Trying to catch up…..

Hi

Trying to get my lazy backside to gear and carry on the writing…just been a bit busy here on my own as Chris in Florida…another story!

So our journey from London to Detroit after I moved our bloody cabin bags and kids out of the way was Chris got back with us in time but boy did we have to leg it for the flight…onboard we got and happy days until landing in Detroit. We had to go through passport control again and needless to say with 2 h we didn’t make it. I was fuming standing in that line with nobody to collar and shout at, kids playing up and no water to drink. Moody bloody finn alright!!! So there we were and flight gone…so get the next one, great no prob so off we went to the gate to then be told we don’t have an ESTA.” Yes we do, look in your computer.” “We can’t see it” “not my problem” we do have it otherwise we wouldn’t be standing here…so eventually we got onboard but they were about to see a seriously angry moody finn. So off we went and flew to Atlanta and of course no more flights to Bogota. We were all tired and Delta trying to wash their hands off their responsibility but we managed to get them to pay for the hotel that night. Not a great one but fine…and then you get selfish single/couples jumping at the check in even if they can CLEARLY see 3 children and broken leg etc. So I stood there watching and every single one just went pass and tried not to look to guilty as they got their key…so our turn. No rooms left…what exactly do you mean “no rooms left?” I did ask with very CONTROLLED voice about to murder somebody…well, no rooms left! I just stood there looking at the women NOT understanding what she was saying. Eventually she rang another dump across the road and phoned the buss driver back to get us to finally get a room with 2 double beds. Interesting….me and Alice in one, sideways so I could pinn her to the side and Chris and the boys in the other, sideways, no luggage, no wash stuff, no fresh clothes but a good night sleep….

x

Bogota

Hi

So there we were at Santa Marta airport waiting to board the plane. Strange….everybody had winter jackets on and generally warmly clothed….anyway, boarded and got on. In Bogota I then understood why everybody had warm clothes on…it was freezing! Well 17c but still freezing for us. Taxi to the hostel, paid and in. The Masaya hostel in old Bogota was just great. Very hippy in everything and slightly surprised to see kids but so welcoming. We had a room to ourselves with 5 beds in it and shared bathroom. The hostel cat had 4 kittens so kids happy. We could buy breakfast at $2/pp, clean and silence at 10pm. Suited us perfect.

Old Bogota is beautiful, also we could walk to the other tourist areas and we went to see the world famous gold museum. Amazing displays of art and every day things from so long ago. We also saw the emerald museum where James had the strop as he wanted to buy an emerald but of course we couldn’t afford it….did read somewhere that you can apparently buy emeralds for as little as $10 but obviously not here. We walked and enjoyed the city and people but of course all through this I kept thinking of Chico. Now I saw street children but luckily no really little ones as I would probably take them with me…but sad anyway…nowhere to go except underground, living in the sewage system and if you google youtube for streetkids in Bogota you will find some chocking footage and stories. There is few charities that give them food and washing facilities and you can also sponsor a child to help him go to school…most of them are on drugs and surviving on petty theft but what would you do if nobody has ever wanted you, nobody cares, you are invisible to everybody around you and even the country sends death squad out occasionally and cleanses the street….heartbreaking!!!!
We also saw the underground salt Cathedral, an hours bus drive from Bogota. Only three in the world. Amazing place.
So time came to take the flight to London via JFK airport and arrived Saturday morning to a freezing London and a freezing house. We were staying at a friends house in Solesbridge lane and they had gone that morning for a week away. Made cups of tea, enjoyed the tv and of course the kids went bonkers at the space and toys that Toby has! Afternoon sleep and cross the road to see few more friends and kids to play with….late night! But oh so much fun to see everybody.

Mum came on sunday from Finland and we all settled in to seeing people, going to London and playing in the garden. And then the awful thing happened! Went to friends 50th birthday party and Charlie broke his leg on the trampoline….I just bawled my eyes out, devastetad for him and all our plans for parks and museums etc. Whole leg in plaster, A & E in Watford was great and back home with a zimmer frame and a very sad Charlie in a lot of pain. Well mum back to Finland, Toby and family back home and then a whole lot of minecraft as Charlie could join in. Couldn’t go to London on my own but we managed LEGOLAND and London zoo with Tamla, thank you!!!

We went to school and saw lots of James classmates and had play dates and play time on the common, joined in an few toddler groups for Alice….and so the days went by and time to pack our rubbish back into 5 bags. Cheese from Finland and teabags, mint sauce and salad cream from Uk plus all the other bits we needed for the boat. Borrowed a scale to make sure we were under 23 kg and all looking good. Thank you Chris and Kathy for letting us stay in your home, hopefully we weren’t to annoying!

So off to the airport and little did we know what palaver we would have with our bags…every single bag was over the limit, more to the 30kg…and flying Delta they would have none of it. So off to the side and reshuffle and pack again. Lucky we had an extra bag that we could make as a cabin bag and our cabin bags were suddenly stuffed. Hated it. I travel light on cabin bags and now we looked like we never been anywhere before as we dragged our 5 bloody cabin bags around the airport and dreading to stuff it in the lockers on the plane. We also had 2 connections to deal with plus Charlie in a wheelchair and Alice in pushchair…it would get worse….

Came to security check and what did I have in one of the bloody cabin bags? A neuff gun…well, that went down well with security….as Chris then starts to take the mickey. ” Yeah, killer gun, be afraid etc” So they were getting rather stroppy and me? Just embarrassed! Off to check in again for Chris to check the gun in. Couldn’t leave it as Tamla bought it for the boys and could you imagine 2 boys and 1 gun? Not worth it. Nearly missed the plane with all this but you should have seen me trying to move from the security on my own with wheelchair, pushchair, 5 bloody cabin bags….good buy London….we all made the first flight….

x

Santa Marta

Great place, the second oldest city in South America! How amazing!!! And here we are….
Excellent marina, hot and cold showers ( not that you need the hot bit ) friendly staff and smack middle of the town. Mini market, wifi and gated. Apparently 29 on the list of dangerous towns/cities in the world. But as we explored and found lovely restaurants, friendly people and a chaos of cars and bikes….we didn’t feel unsafe or threaten not once. Not then and not now. Yes there is part of the town you don’t go to as we were told by Stewart, a helicopter pilot we met as soon as we arrived. Who invites English people ( me?) to curry nights on a Thursday and Sunday roasts. Oh yes! Proper roasts with all the trimmings. A bit hot at times to eat but we still stuff our faces. So, Stewart has taken us under his wing, shows us around, takes us to pool and beaches. He’s got a three year old, Nathalie and Alice gets on with her brilliantly. Atta, Atta Alice calls every day! They fight about pushchairs occasionally but all solved in due course. The boys get to watch proper TV and we get food. Happy days!

Now it was time to check some flights to London. Had few appointments to attend to…and what prices. Searched high and low and then you just got to buy it. As we were flying to Bogota we would stop over there for few nights. Checked few hostels out and picked one that sounded and looked good. We’ll see….
Mad rush to get the boat in shape and got all our frozen food over to Stewarts. Ineka and Mike, another cruising couple would keep an eye out for boat and make sure ropes are good etc. It gets very windy here and can blow up to 60 knots sometimes. And so we left. Only two check in bags and few more with us for all the goodies from London. Few wish list things to bring back like Heinz salad cream and mint sauce for Stewart, tetley teabags for John and fridge repair bits for Ineka and Mike….

The flight to Bogota took only hour and a half. I was very exited as I picked up a book in Grenada last year about a street child. Wasn’t sure I wanted to read it but I did. Cried and read it. A very sad story about a 4 year old who took to streets as his mum was a prostituet. One story among thousands in Bogota. How he survived, how kids get abused and disappear, how you have to fight for true survival and fight he did. My Bogota trip would be looking for street kids and walk the places where this boy walked.he didn’t even have a name, his mum called him Chico= boy….

X

Great trip from Cuba to Isla Mujeras

Hi

So the crossing went absolutely fine! Glorious sail and sun, took us two days with manual helming and arrived outside Cancun, Mexico to a little island called Isla Mujeras. Again our draft is to deep to most anchorages but found a good spot.
A very busy place, lots of holiday makers but stunning water and beaches. Did some shopping and hired one of those golfcarts to drive around with to great laughs and fun to both us and the kids.
Spent a day on the beach, me and Jani with the kids while poor Chris had to take the ferry to mainland to get the autohelm. Hot and sweaty he did return just in time for sundowners. All happy in camp Moody Finn.
We only spent three days there as we had to get a move on for Janis sake. His flight back home was from Colombia. So checking the weather….not looking that good. Going down south and wind blowing from southeast, plus the strong current that will push us up against Cuba. I wasn’t happy leaving but got voted out….

Well….oh dear Lord! It was the trip from hell. We were to tight to wind so kept motoring, big seas and all three kids seasick plus I felt rough. Puke galore, changing sheets, couldn’t do any cooking, the big boys upstairs doing shifts of 2 hours at the time not leaving the cockpit between. I just willed the trip to end and us getting somewhere, anywhere…
As I was laying in the bed in the night ( at least I was warm and dry :) ) I heard a shift of noise in the engine….hard to tell what was going on but I just knew it sounded different. So I jumped up and stuck my head through the window into the cockpit and told Chris. He pooped on that, told me all is fine. Oh well…if you say so….to the bitter moment when the engine died few minutes later! Now we were in deep shit. No engine, wind and current pushing us towards south Cuba… My heart just pumped madly as I watched Chris pull up floor and opening doors to the engine compartment. Out of fuel? Filters blocked? What?
He fiddled around with fuel tanks and the pressure was high in them. So released air and hurrah, engine got going! All good again. But not for long…as it did the same thing again. I so had enough by this time. I was scared and just stood there with torch in hand saying the same mantra again and again: please let it be fixed, please let it be fixed, please let it be fixed….after changing all fuel filters apart the last one which we couldn’t get off we had to makeshift this tool to get to the filter deep down and under engine….it was hot, dark and blowy. Finally Chris got it, changed it and a big hurrah got the engine going!!! Oh the joy! So nose towards Cayman Island as we all needed a rest. The trip took us 5 days instead of 2 and just shows you that it’s not bloody worth it to go against the nature.
Arrived in the morning and started to wash and tidy up. Lovely to be anchored.

Went ashore for a wonder and of course what do we see? A McDonalds and we were not going to get past it. Have to say, I did enjoy it as well. The supermarket was so well stocked, never seen half of the stuff that they sold there and of course the beers in the seafront bar. It felt good to be on land.

Now though we had the long trip to Colombia ahead of us and we had to press on. Weather looking good so after 2 nights off we went but this time lots of goodies with us like garlick bread, pastries and lovely fruit. The sail was good, took us 6 days to get to Santa Marta but of course something had to go wrong.
The Colombian coast is known to be blowy. Not unusual to have 30-40 knots and rough seas about 24h from the coast. So yes, we got it and the headsail cleat broke with a loud bang which meant that the big sail just flapped in the wind. Oh great. So in it comes and the little headsail out. Lucky now and not earlier.
So there it was then. The Colombian coast with high mountains. Beautiful. We made it! The joy of knowing we are going to be here for awhile. But of course Janis flight had gone…2 days before. Anchored outside the marina as Chris took the dinghy to check it out and eventually we got in, Chris beautifully getting the boat in its place and lots of friendly faces and holas! I knew I would like this place :)))

X
,

From Cuba with love

Hi

So our days in Havana carried on….we used the pool almost every day, the boys scooted around the marina and of course we had to carry on with school. Oh yes, some days was just plain hard work…
But we had some fab times as well. The next time we went to Havana we took the hotel bus for free…yes it was free for the guests but as we tipped the driver there is no questions asked. Went to see El Morro fort, yes , same name as in San Juan, Spanish, no imagination!! Took a horse and cart drive and got back home with one of those big American taxicabs. We learnt about the people, the mentality, the generosity and about the culture. Our Spanish improved and we loved the country. We loved walking around not seeing one McDonald or burger king or any other rubbish joint but normal local food places. Our Fridays was spent at club nautico and afternoons at the bowling Hall and playground. Everybody thought the boys were nuts with they climbing and scooting and Alice grew up to use the potty and got her first knickers to use….so many memories and missing the place terribly.

So then my cousin arrived from Finland. Jani, 29 years old. Been sailing with us before but then we only had James, now…..well, I did warned him!
But he is great….very relaxed and always happy. He brought with him my favourite cheese from Finland and angry bird games and pyjamas for the boys, colouring books for Alice and charts for Colombia for Chris. As we waited for the new auto helm bit we prepared the boat for the next journey. We also met this boat called belly dancer from Belgium with this family on board and their 12 year old called Wajo. He is amazing, so intelligent and friendly and worldly. He took the boys to pool and came bowling with us. They have now gone back to Belgium as Wajo wants to go to school but we are in contact. Will be interesting to see what he will do with his life!

The auto helm part couldn’t be shipped to Cuba so we decided to ship it to Mexico. So that meant we have to helm the boat manually for couple of days. So eventually the day came to say goodbye to Cuba. Very sad….as we left the marina Ceasar the rubbish collector ran along the pontoon waiving and calling for us to come back one day….I cried.
So out we went between the reefs and feeling the Atlantic under us again. Nice and easy down wind sail but worrying about crossing the Yucatan channel. The channel is between Cuba and Mexico and the current is very strong there. Not fun as the current is going north and we were going southwest…

From Cuba with love

Hi

So…..Marina Hemingway is a big complex.But very run down. There is a hotel, 2 * at the most but two great pools. Lots of empty buildings and a total soviet style to it all….kind of grey and square. There is a bakery, gift shops and hairdressers…..yes. Got all exited about until I saw the result…..
Booked us in and got the boys to have a haircut which was fine and then me. Wanted mine a bit more layered and a little shorter and highlights. She coloured, cut and blow dried it and it look fantastic. And straightened them to finish it all off…..well I never thought that you could apply red hot iron on newly coloured hair! Well you can’t at least not on mine. She frazzled and burnt my fringed and when I washed it and of course I don’t blow dry the whole thing looks a mess!!! Uk and my fab hairdresser Kirsty, here I come, needs serious sorting out:)
There is also a club nautico and popped in there. A lounge and a tv room! Also every Friday they do a BBQ. Of course we will be there. So in the afternoon down to the bowling hall where outside had a little park and then for the club. We were in heaven. Kids got tv, we got the view and the food was excellent. Alice finally asleep in the pushchair and we could finally really relax.
We spent all 4 Friday evenings there.some nights very late…..they also had this man playing guitar with limited English but we liked talking to him and of course after few beers Chris just has to join in with the singing. Usually a duet with the man singing in Spanish and Chris coming out with a lot of rubbish in English. Very entertaining!!!

We met a young man, michell, a student who worked there every Friday as his dad run the club. He promised to take us to Havana on the Sunday.
So in comes Michell with the lada to pick us up and good to have a local guide. Parked up and walked everywhere. Plenty of beautiful old American cars, old colonial buildings and happy friendly people. Went to the revolutionary museum which is the presidential palace from Batista era and where the 1959 coup happened. Walls full of bullet holes that James thought was fascinating and so did we.aircraft and missiles on display from the Cuba missile crisis and a van full of bullet holes from the coup. Inside lots of clothing, letters and books and also torture devices that Batista military use to use. Horrible to see and visualise….bought a book about Che Guevara and even if Cuba went on to be a communist country surely it was better than Batista era??

After that a lunch with lobster that cost about £ 4.00. Pays to have a local with you. Then a walk down to old Havana, obispo district with lots of shops, tourists and local vendors. And the chocolate cafe…great day out, thanks to Michell!

From Cuba with love

Hi

So from Inagua we left for Cuba but before that something happened that could have been rather nasty…..

Came back from the beach in the dinghy and the sea was choppy. We came alongside the boat and Chris took hold of it. At the same time a bigger waive hit the dingy and Chris lost his balance…to knock the throttle of the outboard engine into full speed…..me and kids in it and Chris was left hanging on the side of the boat. It took me a few seconds to actually understand what the heck happened as the dinghy went bananas around in a tight circle at full speed…..I sat there thinking I got to stop it but couldn’t move as I also had Alice in my lap. Finally Chris shouted ” you got to stop it” and that got me going. I climbed over beach toys, bags and other junk to get to the back at the same time shouting at the kids to hold on tight as the dinghy was churning around like a whisk. Finally I slowed it down, shaking as I went back to mothership to find Chris still hanging on the side of it. I went mad asking where is the red cord that you are suppose to have attached to your wrist so as if this happends the engine will stall???. Mumble mumble was the answer…..oh well. I can laugh at it now but it could have been an awful accident!

So we left for Cuba. All exited. Few days sail where we caught mahi mahi and tuna. Beautiful starry nights and perfect downwind sail.
Came to Puerto vito as it is the official port of entry. We anchored but the officials wanted us in the marina. To shallow, we said. Our draught is 2.3 m and the depth in marina was 2-2.2 m. They didn’t want to believe us until Chris got the dinghy and measured it with line and sinker. So finally they understood. So on board came the customs, immigration, guardia ( border police) and a doctor. They all love their paperwork. They all want bribes so out comes beers, soap and more beers. All happy. Glad to say that the doctor classed us all fit to enter Cuba and off they all went on their merry way:)

There was not a lot going on in the marina, we cleaned the boat, did school and organised a taxi to take us to the nearby town called Santa Lucia. That was on my birthday and in comes our taxi, a lime green lada. Hehe! Yes, a lada.
On our way we passed a lot of horse and carts and it’s amazing to watch and know that this is their mode of transport as most people are very very poor. A horse is cheap. A lada costs £ 15.000! Walked around the little town and met lots of smiley friendly people. They all want to talk but my Spanish is none existing but we do still understand each other. Oscar, a local wheeler dealer helped us to translate and the boys loved him.

He was like a big brother to them joking and being interested
In what they were saying. We also got a ride on a horse and cart with this young family to the boys delight and I paid them 5 cuc for the ride….yes, it was to much and the young man nearly fell of his cart. Now, money is confusing, there is local pesos for local people and cuc for tourists. 1 cuc is 24 pesos or $1.20. A hairdresser gets paid 15 cuc/ month or a doctor gets 60 cuc/ month. Doesn’t matter if you work 2 or 5 days. That’s your salary.
Before we left for Cuba we were told that you can’t buy certain things like bread, butter or meat. You can, so we found the bakery with a long queue and joined in. No luck. Bread finished before we got anything. This old man came over and wanted us to have some of his bread. No, we managed. He insisted so we took the bread and gave him money. He wouldn’t take it so we insisted….the generosity of Cuban people makes you humble. They haven’t got a lot but still they want to share what they have. We saw it again and again on our travels.

We left Puerto Vito to carry on to Havana. We stopped few times at anchor but had real trouble to get in anywhere as the boats draught is to deep. The guardia watches your every move as they got posts all along the coast so they know exactly where you are. Very safe to sail.
We arrived in Havana early morning with a broken auto helm, yes another thing to fix again, and got a great mooring spot. Across the road was a hotel with a pool. Yes!! Very friendly and helpful staff at the marina Hemingway and we did end up meeting many new and lovely people but that will be for the next chapter…..

X