5.10.2005

Hemingway Yacht Club '05

The more imperative an action is on a sailboat is directly correlated to the decibel level at which the order is spoken. There is nothing personal about it, and Lawrence understood this as Doc yelled for him to get him another beer.

We were headed nearly due south on Cash Bar, cruising at a leisurely 5.3 knots to Havana at the bequest of the Gulf Yachting Association (GYA) in order to establish a line of communication with Cuba’s only yacht club, the Hemingway Yacht Club.

This all started one night at a poker game over in Pascagoula when Doc was boasting about the running Texas Hold ‘em sessions he had down in the hold of a shrimp boat as he crossed the gulf during the Mariel boat lift. Two GYA board members were present that evening and one thing led to another.

Apparently shaking in their loafers, the GYA was concerned that the Florida Council of Yacht Club’s was becoming too cozy with the Hemingway Yacht Club’s ‘El Commodore’ and felt that they needed to better position the ‘Association’ in order to pull the only yacht club in Cuba into their membership once the inevitable happens and Castro dies.

Doc easily convinced them that he was the man to undertake this ‘black op’ considering he knew the Commodore of HYC back when Doc and he were blackjack dealers at the Nacional Casino in Havana.

What finally sold me on undertaking this assignment on MY BOAT was a very well placed comment by one of the GYA Board members regarding my PHRF rating… something about revisiting the obviously low number.

Now, I really don’t mind telling you about all of this because the ‘Association’ has built in enough deniability around themselves, including the fact that I’m considered ‘disavowed’ because my GYA member club’s dues and bar bill are so heavily in arrears, that they don’t fear reprisals from anybody including the feds.

I personally only fear having Cash Bar confiscated by the US or Cuban Coast Guards, not returning to the states in time for the Dauphin Island Race, and/or losing the ability to restrain Doc from attempting to lead an insurgency from my Gulfstar Sailmaster.

Doc tried to assuage some of my fears by making a case that we’d be disguised as a humanitarian mission by going to Walgreen’s and buying some Advil Liqui-gels and a four-pack of Dr. Scholl’s Odor-Eaters, but it didn’t really help. Especially after he opened up the shoe inserts and starting sniffing them.

After leaving Bay St. Louis earlier in the week, we reprovisioned in Mobile including taking on two of my regular crewmembers, Lawrence and Trudy, an average Evinrude sales rep and an ex-con. You may remember something about her from a previous post. She’s the one who served a pair in Alabama for torching a C&C 34.

The weather is currently with us. We had a nice cool front come through bringing with it some gusty conditions earlier and now we are making a steady 5.5 knots. Every night at cocktail hour Doc begins waxing and babbling nostalgic about his history as a Cuban exile, while Lawrence tries to put the moves on Trudy who only talks about what type of tattoo she’s going to get in Havana.

This will not be my first foray into Cuban waters having sailed and raced there a few times in the past and I am actually looking forward to drinking mojitos at the Chan Chan Club.

25°42’21”N 83°55’47”W

“Rejoice!” Doc was feeling bubbly this morning as he put a Townes Van Zandt CD into the boat stereo, “Another morning on the water is another morning not worrying about Sandanista death squads in the jungles of Nicaragua.”

“Come again?” Trudy inquired.

Lawrence chimed in. “It’ll be a coon’s age before I believe a word about that.”

“All true good sir. Grenades in the lazerette. Ak-47’s and ammo belts hidden under the spinnaker in the V birth. Morgan 34’s are ideal to run guns. It wasn’t even a tough sell to the CIA. Her name was Contradiction. By the end of it, my program was fully vetted. We had several boats. Contravene, Contralto.”

“Baloney.” Lawrence frowned.

“All true.” Doc stared off. “Heady days. Wine, women… ah, there was this one bird. She was from Chiapas.”

“Hey Lawrence, tighten up the vang please.” I had the helm.

“Fiction, bra.” Lawrence had heard all of this before and was incredulous as he moved forward.

“Sadly, we lost one vessel. She was sailing near the Rio Wawa delta. Armand Pocampo was the Captain. Speculation at the time was that she may have been torpedoed by a Nicaraguan Coastie. Strangely enough, to this day, the Nicaraguan presidential yacht happens to be a Morgan.” Doc sipped on his beverage.

The Black OP

After a rather uneventful crossing, we arrived at the sea buoy (23°05’358”N 82°30’522”W ) and transited the channel to the marina, passed through customs and were assigned a slip. There were no hassles whatsoever. We immediately crashed.

The next morning, I was surprised to find that Doc had left the boat, but he wasn’t gone long. Upon his returning, he notified us that we had an appointment with El Commodore, at 3:00pm. Until then we were to go directly to Papa’s for libations and fish tacos.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Papa’s was filled with Americans and Canadians drunk on Cristal and Havana Club. So you know… when in Rome.

At 3:20pm we made our way to HYC leaving Lawrence & Trudy to fend for themselves amongst the mainly soused powerboater crowd.

Doc was now on his third Cohiba and fifth Havana Club and soda when we entered El Commodore’s office. There were large windows overlooking the pool and the marina; hanging from the wall, Fidel in his green fatigues stared down at us.

On El Commodore's massive leather and mahogany desk was a photograph of himself and Castro wearing speedos and sailing a sunfish. Next to this was a large box of Cohibas from which he offered me and Doc a fresh smoke. He joined us and the room quickly became very cloudy. He called Doc ‘my brother’ after we gave him a gift of a GYA burgee, but he politely ignored me.

Doc was masterful. El Commodore was sly and non-commital. They traded pleasantries and stories of the old days until Doc broached the subject at hand, but received a swift “We have time. Much time. No decision has been made.” from El Commodore.

And that’s how we left it… or so we thought.

A few days later, after Trudy had gotten a tattoo of Che Guevara on her left breast and we had our fill of Havana nightlife and running out of time before DIR, we prepared to take Cash Bar back north.

Immediately after clearing customs, one of the guards rapidly tossed an item into the cockpit. Fearing contraband, I was about to toss it over the side when I noticed it was a burgee wrapped around a small stalk of sugarcane. Inside was a note, written in Spanish which left Doc smiling.

© 2005 - All Rights Reserved



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