SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
Snapshots of Cuba
019° 45.9’ N x 075° 08.5’ W
7.9 nautical miles south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Ship’s Heading & Speed
steering 110 degrees psc, 7.5 knots
Motorsailing on a starboard tack under the staysl’s and main
SSE winds, force 4 – beautiful starry clear warm Caribbean night
What an eye-opening, colorful, vibrant few days we have had exploring Santiago de Cuba. Yesterday evening, I spent several hours on anchor watch, staring out at the full moon rising over the Sierra Maestra Mountains that surround the city. My mind was full of the smells, sounds, images, and interactions of the day and I found myself reflecting on just how fortunate we are to have spent time in Cuba.
A few snapshots come to mind:
- Thousands of moon jellyfish accompanied us as we made our way up the Bahia de Santiago, guided past the fort by a lively, very friendly pilot who wanted to bring his wife some tomato paste in return for his services aboard. We gave him a can.
- A doctor, vet, and at least five other customs officials parading down the doghouse ladder into the aft cabin to sort through a mountain of paperwork and welcome us into Cuba.
- Transportation feels suspended between the centuries here: we saw horse-drawn cart (we have decided maybe best to call these chariots??), colorful U.S. cars from the 1950’s mixed with shiny new cars, scooters, bicycles, military trucks turned into buses (affectionately called “wawas”), rickshaws, and hundreds of locals on foot wheeling carts full of sodas, babies in strollers, kids in wagons, coolers full of ice cream, bags of peanuts, pork skins, and street food of all kinds.
- A line of silver frying pans drying on a sunny colorful street corner.
- A Dalmatian peeking its head out of the open bright blue door of someone’s street-side home.
- A white-haired old man sitting on the stoop of his barbershop waving around an old very dull-looking pair of silver scissors trying to lure us into his shop for a haircut.
- Wandering through side streets only to look down on the Mama Cramer anchored in the Bay with the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the backdrop and the colorful streets, phone wires, dogs, and locals bustling along in the forefront. A man sitting on the stoop asked me where I was from – a question that easily gets complicated when we look like cruise ship passengers, but this time it was easy – I simply pointed!
- Clouds! Mid-sentence on a rooftop garden, we discovered the most amazing clouds – good enough to derail our conversation. We went about trying to identify them being able to see Cramer from the rooftop made us want to share our enthusiasm with the rest of the crew onboard. So, VHF radio in hand, we radioed the ship and told them to “have a look broad on the port beam.” Their confusion quickly turned into excitement and we heard, “stand by, Captain’s gettin’ the cloud book.” After some back and forth, a lot of commotion and a broken drinking glass, we got a successful ID (mammatus) and had a story to tell.
- Families walking through the streets together, holding hands, eating ice cream, chatting, spending time together.
- Street windows full of what looked like potions - orange, purple, blue liquids in glass bottles, powders, jars of all shapes and sizes… It turned out to be a pharmacy but we nicknamed it the potion shop.
- Music music music. Music in cafes, on street corners, in parks, markets, and restaurants. Guitars, drums, voice, street organs, harmonica, maracas... I spent an afternoon in a small street side venue listening to two men sing what we think was music in the La Trova style. In between songs, they chatted, goofed around with locals in the audience, smoked, and shared glasses of rum. The audience was full of locals, a father dancing with his young daughter, people swaying, clapping, smiling, and singing along. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
The past few days made it clear to me that Cuba is a place of contrasts. It feels suspended in time, but pleasantly so. The people I met spoke with an intense pride for their country, a pride that was contagious and surprisingly welcoming.
We got underway this morning – somehow I’m always ready to be at sea again – and we spent a good part of the day cleaning up our home after being anchored in some very suspicious harbor water. After field day, we cleaned ourselves with a much needed swim call in close to 2000 meters of Cuban water, and as I write, we’re on our way north around Cuba towards the Bahamas.
Big hugs to everyone back home and a very happy belated birthday to Maya, hopefully you got my card! Jo, I’m so proud of you… I hope the blizzard is just the right kind of big, and can’t wait to see you all!