Cuba Series 1 - September 2015 My wife and I work as yacht delivery captains, and one of our commissions was to deliver a multi million dollar custom build from Boston Harbor to Marina del Rey in CA via Panama. We had wanted to visit Cuba for years. The owner offered a stop in Cuba, and it became a planned stop. We easily slid comfortably into some of the categories that provide a “license to travel” to Cuba.
My interest in visiting Cuba was flamed when I was a child on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has lead me to keep up with travel to Cuba over the years by reading everything I could find and interviewing everyone I knew who has visited or lived there. This including speaking with other yacht crews who had recently visited. After visiting for myself, I realized that about half of what I perceived and half of what I was told was inaccurate or completely false. Of course, some things change on a daily basis in the little latitudes. Cuba was nothing like I expected. It was so much more.
Entering Cuba at Marina Hemingway:
Contrary to recent information the channel is very well marked and sufficiently wide. I recently read an article in which the author said that during the two days she was there two sailboats failed to enter the channel and hit the reef in calm weather. If anyone hits that reef in calm weather, they need to move to a mountaintop and stay there. I imagine the entrance could be near impossible to enter with a northerly gale. The channel is through a reef, so there would be surf and breakers in a heavy blow however it should be passable at 20-25 KTs and below. Again, it is well marked with the marks actually closer together than usual and well lighted.
Once you have entered the channel at Marina Hemmingway, you should turn back to the east. The customs building is bold and blue off your port side. Looking south from the customs dock, there is a shallow area on the south edge of the harbor. The water is crystal clear with the bottom clearly visible. I can’t imagine an excuse for grounding there without trying to do so.
It is recommended that you enter in daylight if you aren’t well equipped with instrumentation to assist your navigation. I also suggest motoring through the channel. The channel is not sufficiently wide for full keel cruising vessels to conduct tacking maneuvers. I can easily understand someone landing on the reef if they tried sailing through the channel without favorable winds. If your engine isn’t functioning, you should anchor outside the channel away from the reef and call for assistance. You will need at least three hundred feet of rode. It is very deep just a short distance outside the channel.
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