Cuba by the Sea


In planning my trip to Cuba I had a wish list of subjects I wanted to photograph. As anybody that knows me will attest, boating is an activity I love. I wanted to experience some time on the water, preferably a sailboat, with a fisherman. In emails with my tour company & guide prior to departure, I realized this was not going to happen because of strict regulations on boats on this tropical island. Even before I departed I got a sense of the governments strict authority on peoples lives. I felt a sense of shear disappointment for Cubans because they couldn’t experience the pleasure of the water as I did.

I was able to visit a fishing village near Trinidad along the Rio Guaurabo where it flows into the Caribbean. The marina, where I estimate about 35 boats were moored, was as primitive as any I’ve seen. The long narrow design of all the boats was similar. Those that had motors had small inboard engines. While some had a fresh coat of paint, all of the boats had the rugged & rough appearance of a craft designed for work not pleasure.

The pallet of vibrant colors could be seen in various stages of faded repair. A few of the larger boats had a permanent top to provide shade but most had no protection from the harsh tropical sun. The still clear waters of the river provided reflections that surrounded the marina.

As anyone who has owned a boat can verify there is always maintenance that needs to be done. In Cuba, with only basic hand tools to work with, building or repairing is a slow process. My access to the marina was tenuous & I didn’t try to engage with anyone for fear of getting them in trouble. I easily could have spent the day with the men in this harbor. However, I was told “jefe” was coming. It was an inspector from the government checking the status of a boat being repaired. It was time for me to depart.

In almost every marina I’ve ever seen there is at least one boat that makes me curious about the failed hopes of the owner. Even still serene waters can consume a person’s dreams. It appears the name of the boat is Fortia, which translates into Strong. Look closely at the reflection on the starboard chain. You can see a link has separated. Soon the persistent power of water will overpower the craft. Water always wins.

Dervis Lopez Abram has fished in the Bay of Guaurabo for the past 15 years. In that time he learned many tricks from a mentor who fished these waters his entire life. Trolling with artificial lures on lines, not nets, his catch is Red Snapper, Salt Fish & Tuna. He told me over the past 5 years fewer fish are being caught & he believes it might be due to climate change. The government buys 90% of his catch at prices they determine. He is able to sell or consume the reaming 10%. When his son is not in school Dervis is passing on to him the lessons about fishing he has learned. He is proud of how quickly his only son has learned to catch different kinds of fish.

The Fara is Dervises boat where he routinely sets out on the sea in early evening and returns at dawn. At 6.4 meters by 2.4 meters it is one of the larger boats I saw in the crude moorings. It is powered by a 12 hp Soviet diesel. He hopes after his son graduates & does his mandatory 2 years in the army he will follow in the tradition of his father. If he does, he will pass the boat on to him giving him a head start in life.

In hindsight I couldn’t help but to reflect on Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize wining novel The Old Man & The Sea. While Santiago struggled with a big fish, the fishermen in this village contend with much more. Making a living on the water may have a romantic appeal to some. However, for Cubans, the effort to survive as fisherman is a way of life filled with endless challenges beyond those that mother nature presents. In spite of the hardships they hope for a better catch tomorrow.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Author: Connecting camera & mind.

Retired and transitioning to the next phase of life.

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