A week has suddenly disappeared at Harbour Cay Club since our arrival from Cuba. Today, we begin the long haul north to Annapolis, MD.
On Friday morning at 9 AM, Cutter Loose receives the traditional friendly bon voyage from the dock at HCC. Our course today takes us into the shallow waters of Florida Bay. By noon, Cutter Loose passes under the Channel Five Bridge and into Hawk Channel. Fifteen knot winds from the southeast send us sailing smartly towards Rodriquez Key where the anchor is down at 4:30 PM with 55 nautical miles under the keel for the day.
After a calm overnight anchorage at Rodriquez Key, the anchor is up at 8:20 AM on Saturday for the 54- mile run to Coconut Grove in Miami. Good sailing conditions prevail for today’s journey. Our course today takes us northeast in Hawk Channel to Biscayne Channel. Entering the protected waters of Biscayne Bay, we pass the remains of several vacant residential structures known as Stiltsville. On a warm, sunny day, this is a popular hangout for pleasure boaters.
The anchor is down near Dinner Key Marina at 4:40 PM. Cutter Loose will remain at anchor here in Coconut Grove until a three-day weather window materializes for the next leg of our journey north to Charleston, SC.
Having developed a curiosity for all things Cuban, we are anxious to learn about the Cuban way of life in Miami. One of the best ways to satisfy one’s curiosity is to sign on for a walking tour of Little Havana.
Little Havana is located about 12 blocks west of downtown Miami. The historic district encompasses a five-block area along Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) stretching from SW 12th Avenue to SW 17th Avenue. This is where most of the commercial activity in Little Havana takes place.
Little Havana is a bustling business district with loud salsa music spilling out into the street from colorful storefronts. Like bees on flowers, Latinos and tourists alike are sipping Cuban cafecitos at the numerous coffee bars along Calle Ocho.
The street is lined with cigar stores, art galleries, bars, restaurants, barber shops and payday loan establishments.
The restored art deco Tower Theater is a local landmark that features foreign language films.
According to our tour guide, the appearance of Calle Ocho has not changed much in fifty years. Many of the buildings are in need of renovation and paint. Compared to the buildings in downtown Havana, however, the structures on Calle Ocho are in outstanding condition.
The symbol of Little Havana is the rooster. Cubans by nature are very protective of their roosters.
The Brigade 2506 memorial pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the debacle known as the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Miami in general and Little Havana in particular is not just a Cuban enclave, but rather a broader Latino melting pot. Little Havana has the distinction of having the highest concentration of Hispanics in Miami (98%).
In addition to Cuban food, there are Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Honduran and Venezuelan shops and restaurants as well. The Cuban population of Little Havana is actually decreasing as many Cubans have prospered here and moved on.
Despite this demographic trend, Little Havana remains the cultural and political capital of Cuban-Americans. Whenever politicians feel the need to pander to Cuban-Americans, they invariably stage a visit to a Cuban restaurant in Little Havana.
At the very center of the Little Havana business district is Domino Park, a covered, open-air structure where each day, the facility is filled to overflowing with residents who gather to play dominoes and share the news of the day.
Our tour guide explains that Cubans face a difficult adjustment when they arrive in Miami. Prior to emigrating to the U.S., Cubans enjoy close relationships and daily interaction with family and friends. Homes in Cuba are considered communal property and neighbors interact with one another frequently. Whatever is cooking on the stove in one dwelling is considered fair game for anyone in the neighborhood. Friends and neighbors are welcome to visit unannounced at any time of day and help themselves to the plate of the day. Given the relative absence of crime in Cuba, there is no need to consider personal safety or securing one’s belongings.
Immigrants face a different way of life in Little Havana. They long for the communal living arrangement that they treasured in Cuba. Also, they must learn to be more defensive in matters pertaining to personal safety. Gang activity is not unheard of in the residential streets adjacent to Calle Ocho. In adapting to their new surroundings, it is not unusual for recent immigrants to feel homesick for the congeniality and slower pace of life in Cuba.
After a final check on the marine weather forecast, Cutter Loose is underway from Dinner Key at midday on Friday afternoon to an anchorage near Fishers Island. This is a temporary positioning measure that will provide rapid access to the Government Cut ship’s channel. At 1500, Cutter Loose will be outbound in Government Cut and into the Atlantic Ocean for a three day, non-stop coastal passage to Charleston, SC.