is always a gentle breeze.
I set up the WiFi amplifier antenna. The WIFI signal from the nearby hotel is borderline bad without an amplifier, with the amplifier it comes across to Sissi very well. In addition, several devices can be connected to the network via the additional router without having to use several Internet vouchers. So much for the thought. How much data we can transfer is still in the stars. An hour is not much.
The literature says that there is practically no censorship of the Internet in Cuba. Only a few American sites that agitate against the Cuban government are blocked. The actual censorship would take place in the fact that there are practically no opportunities for the locals to surf the Internet. For the price of one hour of internet use, you can get two to three kilos of tomatoes at grocery stores, plus two kilos of potatoes and one kilo of rice.
How should we behave if our negative test result is there, but customs has not yet been with us? Can we just take the next ferry into town then? Norbert says yes. We'd be free when we got the test result. I am not so sure about that. If the customs are in front of the locked boat, that might affect the customs officers' humor a little. Wait, everything is going very slowly here.
We read books. These are the blocks made from glued together, printed sheets of paper. Letters are printed on each of these sheets, with different words on each sheet. So it becomes a whole story. That works offline. I am glad that the dock neighbors in Aruba gave me a whole box full of books. The few books we had on board before have all been read out. This is the disadvantage of books, you can't update them, they don't change anymore.
Quarantine chess is also a great way to pass the time. I purposely do not photograph any position, because we are dabbling around a lot. I haven't had the game of chess in my hands since crossing the Atlantic, it was almost a year ago. Jens is also a little out of practice and we both struggle in the endgame. It doesn't matter, it kills the time. We'd love to hear more music or watch movies, but I've destroyed the hard drive's file system containing the videos and audios. The restore from the backup has been running for 48 hours. If you copy just under four terabytes to small USB hard drives, this can take a week or even longer.
I can warmly recommend a stay in Cuba to anyone who wants to free themselves from the everyday digital constraints such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook for a while. Cuba is digital detox. But now quickly scratch the password off the voucher and go online, I will soon no longer be able to take it offline.
Wow. The internet connection is expensive, but it's insanely fast. I didn't think so.
While I am uploading the article about our crossing, our radio suddenly becomes active. The marina in Santiago de Cuba calls us in perfect English. I am available to answer questions. They want to know where we come from, what nationality we have, how many people are on board and whether we all feel healthy. Then we are instructed to anchor in front of the marina and wait for the doctor. In absolute calm, we just throw the anchor into the mud, we don't even pull it in. That takes revenge after two hours of waiting in the blazing sun, because when the first small breeze comes up, we slowly begin to drift away. A man with black trousers and a white shirt is constantly standing on the bank and watching us. Nobody is allowed to leave the boat. We drift a few more meters.
After three hours of waiting, that doesn't matter, because now we're called to the pier. The doctor is there. Now I am getting the first Covid test of my life and have my nose picked with a cotton swab. Another official documents this with his smartphone. Then I go to immigration with the usual ship's documents. The usual process takes its course when suddenly the person who documented our Covid test photographically comes into the small office. We have to repeat the test because the photos didn't come out. But the test is not repeated, but the doctor only pretends for the camera. Phew
We are told that we are not allowed to leave the marina until the test result, which will be there in about 72 hours. We expected that, it's not a problem for us. Finally, there are two delicious quarantine steaks in the fridge and we have lasagna for the first day. We start to relax. We are in Cuba. Customs should not come until the following day, which gives me the opportunity to write this post and hopefully send it over the satellite phone.
Cubans are not allowed on the marina grounds. That's why they stand at the fence and watch us. We are the only boat in the marina, so we're guaranteed to be the talk of the town. A woman speaks to me in very good English, she certainly has something to sell. Some children are also watching us and we are constantly being watched by the man in the white shirt with black pants. After paying 205 US$ for Covid test and entry fees, we also made friends with Jorge who is now in charge of the marina.
Jorge tells us how to get into town, when the ferry goes into town (three times a day), that the bus is not reliable and he likes to call us a taxi. We are instructed not to buy rum or cigars on the street because all you get there is junk. We get tips on where to find free toilets in Santiago and where to have a nice view over the city. We don't get shore power on board without further ado, because I can't find a power socket with voltage. Jorge must first find the fuse and switch it on. The marina shower is fun, part of the adventure ... If I wanted to shower ten liters of water there, I would have to stand under the trickle for an hour and a half.
Regarding the water in the marina, Jorge said he would drink it. He'd been drinking it for seven years, but he didn't know what this water would do to our bodies. When I tell him that we have a watermaker, he is a little reassured. It is always exciting that he asks us about the tape recorders we use to record the conversation. Cuba is a dictatorship, there is no getting around it. It is observed, documented and photographed again and again. I know the feeling of being watched by the neighbors, but the all-round surveillance is new.
Every step that we take in the marina is under observation. Jorge advises us not to leave the boat too often. Why should we? There's nowhere to go anyway. Jorge explains the currency to us. There are convertible pesos that can be exchanged 1: 1 for dollars. And there are the domestic pesos. One convertible peso is worth 25 domestic pesos. However, the convertible pesos only exist until the end of the year, we have landed in the middle of a currency reform. Jorge explains to us that salaries will go up a lot next year, but prices will go up even more. It's exciting.
Cuba is a dream landscape. High, green mountains frame the fjord in which the marina is located. The houses built directly on the water fit wonderfully into the area. A small ferry keeps passing by and connects small towns to the left and right of the fjord with each other and with the ferry dock next to the marina, from which the ferry to Santiago departs. We really want to use this ferry, it looks funny.
We are wonderfully protected in the marina. Only the chimneys of a nearby cement factory disturb the ambience. You can't do anything about that. We can no longer see the chimneys from our berth, but we can see the exhaust plumes. Occasionally an airplane lands at the nearby airport.
During the night I experience a phenomenon that I haven't felt for a long time. We drove north about 600 miles and I'm freezing. I'm freezing even though it's still 26 ° C in the boat. But it is a real difference to Aruba, here it cools down noticeably at night and sleep is very refreshing. Jens also says that he hasn't slept so well for a long time.
While we enjoy the morning coffee, we are watched by a man in a white shirt and black pants. We'll clean up the boat a little more, I am composing these lines and hope to be able to upload them before we visit customs.