Saturday 21 March 2015

Bulk Carrier NOGAT (Revisited)

The first time I snapped the 489' bulk carrier NOGAT, she was parked on the other side of Havana harbour with her forward hatch open and deck cranes at the ready to unload her cargo. Since as I mentioned in my earlier post that the NOGAT's next port of call was New Orleans (, you can be certain she wasn't taking on a load of cargo for delivery up the Mississippi due to the trade embargo that has been in place since 1962.  It was our first visit to Cuba in January 2013 and though I hoped some day the Cuban and U.S. relationship would warm up like the Straits of Florida breeze, it was the constant fear of invasion from their neighbour to the north that most Cubans felt was more likely to happen. Though the US invasion at the Bay of Pigs failed in April 1961, every year since there are nationwide drills in Cuba on Defence Day in December to prepare the population for an invasion. 
Artillery batteries were positioned along the coastline and machine-gun pillboxes were also constructed like a grouping that I discovered located in front of our resort in Varadero during our third Cuban visit last January.  For decades Cubans have had to do without items that we take for granted like basic hygiene products and clothing, because of poor decisions that were made decades ago.
However perhaps their years of anguish and suffering may soon be coming to an end when U.S. President Barack Obama announced the beginning of a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States. After months of secret negotiations in Canada and The Vatican, an agreement was made that would see the lifting of some U.S. travel and remittance restrictions, U.S. banks access to the Cuban financial system, and the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Havana, which closed in 1961 after Cuba became far too close of an ally with the USSR. Not everyone is happy with the U.S. President's initiative, but the Cuban people that we talked to a few months ago are gleaming with joy. American money is accepted and Stars and Stripes T-shirts are being worn on the streets of Havana by Cubans, something you'd never see during our previous two visits. Perhaps change is in the air. About time!! c):-))
Meanwhile back at the boat blog, I caught another glimpse of the bulker NOGAT last September as she was slowly motoring out of Iroquois Lock heading downbound to the next set of Seaway locks, and then eventually to her final destination, Ravenna, Italy. Built in 1999 and flying the flag of Cyprus, the NOGAT looked impressively well maintained just like the other Poland based Polsteam sisters that I previously posted, the IRMA and SOLINA
She is also named after Poland's 62 km long Nogat River which is actually an anabranch of the Vistula River. Unlike a tributary, an anabranch or delta branch is a section of a river that is diverted from the main channel and region downstream. Instead of emptying into the Baltic Sea at Gdansk like the Vistula River, the Nogat flows into the Vistula Lagoon which is located further east near the Russian border. During her short journey to the sea, the Nogat passes Malbork Castle which unlike the tiny pillboxes dug out of the hill in front of the Aguas Azules resort on Varadero, Cuba, the Malbork is the largest castle in the world by surface area and the largest brick building in Europe. Really!! c):-o  And also unlike those Cuban pillboxes, the classic medieval fortress was besieged by many invading forces including Hilter's Nazis since its construction was completed 1406.

On a brighter note, since President Obama's announcement on December 17, 2014, American and Cuba diplomats have met three times in Havana. As a result of productive discussions, limited imports of Cuban cigars and rum is already allowed along with the export of American computer and telecommunications technology to Cuba. It's being called the "Cuban Thaw" or maybe it's just "giving peace a chance". Whatever it is, I like it and please, don't let it stop!! c):-D

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