With the announcement last winter that the U.S. and Cuba were going to start normalizing the relationship between the two countries, all of us who have been gazing fondly across the Florida Strait for generations at the forbidden cruising ground were filled with some hope. One day soon, we might actually be able to sail there on our own boats, fly the U.S. ensign and explore this Caribbean isle more or less at will.
This month we are happy to introduce you to Cuba from the point of view of a cruiser who has sailed in and out of the country and knows how things work—both in Cuba and with our own government regulations. Christine Myers is a veteran voyager who has jumped through the U.S. regulatory hoops and found a way to really explore Cuba’s southern coast. The first of her three-part story, “Cuba: Pearl of the Antilles” begins on page 36.
As of the spring of 2015, Americans are not formally allowed to go to Cuba as tourists. To go there, you need to have a reason other than simply sailing or touring or business. Permits are available from the U.S. Department of State and regulations have been eased. As travel becomes easier and the regulations are further relaxed, more and more boats are bound to sail the 90 miles to Havana.
Recently, the St. Pensacola Yacht Club announced that it was resurrecting the rally or race to Cuba’s Hemingway Marine this coming October. See the Dispatch on page 11. If this year’s event is a success, we expect to see this classic race—originally founded in 1931 as the St. Petersburg to Havana Race—become a regular regatta.
It used to be routine for U.S. Coast Guard cutters to patrol the waters between the U.S. and Cuba and to intercept American boats trying to sail there. This is no longer the case and you will be engaged by U.S. Coast Guard vessels only if you stray into the Guantanamo Bay exclusion zone.
Having sailed around Cuba and flown over it a few times, the tall and verdant island looks like a perfect cruising ground. Both the north and south coasts are studded with islands that will make fun anchorages. The reefs are as pristine as any in the Caribbean so snorkeling and diving will be excellent.
Charter bases are expanding this year and new ones are being planned. New marinas are being built for visiting cruising boats, including a huge facility near Havana. The doors are finally swinging open to this long forbidden Caribbean destination and we are eager to sail there as soon as we can.