My First Voyage Sailing Solo To Cuba

My sister and some of my followers always asked me to start writing a book about my life, as I have to admit that in the 38 years I lived so far, I do have lots to talk about. But from my side, I’m thinking that no one would read a book about a man they’ve never heard about.
People these days don’t read much anymore anyway. I decided to keep a log aboard the boat, and now I’m thinking to make two of them. One aboard, that will have the technical and navigation details while sailing, and on my Blog I will post the story of the trip. This way if I do decide to write a book later on, I get to practice my writing as I haven’t done this for a long time. I will try to write the best I can, considering that English is not my first language, and I’m not a “professional” writer. I believe this will end up as pod cast as well, for the people that don’t like, or don’t have the time to read. For those that would like to read this article offline, you can now Download the PDF version as well.

June 1th 2018

It’s been nearly two months now since I haven’t done any work on the boat. I needed badly to work on editing client videos, trying to make enough money for my departure. I hate being unprepared when I have to leave somewhere, no matter if I travel on land or at sea.
Unfortunately my computer it’s too slow for video editing. Maybe I should become a writer instead, it’s a lot easier editing text than video. Because of this, the work I thought I will finish in about a month, it took me two months. I know how fast I can work and plan my work. I’m a very organized guy but, with a very slow computer, and the cloudy weather not charging my batteries, I thought I will never finish editing those videos. Not a good thing at all. This only gives me one week to do all the preparations before my departure. It would still be enough for me considering that for now I only do short voyages, only if I had more money for the preparations. I have to leave USA before June 16th, as that’s the last day I can stay in USA as I’m always here on my tourist visa, and I can’t stay longer than six month a year.

From the budget I had planned I’m already missing $300. Turns out this will turn into a big disaster at the end. It’s amazing how much this little money for most people can influence a voyage in a really bad way. I had in plan to sell the sunshade enclosure in order to make extra money for Diesel and food supplies. My boat neighbor George agreed to buy it for $100 as he didn’t had much either. I know it was cheap, but I really needed to cover the missing hole in my budget. He was also nice and let me take the entire Diesel he had in his tank. This way I got my self a full tank and I also have abut 10 gallons spare. Unfortunately this one had water in it so I can only use a little part of it.

I finished paying everything to Konstantin for buying all the stuff for the boat during Irma, and the little I had left to pay for the boat. Ricardo came to pick me up with his fishing boat, and we went to the Miami Yacht Club to see my friends Nino and Felipe. We laugh a lot as these two are really funny men, even though they don’t have a lot, beside their boats. I wrote about Nino on my Blog while I was home in Romania during Irma. He lost his boat and all his belongings then. He finally managed to get another boat to live aboard now, but he still didn’t have enough money to get his papers back… ID, green card and all that.

He has no money to do that, and I really wish I had so I can help him. Right now I don’t even have for my self. Tomorrow Ricardo will give me a ride with his car so I can register my boat. I wish I could register her in Romania instead, but it’s too much paperwork, it takes too long, and I don’t have the time or money.

While I’m trying to do a lot of boat preparations, mostly in the rain thanks to the bad weather, I haven’t had the chance to film too much since I’m trying to protect the phone. It has all my charts on it on Navionics, plus that it’s my only way in keeping in touch with family back home. The days are going by really quick and my time it’s running out. Before all this, I seriously thought of giving up, sell Anastasia and return to Romania. I was thinking that maybe I can try again with a different boat from home.

I am now checking everything on the boat, doing repairs where needed only, mostly improvising as I don’t have money to buy new parts, and I don’t even have all the tools I need either. The tiller broke as the wood was affected by the rain water. I got scared I will have to buy a new one. At the marine stores that’s about $260. Luckily I managed to cut the end of it and it was still good to use. I just drilled new holes and varnish it and it’s good as new. Well at least it looks good.

The one thing that made my financial situation a nightmare was the fact that not being a USA citizen, I’m not allowed to work in USA, and that was the one thing that made the adventure begin so badly, and the reason it took me so long to get to this point. I had many days when I had no food at all aboard, and I didn’t even told my family or friends about all those days. Or when I had, I was happy if it was some can meat, usually it was just fried potatoes. They have enough problems on their own, I didn’t want to make them worry too much for me. It was more important to have my phone bill paid to talk to my family than having food on the table. When you have a bad day, there is no better treatment for that than a chat with your loved ones.

June 4th 2018

I was initially planning to sail to the Bahamas, as the entry fee was only $150, all I had left in my pocket as in my bank account I only had $50 thanks to one of my PayPal supporters. I was supposed to pay my phone bill on the 3rd already, as the phone is very important to me, my only connection with family and also because I have unlimited data even on roaming, that allows me to update my website and upload the videos on You Tube from any country. Unfortunately if I do that I will have no money for my departure. I guess it will have to wait a little and maybe I can cover the bill later on.

Marc, my French friend came back from France, and he is also preparing to sail to Martinique. He did a proposition to me that may be better than sailing to the Bahamas. I explained to him that I don’t have enough money for anything and he proposed me to sail along with him all the way to Martinique, where we would leave the boats on the hard in storage, fly to France and work together. He would pay my expenses and I will pay him back once I make the money. Sounds like a good deal to me, and since I really have to leave USA quick, as I don’t want to stay over my visa time and get in trouble, I decided to accept his proposal. I don’t mind going to work with him, I love working, I always did as I worked all my life. Only that for some reason I always ended up with either nothing, or too little.

Most of the time because I believed too much in people, or sometimes, some of them just liked talking advantage of my situation when I really needed to make some money. It’s not like I’ve always been in this bad situation. For many years I made good money, way more than I needed. For some reason I was not happy as something was still missing. All this bad times started when I decided to give up on everything, and fight as much as I can to make this dream come true, because this is what it was missing. While living on the boat in Miami working on preparing her to make this trip possible, financially I was getting worst and worst. So this proposition does sound indeed like an amazing idea. So close to home I can even fly and visit my mom for a few days and that’s amazing.

The boat got hit again, the second time now by another boat. This one as well got unhooked and started wondering around the anchorage. I noticed that the day before, and I added her an extra anchor trying to make her stop. Turns out the anchor I had as spare and no chain, was too small for the size of that boat, and the next morning I woke up with a big boom in my hull. One of the anchor lines of that boat got hooked in my rudder. Now the rudder won’t move at all anymore. I hope tomorrow it’s a calm day so I can dive and remove it, hoping there is no damage. Konstantin, George and a couple of other boat neighbors came to help me take the boat away. We didn’t know the owner, until someone called him to come take care of his boat. The kid came, got the boat to shore, sold it and didn’t even say thank you or I’m sorry. Some people should not own a boat that’s for sure.

June 7th 2018

One day before departure, Marc tells me he will have Samuel joining him as crew, as he is going to St Marten. So we are waiting for his arrival, while I’m doing the last preparations on my boat. My friends Cari and Konstantin saved me and they got me food and supplies on the boat for at least two weeks. With ought them I would most probably have food for only one week or even less. My supporters also send me some money on PayPal, as well as my family. Still not enough for the trip, but it’s better than nothing. I thought of trading my dinghy for a paddle board or a kayak or an inflatable dinghy since I can’t carry this one aboard as is too big, but because I was still missing money I had to sell it, also for only $120. Not having a dinghy is really bad, but considering that I travel with Marc, he can pick me up in his dinghy to go to shore until I figure out this problem later on.

I managed to dive and remove the line stuck in my rudder. It looks like there is no damage, except the fact that now my rudder has a little unusual movement. I will sure have to inspect that when I will have the money to take her up on hard. But after all that, I did got my self a spare anchor and some line, at least that after all the trouble.

June 8th 2018
South Beach Miami
25º 47,366′ N – 80º 8,721′ W

Today is the departure date. I got enough supplies of food and water for at least two weeks, at least I hope I do. The boat though, is not properly prepared at all. The battery is six years old, the lines are also old, I don’t know how much I can trust the standing rigging, and I really hope the engine will work well. I managed to fix the big leak I had on my propeller shaft. The only thing I couldn’t do was to clean the bottom. The water is too dirty and the current too strong. I have no choice but leaving her like this and try to clean it on the way, little by little every morning before leaving for the next destination.

Marc’s boat is ready as he also has Samuel aboard to help. He is rushing as it seems that the rain will come soon, plus that it’s late already. I’m working hard on picking up all my 5 anchors I had in the water. That was what kept Anastasia safe during hurricane Irma. I was in Romania at that time and I have to thank Konstantin for all his hard work anchoring her so well. I have 3 more anchors left and Marc with Samuel came to help me as well. We are late one more hour now because of the anchors, but I’m ready and we are leaving. I’m sad I didn’t have the chance to say a proper good bye to all my friends around here. I wave good bye to Konstantin and we are on our way. Looks like Marc and Samuel are in a really good mood after so many beers. They turned around and left one beer to Konstantin as well. We are slowly leaving the anchorage behind now on our way to Miami Yacht Club where I will leave the dinghy to my buddy Ricardo and pick up some more cash.

I say good bye to my buddy Ricardo as well, and I’m sad I can’t say good bye as well to my friends Nino and Felipe. We are finally leaving now, and I still can’t believe it’s true. I spent three years of my life waiting for this moment. The way I left though, it’s a lot different from what I was hoping for. Far from being as prepared as I wished I was. Clearly I’m a little crazy doing this, as a normal person would not do it for sure. I believe the passion for sailing and the desire to make this dream come true beats any challenge.

We passed next to downtown Miami and we were heading for Biscayne Bay where we are planning to stop and anchor for the night. I was looking back at the port and I was sad in a way, thinking about how many times I was there while I was working on the cruise ship, as I miss a lot the people I used to work with, but at the same time happy I was leaving on my own boat this time. The sun is almost at sunset already, and we are now motoring trough the same place on the Biscayne Bay where my friends Clayton and Iryna were taking me aboard their boat to practice sailing, and also spend a good time together, when we got the time for that.

Biscayne Bay
25º 31,388′ N – 80º 21,795′ W

We found a nice place to anchor close to the canal markers. I know the place with my eyes closed as this is where we were taking a turn when sailing with Clayton and Iryna. I anchored close to Marc’s boat and I was so exhausted I fall asleep instantly.

June 9th 2019

As soon as I woke up, I made my self a coffee and had a quick can food breakfast. Then I cleaned the boat’s bottom some more. We now left for the next destination, Key Largo here we come. I had so many friends these past years telling me I should spend a few days at least in there, now it’s finally happening. On the way we found a nice spot with little current and clear water, so we stopped to clean the boat bottom some more. Marc’s boat is not to bad. In my case, I could call the Cousteau Society to study marine life on my boat’s bottom. I managed to clean nearly one side of the boat, and then we continue our trip. Looks like I just won half knot by cleaning her a little.

Somewhere Close To Key Largo
25º 17,734′ N – 80º 21,795′ W

Two bridges left to pass under before getting to Key Largo. The sun is already at sunset, so
we decided to anchor. The view is spectacular.

I still can’t believe I’m actually leaving this moment. I was too tired to cook, so I open one more can, and since I didn’t had any money to buy some bread before I left, I use crackers instead. Soon after that I was sleeping like a baby while listening to Marc’s music as he was playing some Irish tunes on his Irish pipes.

June 10th 2018

We cleaned the boats bottoms a little more early in the morning, and now all I have left to clean is the keel. We take our anchors out and we are heading to Key Largo. It seems that it was a quick trip. One bridge, then another one and here we are.

Key Largo
25º 10,831′ N – 80º 23,318′ W

We found a little anchorage and decided to stop here for today. It’s about 4pm so we decide to go to shore as next to us there is a fuel dock and also a bar. We want to find out the price for the Diesel and water that we need the next day before we depart. Marc invited us for a cold beer to cool down a little as we were melting in the Florida’s heat. It seems like the Diesel and the water are not too expensive. We go over to the bar and enjoyed a few beers along with some really good music of the band playing in there. There was a funny dog too, more like a horse than a dog. Turn out one of my Instagram friends was there next to the dog and I was really happy to meet her in real life. Looks like a fun place and all people are having fun drinking, dancing and laughing. Turns out the people are calling the dog Uber. It’s so big that for sure you can use him as an Uber ride.

I enjoy this, but I don’t think I could do this too often as at some point I would have enough of this. Plus that it’s way too expensive for me and I don’t have money for such things. I’m still dreaming of sailing on open water, long distance sailing, and meet different people and different cultures from other countries. I do all this adventure because I wanted to since I was little. My Geography teacher, Mrs Filica started talking about all this amazing places and cultures, and that made me wish so bad to do what I’m doing today. All my life I wanted to make films, and now I’m slowly creating them one by one, better and better, even though only with nearly no equipment at all. All I have left it’s a microphone and a sound recorder, and I do all the filming on my phone. I really wish I had a proper camera instead.

June 11th 2018

Today we went shopping, and before that we had a quick breakfast. At least I did, as I really wanted a cheeseburger after Samuel showed me some photos the night before and that’s all I dreamed of the entire night. When we left the restaurant and we were heading for a place to leave the dinghy, and we noticed that Marc’s boat was wondering around and she was in the middle of the canal. That anchor I got from the boat that hit mine while I was in Miami came in really handy. So I offered it to Marc so he can keep his boat safe. He only had a Dawnford but I believe the size it’s too small for the boat that size, and not so good for fluffy bottoms, especially when there is not enough chain.

June 12th 2018

Today we stopped again at the same bar we went the first day, as Marc and Samuel wanted to have a few beers. We spent some time in there and then we noticed a kid catching fish after fish on the dock. We thought we could go back to the boats and try to catch some too.
That was really fun as I really missed fishing. We got a bucket full of fish and blue crabs too. I thought we will cook them that evening, but they went to sleep leaving the fish and crabs in the bucket. So I went to sleep as well trying to hide from the little flying monsters, for sure you all know what I’m talking about when you are close to water.

June 13th 2018

Yes I know we are still here. We had a little rest after the crazy week before the departure from Miami. The fish we cached yesterday was stinking this morning, as it’s too hot outside and we were supposed to cook it as soon as we cached them. Sadly they had to throw them in the water instead. No tasty meal I guess. I was trying to catch up on editing the new episode for You Tube, doing some more boat work and check everything one more time.

Looks like today is finally happening and we are leaving. Planning not to stop anywhere after this, so we fill up our tanks with water and Diesel and we are on our way. I just lost a fender by the way. While at the fuel dock, somehow because of the wake, one of the only two I had, managed to fall into the water right under the dock. I couldn’t get it back so now I’m down to one. I guess you can tell I spent a lot of time at anchor and never at a dock.

We motored as there was no wind at all, and at sunset we made it to Islamorada in a place I was told it’s called Tavernier. We went to shore and there it is, another bar with live music, along with another invitation from Marc and Samuel to go and have a drink and something to eat. With all the spending I had so far for the preparations, Diesel, extra food and all that, I was already out of money. They were really nice and covered that for me as well. We had a good time and that band was actually really good, I really enjoyed the music. There was a magic show as well but since we were not allowed to film I couldn’t record that at all. Soon after that late at night, we went back to the boats to rest.

June 14th 2018

We woke up early and started cleaning the boat bottom right away. Marc and Samuel came to help me as I still had a lot to clean and it was too much for me alone, and we had to leave soon. After two hours the boat is finally clean, well at least almost clean. Still she is far better now than what I had before I left Miami. I really need to take her out and paint the bottom, as three days after I clean her she is full of marine life again. We went to shore and did some last minute shopping. Looks like Marc and Samuel drink a lot, as they got lots of beers again. We finally started motor sailing, this was for real the final stop before Cuba.

Open Water
24º 48,641′ N – 80º 46,700′ W

We just passed under the last bridge and we are out of the canal. Sailboats are coming in, and it seems that there must be some storm approaching as the wind speed is increasing. We can finally turn off the engines and sail in quiet. It feels good not hearing the engine and feeling all those vibrations. That didn’t lasted too long though, as the wind dropped so we started the engines again. We motor sailed till nearly 3am, when Marc decides to stop and have some sleep. We take the sails down, and I want to turn on my motor again to move my boat just a little further. Surprise… my impeller seems to be broke and also the belt from the water pump makes a strange noise and smoke. I guess no sleep for me tonight.

Looks like Samuel throes the big bucked overboard, maybe to stabilize the boat a little. I guess I will put my storm parachute in the water to stay close to them and take care of my engine. After one hour of hard work in low light I finally finished fixing the engine.

Thank God Konstantin left a spare impeller on the boat so I could fix everything really easy. Also there are four more spare belts for the water pump. I remember he told me that for some reason they wear out too fast and I guess he was right. The problem seems to be the screw that tights the pump to the engine. For now the problem is fixed and the motor runs well. I’m a happy man for sure.

I’m going out and it looks like the current took me way too far from Marc’s boat. I guess it’s because the storm parachute I have is a lot bigger than his bucket. I ended up motoring for nearly 50 min until I finally got close to him again. I take the parachute out of the water and I’m going to sleep. I believe I fall asleep in the second I put my head down in the pillow. I was still thinking and hoping that the cruise ship that seem to get closer and closer will see us in case we are in their way. I didn’t had to worry about that for too long as 30 min later Marc and Samuel woke me up, we were on our way again.

June 15th 2018

I didn’t even put down the GPS location when I wrote this. But we were nearly half way or maybe even a little more than half way to Cuba. I was so busy thinking about the boat being strong enough for this trip, and all my financial problems, that yesterday when we got out on open water I even forgot this is what I was dreaming for. The current is taking us slightly East so we decided to ride along with it, later on when getting closer to Cuba going back West with the other current. Its morning now and it looks like there are a lot of cargo ships and cruise ships around us. I even heard on the radio Carnival Magic. It was funny to hear that as that’s the same company I worked for. I wanted to say hello on the radio but my antenna didn’t work that far, so no one heard me.

Sailing it’s good, engines are off and the boat seems to be absolutely fantastic. She is way better than what I was expecting. Since the wind is not too strong I’m trying to push her a little to see how much I can trust the standing rigging. At least if something bad happens and I’m loosing my mast, I have Marc close to assist. Luckily everything seems to work amazing so I’m just sailing and melting in the sun, with ought the sunshade I had to sell. It’s an amazing feeling indeed, and it’s ten times better than what I was dreaming of. I still can’t believe I’m actually doing this, I feel like poking my self to see if I’m sleeping and it’s not just a dream. Evening is coming and Marc told me that Samuel wants to move on my boat so he can help me sail the boat. This way I can get some proper sleep. Thanks to that I managed to have two rounds of 3 hours sleep. It’s funny though how I felt more tired after sleeping 3 hours than after my 15 min naps while I was sailing alone.

June 16th 2018

Around 6.30 am Samuel woke me up to see the beautiful dolphins that came to welcome us in the Cuban waters. Since I didn’t got to sleep much I thought something was wrong with the boat at first. We are getting really close now and hopefully we will be at the Gaviota Marina before 3pm. Marc comes along and we transfer Samuel back on Marc’s boat for customs paperwork on our arrival.

Before he left the Diesel in my tank finished. This is bad as now I have air in my fuel lines and it will be a nightmare to start the engine again. I managed to separate the Diesel and the water from the spare fuel I had left and put all I had in the tank. I guess for now all I can do is to sail as close as I can to the marina, hoping that Marc will tow me in, in case I have problems and the engine won’t start.

Gaviota Marina – Cuba
23º 11,467′ N – 81º 7,555′ W

We made it at the marina, well at least Marc did. I’m still in the anchorage in front of the marina as my motor won’t start and the wind doesn’t help me sail inside at all. Plus that I never sailed straight to a dock before and I don’t want to do anything stupid or damage something. I tried bleeding the lines but it’s so hot on the boat I can’t even work on the motor. The battery died while I was trying to start it so now I will have a two hours nap and wait for the battery to charge. Before going in, Marc left me 20 gallons of Diesel so I added that in the tank as well. I also radio the dock master and told him about the problem. Marc doesn’t answer the radio anymore as I’m trying to call him and see if he wants to come and tow me to the customs dock at least.

Two hours later I wake up and jumped straight on the start button of the engine. It finally started again. The dock master just got here in a dinghy asking me if I’m OK and if I can make it to the dock. I told him I just started the engine so I’m following him to the customs dock. Looks like I still have air in the lines as the motor wants to stop. I have a little manual pump for the fuel so now and then I keep pumping fuel trying to keep the engine running. I forgot to talk about this but, I didn’t had the money to buy the Q flag ( yellow quarantine flag ), so before Samuel left my boat I managed to make one out of a pair of some yellow plastic pants for rain that my friend George left me for the trip. I knew I wanted to use the jacket so I thought the pants came in handy for this. Customs and the doctor are coming aboard. Amazing people indeed, and very friendly as well. They remind me of the people at home in Transylvania. We joke around a little and at the same time filling up all the necessary paperwork, 15 min later I’m finally checked into Cuba.

I was told that the fee to stay in the marina for one day is 16.80 Cuban Pesos ( about $19,2 ). I asked about the customs taxes and they told me those are included in the marina fee.
Turns out that it was a little mistake in expressing them self because of the language barrier, and they meant to say that the customs tax will be included in the marina bill at the end before departure. For a 30 days visa that I got, I will have to pay 75 Cuban Pesos, and for the boat 55 Cuban Pesos. The customs and the dock master were really nice and friendly… amazing people indeed. I’m already worried as I don’t have any, as all I have left it’s about $5 left in my bank account now. Marc told me we will stay here for 3 days then we will depart for Haiti or Dominican Republic. I finally docked my boat at the slip, and I see Marc and Samuel returning from the bar that is here close to the dock. They seem to be in a really good mood. Now I know why I was talking to my self on the radio.

Evening came quick and after cleaning the boats a little we decided to go for a walk. We were told there is a pool here where we have free access, and after all the heat from the past two days that seems like a really good idea.

Turns out there is a bar at the pool as well and a kitchen too. I had so much can food by now that I’m dying to have a little pizza and a cold coke. I have no money though, not even cash to exchange so I’m having a little swim then I come back to the boat for a well deserved sleep. There are a few Canadian boats here and these people seem amazing and really nice to talk to.

June 17th 2018

It seems that here the roaming from my phone plan is not available. I guess because of the different politics in Cuba, but it’s OK. At least I still have my phone and I managed to send a text to my mom and let her know I’m OK and I made it here safely. I asked her to tell my sister as well as I’m getting charged extra for each text and I don’t want to waste money. I’m way behind with my phone bill already so I’m happy I still have a phone line.

Internet here only works if you connect to a wireless network at the coffee shop or at the marina, but you have to pay for the Internet cards. It’s 1 Cuban Peso for one hour. I wish I had at least one to properly talk to my mom and also let my followers all over social media that I’m OK and I made it to Cuba. Not much I can do with no money so I came back to the boat and since I was for the first time at a marina in all the three years living on a boat, I decided to wash everything I had since now I had enough fresh water to do that. I look around my boat and I see little damages on the side. I remember now how I got that, but I prefer not to talk about it. I eat some dinner and I go to bed exhausted after one entire day doing laundry by hand. Clearly I was way behind with this too.

June 18th 2018

It’s morning time so I go enjoy my coffee next to Marc’s boat as he was playing again the Irish pipes and I really enjoy that. He seems a little bothered and he stops playing. He told me that he needs to talk to me about the money. Apparently he never told me he will take care of my expenses for the customs taxes or marinas when we stop somewhere, and he meant that he can help me a little if I need for food or fuel. That’s bad news for me already as I have no money at all, and I’m also amazed as that’s not what he told me when we planned all the trip on my boat. I guess this should be a lesson for me to make deals with people only when they are sober, and not at all after a few beers. He is an amazing person indeed, but I guess choosing to sail with him here was a bad idea, as now I’m in a big trouble. Maybe he just changed his mind as Samuel seems to have money problems as well. Clearly he can’t help us both, so probably he decided help Samuel instead. At the end, he is his crew now so he is responsible for him. He was nice enough to me so far though, and he didn’t want any money for either the food or the Diesel he got for me. He just wants me to help him setup a You Tube Channel and some other things for him in return. I also left him the anchor for that as I always appreciate a little help and I always feel that I have to return that in a way or another.

Today is my mom’s birthday and I was really hoping I have some good news for her. I guess not. Now I don’t even feel like asking Marc to borrow me at least 1 Peso so I can get some Internet and call my mom to say happy birthday. I’m feeling really down because of this as my mom means the world to me. I come on my boat and lock my self inside, and with tears in my eyes I’m asking my self how I’m going to get my self out of this situation. I decide to make my self happy at least for a little and I called my mom even though I know I was getting charged a lot for that.

I only have one mom and who knows for how long, I don’t want to miss the moment to tell her Happy Birthday and how much I love her, or to say thank you for all she has done for me. I speak to her and I decide to only tell her a little about the entire situation, at least she can have a happy day. I was really sad after this and also lost, so all I did all day was to continue doing laundry, cleaning the boat thinking that we should leave the next day, wondering how I will make the money to pay for the marina and the customs.

June 19th 2018

I’m really down and I wake up even more sad looking at the food, realizing that I’m slowly running out of food as well. This is not good at all. Marc just came back from the coffee shop and left me a 5 hours Internet card. This made me smile a little and I called my sister right away telling her all about the problems I have. We tried hiding that from mom, but we knew we have to tell her any way, so I called my mom as well and told her everything. They are not to well financially either as there are lots of bills to pay like in every other family, but they decided to send me $100 so at least I have money to survive here a little longer.

Initially I was thinking to use that money to pay the marina fees and only stay a day or two more as I could afford that, and figure out on how to make the money for entering Mexico, and then sail there as soon as possible. But that idea changed quickly after I found out the custom taxes are not included in the marina fee as we were told. My head is about to explode so I decide to relax and started working on a new episode of the adventure so I can post it on You Tube, since I had a little Internet left on my card. I fall asleep while working on it, woke up around 2am, turned the computer off and went back to sleep.

June 20th 2018

From now on I will stop counting the days as it scares me too much thinking about the final bill at the marina. Marc and Samuel will stay here a little longer as Marc wants to have some work done on his teeth. I’m banging my head on the boat’s walls all day thinking about how I can get out of this situation. I would get a job or do some work to make the money, but here is impossible. My hands are tight and I don’t see any solution out of this anymore. This is worst than the worst days I had while at anchor in Miami with no food to eat. At least I didn’t have to pay anyone for being there. I’m trying to upload the video on You Tube but Internet is too slow. I decided to go to the city with Marc and have some cash out of the ATM so I have some more money for food and to buy some more Internet cards. I invited him for a pizza and a beer as they were planning to leave and I wanted to pay him back for the dinner he got for me before. We had a good time chatting and hanging out with some locals as well, and then we came back to the marina.

The days that came after were worst and worst for me. My financial situation right now it’s getting really bad and its worst with every day passing by. I’m already behind with my phone bill a lot, already $100 and on July 3rd I have to pay $100 more. If they will cut my phone line I’m like dead as I have no contact at all with my family. While sailing if I’m close enough to shore, sometimes I still get phone signal and I let them know I’m OK as they are always worried for me. I need to find a way for them to see my position all the time while sailing, at least this way they don’t worry for me so much anymore.

Lately I started thinking more and more about what a big mistake I did that I didn’t sail to the Bahamas and changed my plans. Right now I would be anchored for free somewhere in beautiful turquoise water, and if I would run out of food I would just fish for it, and I wouldn’t have to pay anyone for being there once I’m checked in. Here if I use the anchorage I still have to pay the same price as I am while at the slip. Plus that I don’t have a dinghy anymore now and I have no way on coming back to shore.

I’m happy at least I managed to upload the new episode for the series on You Tube as I really want to make amazing videos for the people that support me. These people are absolutely amazing for what they do. They don’t even know me and they are supporting me trying to make my dream come true. I’m trying to pay back for that by making the videos for them as I promised. It’s so hard not having a proper Internet connection to stay in touch with them. I believe they have the same dream as I do, and since they can’t do it, they at least want to help me leave that dream for them. They mean a lot to me. It’s like having one more family.

I tried posting some more stuff on Patreon today and also log in to PayPal to realize they are both blocked. Now I’m working with my sister so she can log into my website’s email address, Patreon, PayPal, Facebook and Instagram and update the people for me. My amazing supporters Cari and Peter Loui sent me some more money. Now I can survive a little longer. Maybe I can go and buy that cold coke I’m wishing for so badly. I was looking in the store here at the marina for some groceries, but they are all so expensive for me. This is sad for me to end up looking in the freezer wishing for that piece of pork to make a little stake and wonder if 5 Pesos is not too much for a single meal. I really appreciate the fact that I’m basically living my dream and started my trip around the world. There are many people out there wishing they would do this and they can’t.

But at the same time I wonder if it’s really worth going trough all these bad days for that little happiness of having a dream come true. Not so much from my side, I’m used on having bad days. But I feel guiltier for my family because they always have to suffer because of me. This is my dream not theirs, and they still help me from the little they have. But their dream is to have me there close to them, not here far away from them. They barely have enough for them and they still support me even though sometimes they end up with not enough money because they helped me. I wonder if what I do now is right, or maybe I should stop this and be there with them and for them trying to pay them back for all the things they did for me. I wish I had a way of making money while sailing, at least enough so I won’t need their support anymore.

I’m not some guy sailing some fancy boat, and I don’t have some good looking woman aboard either to have lots of views on You Tube to make money out of that. I don’t even have lots of Patrons either, I’m just a poor guy with a boat trying to make his dream come true. But I’m thinking to my self, I’m blessed I still have the ones I have now and the people that support me with PayPal. With ought them I believe I would give up long time ago. But I feel guilty on giving up because of these people as well, since they supported me for so long and now I can’t let them down. I feel like I do have to pay them back with the videos I make while sailing around the world. I need to find some work or something because I can’t continue like this. I feel like I’m bringing everyone down around me, instead of bringing smiles on their faces as I always did before.

June 25th 2018

Marc and Samuel are about to leave. They are rushing as they have to leave before noon, if not they have to pay one more day at the marina. They had a fight with the dock master because of the customs taxes, as they also understood that those taxes are included in the marina fees. I tried calming them down and explain to them what the people really meant, but they didn’t listen much.

The dock master is actually a really great guy. For some reason everywhere I go, I meet some other “brother from another mother”, and he is one of those. I had to say good bye to Marc and Samuel, filming them so I can send them the video later on, then went back to my boat thinking how in the heck I’m going to get out of the situation. I started calculating my financial situation and it doesn’t look good at all. My head and my heart are about to explode already with all this problems I had lately.

All I have left from what my family and supporters sent me is now down to $20. I calculated that if I leave the marina on the 29th before noon, I will have to pay about $395. I still need at least $100 for when I get to Mexico hoping that is not more than that. But then there is the food as well… I believe I only have food left for about four more days. That’s not good at all… then the phone bill $200 as they already closed my phone line. Now I have no Internet at all as they run out of Internet cards here, and I can’t even text my family to let them know I’m OK, or what plans I have. I can’t even check how much money I have in my bank account I’m basically guessing. This is way too much money and I really don’t see any way out of this.

June 26th 2018

The Canadian neighbors here at the slip seem like amazing people that really love sailing. If I see them today I will stop and talk to them, at least they may bring me a smile on my face talking to them and with them about sailing and our sailing dreams. Usually that cheers me up a little. I decided to go and buy the piece of pork I have seen in the freezer and a cold coke. Then I found 10 min left on a card I thought is finished and at least I get to tell my sister and my mom that I’m OK.

I see my neighbors at the coffee shop so I stop talking to them. It feels good talking to someone sharing the same passion for sailing as I have. I only know them for a few days but they are so nice it feels like we know each other since forever. They even know my sailor friend Jolly Holly from Another Adventure, what a small world. Inside I feel sad and I feel like bursting out in tears as I really don’t know what I’m going to do. And all the time I keep thinking on my mom as she sent me the last money she had, thinking that at least in case she needs some, she may find someone to borrow from, for a little while, but I have no one here to help me.

That’s what makes me feel so sad and that’s the reason I want to cry non stop. But I can’t in front of these nice people so instead I continue to talk about sailing trying to remind my self how lucky I am doing this and cheer my self up a little. I came back to the boat and started working on the new video. I wanted to upload this one a lot earlier but the computer is too slow, and it seems that it doesn’t get along too well with the 4K footage from the phone.

I will have to lower the resolution from now on. It’s already 5am and I’m till trying to edit the video. I guess I will go sleep and try to finish it tomorrow. I don’t have any cash anyway to buy an Internet card to upload it so there is no rush.

June 27th 2018

Yesterday I bought a pack of cigarettes on my card for my Canadian neighbor Keith, and I asked him for an Internet card in return as he has cash to pay with. They don’t accept paying with a card in the coffee shop. I wish they did, that would save me from lots of headaches. The only way to get cash is to go to the city and get them from an ATM. But to get to the city you still need 5 Cuban Pesos cash for the buss. And since I don’t have any, I’m stuck in the marina.

I was hoping to film Cuba for my viewers, and show them the great people that live here, always smiling and friendly, not like what I was told about them while I was in Miami. But instead I spent all my time in the marina walking back and forward thinking how I will get my self out of this horrible situation. I really don’t see any way out of this, and I worry even more as I can only stay in Cuba for 30 days. I wouldn’t mind struggling with food on the boat. Now I have electricity as Ernesto my Cuban neighbor here at the slip, traded me a power cable for my fishing stick. Actually he gives me the power cable for free, but he told me his kid likes fishing so I felt I should make him a present in return as well. This way I don’t have to kill my boat battery as it’s already six years old and it barely makes it over night when I navigate. Usually around 3-4 am I have no more power for the navigation lights and the GPS.

I also have an AC unit that Konstantin installed on the boat and I never used before, so I’m comfortable inside the boat now working on the video and writing all this for you as well. But then I know I would never afford to pay for all the marina fees and all the bills I’m behind with. I need to fix this problem as soon as I can and leave for Mexico as soon as possible. Only God knows now, how I will get out of this. My head is about to explode. I’m putting the video to export and I will take a little nap. Later if I feel, I will have something to eat. I only eat one meal a day now to save the food, but right now I’m so down I don’t even feel like eating that one meal.

What a big difference between how I thought and planned this adventure, and the reality of it. I still wonder, is this really what I’m wishing for ? Or maybe I’m in the wrong place right now and made a mistake not going back to Romania ? Still, this is my dream and it has to be a way out of this. I hope there is someone up there in the sky taking care of me and send me some good luck. I had way too many bad days. Tomorrow I hope they bring Internet cards so I can add this on the Blog, and hopefully upload the new episode on You Tube as well.

My other Canadian neighbor Jackie, passed by today and told me they are thinking that maybe if they have enough, they would borrow me the money to pay the marina here so I can sail to Mexico. That was so nice and unexpected that I didn’t even know if I should say yes or no to that. I guess I’m too used to have people always taking advantage of my bad situation around me that I even forgot how is to have nice people around as well.

Maybe I have too many bad memories from Miami, and I’ve been too nice and too honest to people that maybe they didn’t deserved me to be like that. Plus that I’ve always hated borrowing money, I always liked working to make them instead. But in my case now, maybe that will save me.

But as there is a saying home in Romania, “You can’t change the habit of an old horse, after doing the same thing over and over again the entire life”. So I guess it’s hard for me to change, and not be the way I am, plus that, why change just because of some people anyway. Now of course, I did meet amazing people as well in Miami, but I can count them on my hands. Anyway… this solution that Jackie came up with, would be a great thing, but it will only solve the problem for a little while, as I have to pay them back as soon as I get to Mexico, and I would still be behind with my phone bill and a closed phone line.

Another problem is that after the approx 352 miles from Cuba to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, a voyage that may take me about four to five days of solo sailing, I still have to stop in a marina again, until I figure out my dinghy problem and I can find some really cheap dinghy so then I can anchor after that. The other issue is that I will also need food supplies, and a little more Diesel, because you never know when you need it. Even though now being alone, I’m trying to start the motor as little as possible to save money. And there is again another customs tax, this time I hope it will not make me end up in the same situation again.

I’m sorry if this first voyage ended up being such a sad and disappointing story, but this is the reality. I want to tell the real story not to lie, there are Disney movies for the ones that want fairy tales or happy endings. Unfortunately this is the reality, even though, I also wish and want the happy ending as well. Maybe there is someone out there wishing to do the same as I do. At least I’m honest and they know what they are getting them self into. I think it’s better to sleep now and get some rest, and hope that tomorrow it’s a better day. I will probably dream of the beautiful parts of this voyage, or maybe the better version of the story, as I was hoping to be. It can’t be this bad, it has to have a beautiful part too, I just have to find a way out of this, and change the story into a happy one as it should be.

If you liked reading this little story of my first voyage, even though it’s a little sad, and I’m sorry one more time for this… please leave a comment down below, and if you want more let me know, and I will write one at the end of each little voyage or the end of the month after I get to the destination. For the ones that don’t like reading so much, or maybe they don’t have the time, I will record a pod cast version of the article so they can listen to it. I’m still optimistic and I really hope not all of them will be as sad as this one. I also like happy stories and not so much the sad ones. I like making people smile not burst out in tears.

Unfortunately life it’s not always full of joy and happiness, there are also lots of bad days too. I guess it has to be a balance in everything, if you don’t have the bad ones you never appreciate the good ones. I’m still hoping for the good ones though, as I had so many bad ones I can barely remember how a good day looks like. I’m sure that out there in the world there are people with problems way bigger than mine, and no one helps them.

June 28th 2018

I worked all night last night finishing the new episode. I had to record the voiceover and write the Romanian subtitles. I was too stressed and couldn’t sleep at all. That was good as I finished the video and it’s now exporting the final version. It came out long, about 25 min.
And I cut nearly half of it. I don’t have enough Internet to upload a large file. I don’t even know if I will have enough to upload this one.

My Cuban hermanito ( brother ), Francesco the dock master came to say hi and see if I’m OK. I asked him to make me the bill and see what’s the cost if I’m about to leave tomorrow on the 29th before noon. Looks like my calculations were right… $395. God knows where I will get this money from. He came to ask me if I had a rope on my boat that his wife could use for hanging the laundry to dry. I had the perfect thing for him. Mom gave me a long steel wire covered with plastic that she wanted to use for the same thing. I wanted to use that as an extra lifeline. But it’s too thin for that, so it was the perfect thing he was looking for. So I gifted that to him as he is always so nice to me. I will leave the boat now and go ask if they have Internet cards. I will stop for a cold beer. I wanted a coke but that one is 2 Cuban Pesos and I only have 1. I still can’t believe that beer is cheaper than Coke or water. Maybe that’s why the cruisers always drink beer instead of water ? If I’m lucky and they have Internet cards, maybe I can add this to the Blog finally, and when the video is ready, try to upload it as well.

I really have to find a way to talk to my family though, and let them know I’m OK and still surviving here, and that I didn’t run out of food yet. I try to be positive and smile a little, but I just can’t take all the sadness out of my heart now. When I get back from the store, “the village” as we call it here, I will try to start planning my voyage to Mexico and maybe that will make me feel a little better and cheer me up. I don’t know now how I will pay all my bills and how I will leave this place, but at least I get to know how I get to Mexico. I have lots of friends that I used to work with while on the cruise ships in Mexico. Maybe I will see them and that for sure will bring a smile on my face and in my heart too. Still no Internet cards at the coffee shop. Now I’m more worried for my family for being worried for me.

June 29th 2018

I still don’t know how to contact them. My marina bill is already $410 if I leave tomorrow. I feel like there is really no way out of this. My amazing Canadian neighbor Jackie didn’t say anything anymore about helping me. I guess maybe is also a little too much for them as well. I’m too embarrassed to ask anything at all. I’m doing boat work preparing her for the voyage to Mexico. My water tank is full now, but the plastic containers I had to store my drinking water broke. Now all I can have for this voyage is 3 gallons of drinking water. It should be enough as I learned in the past three years not to waste anything, especially water or money. Francesco came by again to see if I’m OK.

He told me he used to be an English teacher in the University, but the salary in tourism it’s a lot better. That’s how he became a dock master. He is probably making less than 5% of what dock masters make in other countries. Still he thinks he makes a lot of money comparing to other people in here. We do seem to think the same way that money change people. When you have too much you become selfish, and all you think about is your self and your bank account.

When you don’t have much you always think of the ones around you too. I told him I will return here in January on my way to my Atlantic crossing to Europe. Before I leave I will ask him if there is anything he needs so I can bring it for him and his family. After talking to him and realizing how true all those things about being rich are, I remember why I love life so much. Even with little money, I sit sometimes on a bench looking at the people around me walking by, and it feels like I’m sitting in a theater chair watching the best play ever written… life.

I guess that’s why I want to make these documentaries so badly. It’s the people and their cultures that always attracted me and made me want to do this in the first place. I talk
( write ) too much now as I’m too lonely and no one to talk to. I have to do something instead. Plus that, this story it’s supposed to be about my travels and the people I meet or the countries I visit, and not so much about my self or the problems I have.

I will try to finish preparing the boat here before it gets too hot outside. Then I’m going to check again for the Internet cards. For sure my family is really worried for me now. They haven’t heard anything from me, and maybe they think I left already and they will be even more worried. Now I started feeling a little mad on my self for that deal I made with Marc, and for having to change all my plans for him. Thanks to that now I’m in a really deep hole and God knows how I will get out of this. I so wish I was in the Bahamas instead now, you have no idea. Or maybe the place to be right now would be at home, next to my loved ones instead. It’s Friday today, and if I was home now, I would visit my friend and neighbor Ciprian and his wife Veronica enjoying the morning coffee together. That would be the second coffee, after the first one with my mom. But instead I’m here alone just thinking of them… at least I have the coffee.

I came back from “the village”. It looks like now they have Internet cards. I don’t have any cash, except some little money left in my account. I will try to see if my Canadian neighbors can help me buy at least one card. This way I get to talk to my family a little, and figure out my problems in here. If you are reading, that means I managed to get one and added this on the Blog. Still… I don’t believe I will have enough Internet to upload another episode. The file it’s too big and the Internet too slow. But at least you get to read about this voyage, and watch the video later. If I had more money in my account, I could borrow 5 pesos for the bus and go to the city to get some cash from an ATM. But right now I don’t even know how much I have left. In a way it seems good not having a phone or Internet, I became very inspired and creative making new videos and writing all this. I guess it’s not that bad after all. I’m trying to make my self feel good about this bad situation I am in, and tell my self that it’s OK.

June 30th 2018

Last day of the month and I can’t believe how fast the time it’s flying. I’m already here since two weeks ago. Right now I’m trying to think less of how much money I’m behind with on both paying my phone bill as well as the marina. I’m trying to find a solution instead. My Canadian neighbors would like to go visit Havana for two or three days. Since I can’t pay my marina and leave, they asked me if I can keep an eye on their boats. Instead of my boat I will sleep on Jackie’s and Jim’s boat so I can keep company to the cute black cat they have.

I got some Internet cards from Jackie and we went together at the hotel trying to connect. No luck at all, the network is awful. We decided to go to the coffee shop, got more Internet cards in there and tried again. You have no idea how happy I was to be able to let my family know that unfortunately I’m still here and I still don’t have the money to pay and leave, but at least I’m OK and I’m doing well. I somehow got to add this “Captain’s Log” to the bog as well and shared it with my followers on Facebook. I tried sending a newsletter as well, but now with my phone line closed… I can’t log in as they always send me a text message with a code for that. All happy and excited I returned to the boat, watched Master and Commander one more time, then I went to sleep hoping and wishing for a better day tomorrow.

Ciprian Popica
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Filmmaker | Photographer | Writer

2 Responses

  1. Liz
    | Reply

    You are following your dreams , and sometimes it’s hard to continue , but you can’t give up .
    All the good people deserve to be happy .
    I’m sure you’ll be better and who knows , life gives many surprises

    • Ciprian Popica
      Ciprian Popica
      | Reply

      It’s kind of hard to give up when you live something you dreamed of the entire life. The only reason I would give up it’s the fact that It’s too much for my family to support me all the time, as now they are the ones having problems too because of me. I need to find a way to make this work… with ought their support. Then I can carry on not being so worried anymore. The adventure doesn’t end so easy.

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