Cruising Cuba: Dinghy Diaries

The  beach at Cienfuegos marina. Club Recreativo and charter catamarans in background.
The  landing beach at Cienfuegos marina. Club Recreativo and charter catamarans in background.

          When I arrived at Cienfuegos, the Guarda Frontera who dinghied out to meet me came armed with a new paper to sign. It stated that I understood and would comply with the rules of the marina, i.e. show a light at anchor and agree to take my dinghy out of the water every night.

          Winching up our ten-year-old relic was a two- or three-person job. And, I assured them, nobody else wanted it. I did not agree.

          Why the sudden need for security? I asked whether there had been an increase in crime? The officers exchanged a look full of cultural context and shook their heads no. It wasn’t something we would discuss.

          The junior officer suggested I lock the motor to the boat instead. I agreed.

          The next day I found the lock, rusted solid. Another cruiser dropped by to help and filled me in on the crackdown. Two nights earlier, a lock had been nearly cut through before the owner scared off the would-be thief.

         Cubans seemed squeaky clean and honest. Who would risk prison for a dinghy?

          After three hours the lock hadn’t budged. When the officers returned that night, I argued that anyone would be crazy to steal the patched, flooded, crippled boat. After another mysterious look, they took the dinghy into custody.

          Their paranoia mystified me. You couldn’t sell a hot boat in Cuba; Cubans couldn’t even own boats. Then it hit me. Perhaps profit hadn’t been the motive. Perhaps it was the boat itself, the means of transportation to a different end.

More dinghies at the landing. In background, Customs and dockmaster offices.

The next morning when the officer returned my dinghy, his professional smile confirmed my suspicion. It wasn’t something we would ever discuss.

              - originally blogged as Sissy Puedes in Cruising Compass

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