Since 1960, therefore the beginning of the U.S. led trade embargo, Cuba happens to be mainly off restrictions to Us americans. Since has all changed (posted September 2016)
My spouse Brenda and I have desired to see Cuba for quite some time, and as relations between our two nations have begun to thaw, we chose to “jump the gun” and get before things really changed. With that in mind, we sailed here in early 2016 aboard our Aerodyne 47, Pandora, through the Bahamas for an extensive two month see checking out the south and northwest coasts.
FORMALITIES AND PAPERWORK
Receiving needed U.S. government approvals to check out Cuba, for an extended go to, proved to be a serious training in patience and involved nearly six months of research and much communication with three agencies. Finding insurance to cover Pandora although we had been in Cuba was a challenge, and that didn’t fall into destination until only days before making Georgetown, Bahamas to mind the Windward Passage. While Pantaenius has established that they will soon be offering coverage for vessels visiting Cuba, we had been just capable of finding coverage for the trip from a Lloyds affiliate, an expensive option.
The U.S. government at this time permits Americans to go to Cuba for 12 certain reasons as defined by OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control). Once we have both held blogs for a long time, compose articles and speak to teams, we opted to travel under a Journalism General License. In those days, while the real procedures are evolving each day, the initial step included some calls utilizing the workplace of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), hawaii Department workplace that settings go places such as for instance Cuba and North Korea, and also other “enemy states.” This office doesn’t provide written permits but after reviewing our case, verbally agreed which our reason for visiting did actually fall in the journalism category. Being a next step, we requested an export and re-importation license, a SNAP-R through the Bureau of Industry and safety division of this U.S. Department of Commerce, to allow united states to go to Cuba aboard a private vessel and return to U.S. waters.
After three months, we’d secured our approval to journey to Cuba from Bahamas and come back to Ft. Lauderdale from Havana. The last action would be to submit form CG3300 on U.S. Coast Guard and thus we had been needed to provide them with the lat/lon coordinates of where we expected entering Cuban waters, within a four day screen and when and where we’d exit Cuban waters and return to the U.S.
A year later it is very feasible that these procedures are a great deal various so that you should talk to the appropriate federal government agencies (see call-out package for selection of resources). Our trip, designed to make use of strong easterly tradewinds, would be to cross from Florida on Exumas chain in Bahamas, sail south through southern Bahamas and Great Inagua, transit the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba and travel west the 100 kilometers on southern Cuban coastline to Santiago de Cuba, the first slot of entry.
As we approached the entrance to Santiago de Cuba, we had been greeted by an imposing fort guarding the harbor entry, Castillo del Morro, built-in the 1600s. Exactly what a sight. We continued at night fort and in to the harbor, whilst hailing the authorities as we’d been instructed to do, but received no response.
The entire process of clearing in with Pandora and having our visas became, while fairly simple, quite a fascinating experience. As we came within sight of Marina Santiago, we had been finally hailed regarding radio by the Guarda Frontera and instructed to anchor on the other side of harbor into the “quarantine” area, about a mile through the marina. A while later a launch pulled up and dropped off the health inspector, a new Cuban woman with striking cherry red colored hair. We offered her a cold Coke which she accepted with many thanks and quietly slipped it into her bag. She took our heat by having a laser thermometer pointed at our foreheads, smiled and declared Brenda to be “hot”. Yes, she can be that, we consented.
She knew very little English and patiently waited although we thumbed through the phrasebook to locate answers to her questions. Your whole process lasted about one hour and was extremely pleasant. When we were done she began discussing “toasting” our arrival. After a significant back and forth and puzzled looks from us, we finally discovered that she desired a beer. Obviously! Brenda and I split one therefore the officer quaffed hers down quickly. We exchanged information regarding family members, revealed photos on our phones of our children all around, and posed for a “selfie.” What a hoot. “Welcome to Cuba!” She asked for a tip that we provided, within the level of five bucks, and which she accepted having thank you. Formalities finished, we raised the anchor and headed together straight back over the harbor and anchored nearby the marina as there is no room on dock for all of us. We dropped the dink and took the lady ashore to meet up with with Immigration. That procedure took another hour and ended up being followed by that official developing to Pandora where he searched through nearly all our compartments, ostensibly for medications, pornography and stowaways.
The whole means of clearing in took a long time and had been really interesting. We’d been told that any chicken, frozen or fresh would be confiscated but we didn’t experience this on our visit and we were astonished that a screen package of natural herbs and flowers stayed aboard Pandora unchallenged and.
Cuba is just a big island, over 600 miles very long, and our trip took us across the whole south coastline plus good portion of the north shore. Interestingly, if you were to lay Cuba over the eastern Caribbean island string heading south from the BVI, Cuba would extend from there almost to south usa. It’s a large island, with an increase of land mass than the other islands into the Caribbean combined. And, once we traveled the southern coast, at various points we discovered ourselves within an over night sail to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and finally the Yucatan peninsula, Cancun and far of Mexico. As soon as you reach Cabo San Antonio, the westernmost point of Cuba, it is a simple reach to and from many points into the western Caribbean. The opening of Cuba will likely change cruiser’s perspective of just what it’s to check out “the Caribbean” and the capability to make use of Cuba being a jumping down point to Central and South America is likely to make the western Caribbean way more accessible to cruisers than is the scenario for the huge amount of years.
Those visiting Cuba needs to be willing to be self sufficient as there are limited solutions, also less marinas and free parts are impractical to find, specially across the less traveled south coastline. Combined with requirements of this Guarda Frontera, a sort of army shore guard that requires you to definitely sign in and from most of the places where you are more likely to stop along the way, the trip are challenging from time to time for People in the us that regularly going “where we wish, as soon as we want.” Whenever you can produce a point out “go using the flow” you can expect to, as we did, find the procedure quite direct plus an interesting experience.
Finding internet access, provided via an undersea cable from Venezuela, are remarkably irritating since it’s mostly available in federal government run tourist resort hotels and nearby general public squares with speed that differs. For online, you’ll need an access card, offered at accommodations and also at Etecsa workplaces, the online world provider. These cards are advantageous to one hour of moderate to slow internet. Whenever visiting Marea del Portillo, a little fishing town, we rode in a horse-drawn carriage to check on our email and do a post at a nearby government operate hotel. Speak about tradition surprise.
After leaving Marea del Portillo we made the short run to Cabo Cruz, a rather remote area only recently opened up to cruisers. Very nearly instantly, the Guarda Frontera, commandeered a small vessel and needed the fisherman to row out to see us—a distance of nearly a mile—with a drug sniffing cocker spaniel in tow, and asked their typical concerns and examined our papers. We discovered the procedures in each port to be a bit different with all the concerns asked sometimes puzzling, such as how much gas does your dinghy hold. In this case they took our cruising license together generally there was no leaving until that they had checked united states out of the early morning of our departure, the only time this happened. You can’t look into another slot with no permit, under any circumstances.
Even as we sailed the south shore we had been approached in nearly every harbor by fishermen who wished to offer us lobster. In one single instance, after we agreed on just how many and exactly what the price would be, the fisherman rowed a short distance from Pandora, donned fins and snorkel, jumped overboard and within moments swam over with two big lobsters and plunked them on our swim platform. Since’s fresh lobster. In more rural regions of Cuba lobsters are extremely abundant. Often we had been approached multiple times each day so we were never short for an exceptional seafood supper. In one single situation we even traded yet one more lobster in exchange for a will of diet Coke. Only in Cuba.
when you must register aided by the Guarda Fontera in the many populated areas, there are many uninhabited cayos where you could come and get while you be sure to. Although the snorkeling is wonderful all over the place you can find hardly any beaches regarding southern coastline, east of Cienfuegos. As a result, most cruisers have a tendency to spend their time regarding the western 50 % of the southern shore where there are lots of gorgeous unspoiled beaches. Even yet in in these more populated areas, the anchorages will never be crowded and more usually than maybe not, you’re alone. In fact, we never saw a single U.S. flagged motorboat until a month into our trip when we visited Cienfuegos, the most popular stopping point for visiting ships, definitely, on south coastline.
In Santiago de Cuba, an important slot of entry, there have been only a handful of boats, mostly from Europe whenever we visited. You can find hardly any marinas in Cuba and also those in the larger ports have become basic by U.S. criteria, generally speaking tangible bulkheads. Good drinking tap water is tough ahead by numerous cruisers have actually RO devices agreeable or if they must take in water from shore, just utilize this for washing and make use of water in bottles for cooking and consuming.
Electricity at marinas can be quite a challenge. As they can be hot in marinas numerous cruisers opted to anchor out and give a wide berth to these issues totally. As soon as we were in the dock Santiago de Cuba, where holding can be quite a challenge, the voltage dropped to significantly less than 100 volts with merely a modest draw. As well as in Marina Hemingway, near Havana, we encountered voltage of almost 140 volts during the week when the tourist accommodations were less occupied. Management told us that when the hotel visitors departed and there clearly was less draw in the grid the voltage was high in certain parts of the marina.
Our amount of time in Cuba coincided having a go to by President Obama, and lots of Cubans indicated hope that effective would originate from their go to. Additionally, it was hoped that with change the good of Cuba wouldn’t be lost in the name of progress. Every-where we went we had been greeted warmly and now we constantly felt totally safe, both aboard and ashore. The principles in Cuba prohibit nationals visiting international vessels, even in marinas, also it had been clear to united states that these prohibitions are taken very seriously.
One of the high points of our see was going to the free concert in Havana by the Rolling Stones which attracted a crowd expected at one million. It was a remarkable experience, specifically for those of us “of a specific age” whom grew up making use of their music. Attendance was very international with many nations represented proudly waving their colors above the audience so other people may find them. The concert ended up being terrific and made more unforgettable when you’re in Havana at such an historic time. Unlike other Stones occasions, there clearly wasn’t even a whiff of any illicit substances since the Cuban government has a no threshold policy on medications and crime. Cigarettes are inexpensive in Cuba and simply about everyone else there clearly was smoking cigarettes. The laugh we heard had been that “for every smoke smoked some body loses a minute of their life and that minute would go to Keith Richards.” And, to see him and Mick Jagger strutting their stuff up on phase, just like a number of 20 somethings, that’s many cigarettes.
To attend the concert in Havana, from Cienfuegos, in which we were visiting during the time, we took a “bus”, a converted 1952 Ford armored vehicle the trip to Havana and back. All over the place we switched in Cuba we spied 1950s automobiles converted into “busses” with many resembling troop providers with canvas tops always jammed complete with locals and belching exhaust because they rumbled over the roads from town to town.
While the colonial architecture and antique cars are wonderful places during Cuba, for all of us the true enchantment of visiting Cuba is the people. We enjoyed spending some time with them, specially in the most rural areas. We witnessed wonderful creativity, not merely in music and arts with this tradition, however in how everybody else been able to balance residing a rich and satisfying life in an attractive setting, with so small product wealth.
Yes, nowadays it’s getting easier and simpler to catch a flight to Cuba from the U.S., with several air companies recently announcing daily scheduled trips. However, there clearly was just no better solution to go to Cuba than to cruise the coastline, now is the time for you to do so as it won’t be long before the country changes forever. The pristine reefs, the dramatic scenery and, most of all, the individuals are remarkable. Don’t miss out.
For more information about their voyage to Cuba browse Bob’s web log www.sailpandora.com and Brenda’s www.argoknot.com, March and April articles from 2016.
OFAC regulations for visiting Cuba:
USCG CG3300 form:
www.freecruisingguides.com, Cruising Guide to Cuba, Cheryl Barr. Cuba: A Cruising Guide, Nigel Calder.