Category Archives: Sailing

A Close Call While Buying Cigars in Cuba

Tobacco farmer in Cuba where sailor bought cigars

In 1999, the Naegeli family sailed away from deadlines and the daily grind, seeking a simpler existence and a better way to raise a family. From 1999-2001, Curt, his wife, Nancy, and their two daughters, Sarah and Amy, cruised the high seas in their 27-foot sailboat, Voyager. While experiencing the Smooth Sailing lifestyle, the visited  the Cuban islands.

One day I rode my fold-up bicycle into town and found an agricultural market. I bought all the vegetables I could carry. I also changed money with a local. He threw out 20 pesos and I threw out a $1 U.S. bill. We exchanged 7 times, and he was very happy. I bicycled the 3 miles back to the dinghy and unloaded my pack. I headed back to town for more shopping.

While I was buying cigars inside a house, a man from the Guarda Frontera walked in and told me I had no permission to be there. I told him I did have permission, and my sailboat was anchored nearby at Bahia Honda. I was completing my purchase while the Guarda said something in Spanish I didn’t understand. Everyone in the room started defending themselves, and one man who spoke a little English put his hands on his wrists like handcuffs and said, “You go with him now!”

With me on my bicycle and the Guarda on his bicycle, I was escorted back to my dinghy. I kept thinking that I was going to a Cuban prison! When we arrived, I noticed an army jeep and three officials looking over my dinghy. One of the officials asked what I was doing, and I told him that I bought food, cigars, and bowls. He asked what I paid for these items and what currency I used. I told him that I paid in Pesos and produced a wallet full of them. Everyone sighed, relieved.

Tobacco growing in Cuba where cigars were urchasedThe government controls the exchange of all foreign currency. If I would have been caught changing U.S. dollars with the locals, I would have been jailed. It was a close call.

Cubans can only buy certain things with the peso. For other necessities, they need to pay in U.S. currency. If Cubans have relatives in Miami that send USD in the mail, this is not a problem. If they don’t have relatives like that, they went without much-needed items. One of my goals in Cuba was to help the people get U.S. money. I brought $450 in $1s and $5s.

The Ports of Cuba at a Glance

In 1999, the Naegeli family sailed away from deadlines and the daily grind, seeking a simpler existence and a better way to raise a family. From 1999-2001, Curt, his wife, Nancy, and their two daughters, Sarah and Amy, cruised the high seas in their 27-foot sailboat, Voyager. Their cruise included a visit to the Cuban islands.

Marina Hemingway

Our first stop in Cuba was Marina Hemingway, and upon entering a port, the Guarda Frontera boarded our vessel. Many cruisers have a problem with the long and intrusive entry and exit process at every port in Cuba and head to a different country. I treated it as a challenge, an obstacle to overcome.

Port of Cuba Smooth Sailing Rum

Bahia Honda

After leaving Marina Hemingway, we anchored at Bahia Honda, where we felt most unwelcome. After finishing the 3-hour clearing-in process we were told not to inflate the dinghy, and we were restricted to Voyager. The next morning, my wife, Nancy, inflated the dinghy, and I went to shore to “negotiate” with the Guarda Frontera. Packed with my charts, guidebooks, and my cheat sheet of 75 much-needed Spanish words, I negotiated for almost two hours.

I told them that I needed food, and reluctantly, they allowed me to go into town to provision. I told them I needed a beach for the girls to run, and after much arguing and grunting, the Guarda picked out a beach we could use and said I could take the kids into town. Nancy also had permission to take the kids into town, but not both of us. One of us had to stay with the boat. I argued until I was blue in the face about this point, but to no avail.

I tried to make the negotiation last as long as the clearing-in process, but I finally ran out of things to gripe about. The Guarda seemed relieved to see me head back to my boat.

In the anchorage, Voyager’s crew was the only one with permission to go inland. Tranquillia radioed to the Guarda day and night for water to no avail. On one of my trips to the mainland, I hauled water for them.

Cayo Paraiso

An official approached me one day after one of my trips to the mainland and told me I didn’t have permission to come ashore. We sailed for Cayo Paraiso the next day. This island is the former home of author Ernest Hemingway and a base for anti-submarine activities during World War II. Cayo Paraiso is only half the island it was back then, literally, as half the island washed out to sea during a hurricane several years back.

Exploration of this cay by Voyager’s crew was extensive. Many trails wind through its interior, and a beachcomber’s paradise lines its windward shore. Our daughters Sarah and Amy got a pet here, Hermy, a hermit crab. I got many fish and lobster here, as well as vegetables and rum from the Cuban fishermen.

Cayo Levisa

Cayo Levisa

Cayo Levisa was a short (9 mile) sail away. This resort island has one of the best beaches in Cuba. We spent almost a week here and met many interesting Europeans who were vacationing on the island.

Puerto Esperanza

We checked in at Puerto Esperanza next. The small town was home to so many nice and helpful people. It’s the kind of place I’d like to raise my children. After the first day, I announced to the family, “I say we stay here for the rest of our time in Cuba,” and everyone agreed. We spent the next 4 weeks there.

Experience the Smooth Sailing lifestyle.

ABOUT: Smooth Sailing Rum is a premium, toffee-flavored party spirit that is perfect for sipping and mixing. Meticulously crafted in small batches, Smooth Sailing Rum is distilled without the harsh bite of alcohol or a sharp aftertaste. Smooth Sailing Rum is available at Festival Foods stores, Woodman’s Markets, and other fine stores in Wisconsin. Ask for it.

Imagine yourself sailing…

Imagine yourself sailing along in light winds on a sunny day. You hear the sound of the boat slicing through the water and the gentle winds whispering at your ears. The sun is bright, and you can see deep into the water. Smooth Sailing implies the steady wind forcefully pushing you to your next destination. Dolphins frolic at the bow, seemingly playing in the wake the bow makes. A dolphin swims on its side and looks you right in the eye, which creates the feeling of a deep emotional connection to the ocean. Birds drift effortlessly overhead always searching for that next meal.

Now you’re enjoying the tranquility on board after the anchor is deployed and secure. Time to enjoy Smooth Sailing Rum. You’re startled by a great splash off the port side as a giant Eagle Ray comes crashing down after an extraordinary leap into the air. You closely watch the sunset and hope for a glimpse of the illusive Green Flash. You’re mesmerized by the stars as the heavens just seem to open up, drawing you closer. Motion in the water creates bio-luminescence, a beautiful blue-green neon glow.

You launch the dinghy for the trip ashore as part of the Smooth Sailing lifestyle. Feeling the easy motion of surfing along through the waves, you arrive on a new shore for the first time. Trudging off to find the first adventure in this place, you hope to this exploration leads you to meet new and unique people and a chance to learn how the locals earn a living and make their way in the world. Getting invited to dinner at a new friend’s house is one of the highlights of the Smooth Sailing life. No day is complete without a frolic on the beach.

Your search for food continues with a short fishing expedition or snorkeling for a conch, lobster or another scrumptious morsel. The feeling of slipping into the salt water is warm and inviting. The underwater world is a new dimension with new creatures. You effortlessly glide through the reefs witnessing the industrious activities. A Barracuda is your escort on this underwater excursion, always watching. Back on board, you grow your own vegetables, a variety of nutritious sprouts. Anchoring close to an onshore population means that you can buy vegetables, and some may be rather unique.

Follow along with Smooth Sailing Rum’s adventures as we explore the world. View the pictures and read the stories of Smooth Sailing Rum’s adventures on its quest for places off the beaten path. Meet new people and experience a different way of thinking: through the eyes of the native peoples and foreign cultures. View the natural world from unique perspectives.

When we speak of drinking Smooth Sailing Rum, we say, “Anchor’s Up!” whether we’re drinking a shot with friends or having a drink with a loved one. Introduce your friends and family to this exciting new rum, and dare to live on the edge.

Anchors up – may your sails always be full.

Ask for it at your neighborhood liquor store!

Be Smooth: Live Responsibly

ABOUT: Smooth Sailing Rum is a premium, toffee-flavored party spirit that is perfect for sipping and mixing. Meticulously crafted in small batches, Smooth Sailing Rum is distilled without the harsh bite of alcohol or a sharp aftertaste. Smooth Sailing Rum is available at Festival Foods stores, Woodman’s Markets, and other fine stores in Wisconsin. Ask for it.