Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's HOT!

Based on my experience so far, and from what I can gather from long-term residents, there are basically two seasons here: Hot and Warm.  About two weeks ago, I'd say we reverted back to the HOT season.  I honestly don't check the weather report very often because it would only be redundant.  It is mostly always sunny, doesn't rain very often, and is at least 80 degrees year round.  During the Hot season, that number jumps up to the 90's.  I am pleased to say though that during the months of January, February and March, the weather was absolutely glorious!  While it was still warm during the day, the intensity of the sun felt considerably less and I found that being outside was very pleasant and didn't result in instant sweating!

The mornings, evenings and night even felt cold at times.  I do realize that cold is a relative term and when I say cold, it was probably in the 60's.  Add a breeze to 60 degrees, and that can feel downright cold to those of us who are used to the intense heat!  Going fishing or to the movies at night time even required a light jacket or sweater.

So here we are, smack dab back in the middle of what I think is the start of a 9-month Hot season. Guess that is perfect weather for all the activities gtmo has to offer!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Sea fan, several sizes of sea urchins, a tiny starfish, and coral.

The Babies.  Check out the pic above to get an idea of the scale.  The starfish is the biggest in this pic, but is actually smaller than a quarter.  While many times, searching for the biggest shell is common, sometimes it's fun to find the teeniest shells too.  Those white sea urchins are smaller than a pea!

Three different shapes of sea sponges and two types of corals

Sea glass.  My favorite color is the sea foam green.  These colors: brown, dark green, sea foam green, and white are the most common colors.  Rare colors include cobalt blue, red, purple, yellow, and black.  

Various shells.  It is quite easy to come home with a gallon-sized bag of them after only one beach trip.

Another sea fan and a piece of driftwood.  The sea fans and sea sponges were quite plentiful after Hurricane Sandy.  Otherwise, they are quite easy to find while diving, but don't wash up on shore as readily as shells.

Boating License - Check!

Well, it's only taken me 8 months, but I finally did get my boating license!  This will open a whole 'nother world to us.  The bay is beautiful here and there are opportunities for kayaking, sailing, water-skiing, fishing, diving, etc.  Plus, there are a couple of beaches, which I hear are full of shells, that can only be accessed via boat.

The process of obtaining a license can be boiled down to four steps.

1. The Written Test - pick up a study packet at the Marina, study, then take the test when you feel ready.  While the test wasn't difficult, it DID require studying!  The test covers the basic rules of boating, the major landmarks within the bay, flags and their meanings, and rules specific to renting an MWR boat.

2. Driving Lessons - after passing the written test, an appointment for driving lessons can be made.  For me, I had to wait about 5 days.  The lessons consist mainly of teaching docking and maneuvering in small spaces.  I grew up on boats, so I was fairly familiar with the basics of operating a boat, but it sure has been a long time and I was quite nervous!  With some coaching, I quickly picked it up again and was able to make it through the whole lesson without crashing!  I think my instructor was just as thankful as I was!

3. Driving Test - it seems that sometimes the lesson and test can happen at the same time, but often it requires another appointment for this.  The test isn't hard, as long as you are a quick learner during the lessons and are able to duplicate the skills that were learned!

4. Orientation - this was by far the best part of the entire experience!  Once the driving test is passed, an orientation of the bay can be scheduled.  One of the employees takes a group for a boat ride around all of Guantanamo Bay.  My trip lasted around and hour.  It was the first time that I had traveled to various parts of the bay.  Even though I went on a sailing trip and have ridden the ferry numerous times, I had no idea there was so much of the bay that I hadn't seen!  The map that I had studied for so long on paper came to life during the trip.  Since we share part of the bay with Cuba, it is essential to know where our boundaries are.  Unexploded Ordnance is another danger posed in part of the bay.

Oh, one more thing to note: I had mentioned in another post that the entire process was free.  Well, I was wrong about that...when I went in to get my actual license, I had to pay a whopping $5, but I think I can handle that!  ;-)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Boating Licenses

I mentioned in a post last week that we were going to try and get our boating licenses.  Vic and I both took the written test a few days ago and passed.  At this point, we could rent non-motorized boats like a kayak or paddleboat.  We would like to rent a pontoon boat, so our next step is to take some driving lessons and we are scheduled to do that this afternoon!  After the lessons, we will have to take a driving test and then we will be authorized to rent the motorized boats.  As I mentioned previously, there are also sailboats to rent so we plan on taking some sailing lessons as well in order to be familiar enough to be authorized to rent the sailboats.

This entire process from tests to the lessons is all free.  Seriously, where else could this happen!?!?  Love it!

House of Yum

Last week, a new restaurant opened here!  This is a huge deal and I'm sure it doesn't happen very often.  House of Yum is an Asian-style fast food restaurant.  Think food court at the mall. The sad part for us is that it replaced the combined KFC and A&W, which was one of our favorite places.  Oh well.  We are excited for the new choice anyways!


Since being here, I count that we have enjoyed at least six different concerts.  Some have been for special events like Oktoberfest or St. Patty's Day.  Last night, Vic and I went to another one.  It was a cover band and they played country, classic rock, and alternative.  We always enjoy listening to live music.

I'd say on average, there is one concert per month.  Usually the concerts are offered at the Tiki Bar which is a 21 and up venue.  Lately though, opportunities for all ages have been available too.  For example, this weekend, the band was playing Friday and Saturday nights at the Tiki Bar and also an all-ages concert on Saturday afternoon at the Windjammer Ballroom.


Vic went golfing for the first time since being here.  We have a 9-hole golf course to enjoy, and it's cheap!  $8 for green fees with free club and cart rental!  One interesting thing though is that the golf course doesn't get watered here.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but gtmo is actually a semi-arrid region and we don't get very much rain.  Because of this, and due to the fact that there isn't a fresh water source on base, we make all of our own water here at a water desalinization plant.  So fresh water is a scare resource and therefore, watering grass isn't a top priority!  To avoid golfing in dry grass, each golfer is given a small square of turf to play on.  Each time a ball is hit, the golfer simply has to pick up the ball, lay down the turn, replace the ball, and swing away!

btw, there is also a miniature golf course here.  It is entirely free and my kids have played several times since it is within walking distance of our house.

Friday, April 5, 2013


It's Spring Break around here and Vic is also off for the next 9 days.! So, our first Staycation in gtmo begins.  We intend to take full advantage of everything that our little island has to offer.  I see a visit to each of our favorite restaurants in the near future, actually we will probably visit every restaurant!  Not hard to do when there are only 4 to choose from, not including fast food or to-go only places.

A top priority for this week will be for Vic and I to finally get our boating licenses.  These are necessary to rent boats at the marina and we then hope to rent a boat and visit one of the beaches that is only accessible by boat.  Other plans include plenty of beach days, bowling, some yard work, hiking, and a movie or two at the lyceum.

I think we shall enjoy the peacefulness and simplicity of a stay-cation in gtmo!