SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
Anchored in the port of Santiago de Cuba
Depart Santiago tomorrow morning and head towards the Bahamas
Hot and sunny, with little to no wind or waves
This morning, both students and crew were dragged out of bed for what felt like an even earlier wakeup than usual (thanks a lot daylight savings time) in order to head out for our second day of adventures in Santiago de Cuba.
Many of us stayed out later than usual last night since liberty didn't expire until 0000 (although I was snug in my bunk well before that), but despite being sleep deprived, we were all eager for another day in this strange, intriguing place. I find it nearly impossible to compare Cuba to any other place in the world, for it's a truly unique world that we have been lucky enough to step into. Here, there are busy streets bustling with old cars, framed by stunning, colorful architecture, rich history, and smiling faces asking us where we are from. I think we all felt hesitant answering "Estados Unidos" to that last question, and I was pleasantly surprised to find warm welcomes from the majority of people we met on the streets. Our tour guide for the day was an English professor, who was extremely well spoken. He openly spoke about all aspects of Cuban life, both taking great pride in his country while also admitting to the many problems that still exist here.
Our tour today was quite the whirlwind. We began by driving past the old Bacardi rum factory, followed by a stop at the Revolutionary Garden. Next, we traveled to the Moncada Barracks, which although is now a school, is known as the place where Fidel Castro led an attack which placed him in prison during the 1950s. From there we went to Old San Juan Hill, where there were monuments memorializing both Cuban, Spanish and American lives lost during the battle that took place there during the Cuban-Spanish-American War. Next, we headed to an old fort, which we had seen from the water as we sailed in Friday afternoon. It was even more stunning up close, and we certainly all got our workout trekking down and up the entirety of its stairs - all for a nice view. We've all admitted we're actually okay with how much we've walked the past two days, because there's not much room on the boat for casual strolls. We ended our tour in the main square in town, a gorgeous place surrounded by some of the oldest buildings in Cuba. At the time that I'm writing this blog, others are still out exploring with our last bit of free time, but after I had a churro and a sandwich, I was ready to come back Mama Cramer for the day.
All in all, the time in Cuba has been simply astounding. If you had told me five years ago that I would visit here in the future, I never would have believed them. It delights me that the United States and Cuba have re-established relations, and that I was lucky enough to be here in the early years of this transition period. Admittedly, there were times where everything did feel a little strange and even otherworldly. Then again, living on a sailboat often feels like you're in another world as well. This trip has pushed all of us outside our comfort zones time after time. In our last couple of weeks here, that will only continue to happen. Unfortunately, because we did not receive clearance to conduct scientific research in Cuban waters, we are heading next to the Bahamas rather than west to the Isle of Youth, Cuba. Although we won't be going ashore in the Bahamas, we hope to go snorkeling if weather permits.
Our plans remain flexible as we juggle research clearances, weather systems and the fact that we are a sailing vessel; an important reminder to go with the flow of things. With our departure we will begin Phase III of our trip tomorrow afternoon, meaning we act as Junior Watch Officer and Junior Lab Officer. This, even more than Cuba, has us all feeling a little bit unsure. Even we're not sure what the next few days may bring, but it will certainly continue to be full of wonderful experiences as we push further outside of our comfort zone. Who knows? Maybe this week I'll climb aloft all the way to the top..depending on the size of the waves. Stay tuned to find out!
All is well.
P.S. Missing everyone back in Byron, Biddeford, and places in between, but not missing all the snow you're getting! Mom and Dad - can't wait to see you in Key West! Be prepared for endless talking. Oh, and hey David - you'll be happy to know, everyone on the boat really does call me Big Mike. You're welcome.