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Provisioning in Cienfuegos!??
Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 1:32 AM
Joined: 11/08/2009
Posts: 7

Will be cruising fro two weeks with the owner and guests in Southern Cuba on a 76' sail cat. Leaving SXM with full stock of meats, staples, some seafood and all staples. What I need to know is the availablity of fresh fruit, veg and seafood is in the Cienfuegos area and Sothern Cuba in general. Any chefs been there? I have heard from so many people that NOTHING will be available, but I find that a bit hard to believe. Thanks for all advice. Cheers!

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 2:19 PM
Joined: 03/05/2011
Posts: 7

Chef Nat, You’ll find a wealth of information in relation to Cuba and sailing the Cuban waters here: In relation to provisioning, the latest sailing report, dated July 2010, seems to confirm in part the feedback you have already received and the reads as following: “It is hard to imagine the level of deprivation in Cuba until you get there. In addition, travelling along the coast, you may want to make several short hops, and stop in empty bays tucked in behind the reefs, where there are no villages or shops. A lot of things are simply not available; while we were here, they included butter and potatoes – for breakfast we were offered mayonnaise to spread on the bread, and for lunch and supper it was always rice and beans. Things like razor blades, shampoo and loo paper, could only be found in hard currency shops. Don’t expect them to be there when you visit. Little old ladies come up to you in a square, and beg for soap. If we came again, we would stock up with inexpensive toiletries, as presents, and on occasion for barter – the going rate for more bananas than we could eat in a week was half an (unused) bar of soap, a biro and an old pot of nail varnish. Fruit and vegetables are available in the markets, but erratically. Nothing imported, and only what’s in season. We regretted having eaten our carrots and lettuce on passage, fearing (wrongly) that they would be impounded on arrival. While we were in Bahia de Vita, there was an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, coriander, bananas, plantains and papayas. But nothing else. In Varadero, closer to Havana, the market had a larger selection, including carrots, luscious pineapples, guava, watermelon, aubergines and yams. Frozen meat is generally available in hard currency shops; so far the choice has been chicken thighs or pork chops. Fresh meat can be found in most of the markets, and has been delicious. Bread can occasionally be bought, depending on where you are, but don’t count on it. In many places, bread, like rice and some other staples, is rationed and issued to the people in exchange for coupons, with the result that they cannot be bought at all. If you plan to make bread, don’t forget to bring your own yeast; you won’t find it in Cuba. Don’t even think of finding such luxuries as biscuits or nuts or dried fruit, cereal or couscous … Boat spares are, again, apparently non-existent. Cuban mechanics have a good reputation, and the cost of work is only 3 CUC an hour, but if you haven’t got the parts you need, your problem is unlikely to get fixed here. The “chandlery” at the marina in Varadero had a stock made up of fishing lures, house paint, garden hose, and a couple of plated jubilee clips.” Hopes this helps, good luck ! P.
Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 5:15 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061

You have the wrong mindset about approaching Cuba, they have nothing, nothing. Food beyond rice and beans is luxury item and unavailable in most places. In the tourist/resort towns on the north shore you can supply to some extent, but you need to bring trading goods rather than cash if you want to be able to get deals with people on the farms and in the country to trade for their food. They don't have a particular use for large quantities of cash since there isn't much they can buy with it. However, they need everything.

I do work with an aerial operator here in Ft Lauderdale who has the permits to fly supplies into Cuba, so that's an option if 'take it all with you' is not an option.

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 11:15 AM
Joined: 02/04/2010
Posts: 19

The only one thing you can count on, and only if someone of you guys is fluent in spanish, is some pork meat or whole pigs bought upcountry at some campesino's house.
Don't count on ANYTHING else.
You can find cheap crayfish (langosta) and seaturtle meat (caré) but it's traded on the low as it is illegal. You can tipically find it by asking around fishermen and random villagers living near the coast but away from the large cities and the legal system that regulates them.
A bar on the beach and a few scattered houses in the whereabouts is a good place to look for this, just ask around.
Beef is also available on the black market but as an outsider I wouldn't even suggest you look for it. Besides, it isn't of the highest standards anyways, or maybe it didn't taste good simply because I ate it cooked by locals who are obviously non familiar with it and with the art of cooking in general.
I wasn't impressed with the quality of fruits either.
Don't count on anything other than Rhum and you won't be disappointed.

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 6:39 PM
Joined: 20/05/2009
Posts: 2

Happy memories of cruising Southern Cuba in 2005. In Cienfuegos, the chef and stew went off for the day to see what food they could get and returned, 6 hrs later with 4 oranges. There is no food available in Cuba!
Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:11 PM
Joined: 16/09/2009
Posts: 1

We were in Cienfuegos last year in May, 62ft sail yacht, and there is a decent fruit and veggie market in town. Make sure you know the CUC from the Cuban Pesos, they will fool you I know by experience. (We changed money at the hotel near the marina as it was our first port of call, also good food). If you think tropical you will get an idea of the available kinds. I also got frozen lobsters from a back door street and my advice is don't do it.. they were all bad and had to be thrown away. I got fresh prawns at the same place though and they were fine but it's a hit/miss to go on the black market unless you have a recommendation from a trustworthy source. Halfway into town there is a supermarket with coffee, tins, sodas, cheese etc but nothing for a super yacht, well maybe cheap rum... All soda's in the supermarket are of the local Cuban brand. I never found any coca cola for example in Cienfuegos. The harbormaster Ramiro cut me fresh mint for the mojitos, and I gave him gifts in return-soap, shampoo etc. Stock up on as much as you can food wise and use the additions as a bonus. Streetfood is nothing compared to what we are used to but the scene is fantastic! We had a fabulous time there and would love to go back. Good luck and have fun!