Retired From Chartering
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Our Sail to Cuba
Sail to Cuba and Check-In
Gaviota to Darsena
Santa Marta and Varadero
Farmers Market Day
Trip to Habana
Bus Trip Day One
Bus Trip Day Two
Back to Florida?
Trip Home and U.S. Arrival
How was the trip?

Planning Our Trip

Over a year ago, we heard the U.S. Government was relaxing the laws preventing American vessels from visiting Cuba so we started thinking about sailing there.  Our first step was to learn a little about seeing the country by boat so we purchased Nigel Calder’s, “Cuba, A Cruising Guide” off Amazon and started reading.  This guide was published in 2010 so would not have all the recent U.S. Government policy changes but Cuba should not have changed much in the past 6 years.

The book was very interesting and we learned a lot.  Last summer, we found a more recent guide written by Cheryl Barr called “Yacht Pilot’s Cruising Guide to Cuba”.  This guide was published in 2013 so is a little more recent.

As a side note, we met a Canadian cruiser in Cuba who has sailed and traveled there extensively.  He was immensely helpful to us.  Addison Chan is a Cuba sailing expert.  He has recently partnered with Waterway Guides for a new Cuba cruising guide that will come out in February 2017.  We are looking forward to reading it.

The U.S. Government policies toward Cuba have changed a lot in the past 2 years.  The current policy made it fairly easy to sail to Cuba for up to 2 weeks but you had to sail from, and back to the U.S..  This prevented us from planning a longer trip from maybe The Bahamas with easier, down-wind sailing on the north or south coasts.  Our trip would have to be a “taste test” of Cuba to try and learn enough to go back for a whole meal if we liked it.

We planned to take the easiest route and sail from the Florida Keys to Varadero then day-sail west to the nicer cruising grounds on the western Cuba shore.  This would take us to Varadero then Havana (via Hemmingway Marina), a couple day-sails west with anchoring each night then some time along the western coast with its many islands and isolated beaches.

Next, we needed charts.  The best paper charts available seemed to be NV Charts.  They sell kits for the Cuban coast and had a chart kit for Varadero to Cabo San Antonio – exactly the area we planned to see.  The paper charts also came with an electronic version so we would be able to plan on the computer too.  I also found and purchased the Blue Chart chip for the Southwest Caribbean.  This fit my Garmin chart-plotter and covered all of Cuba.

For review, the electronic NV Charts were the best.  Here is an example of the NV Charts showing the entrance to Marina Gaviota.

The Blue Charts were not very detailed at all and would not have been safe to use for coastal cruising.  There are also charts available in Cuba that we saw but didn’t have a chance to review.  They are very expensive at $160 for each kit.

Even though the NV Charts said, “Varadero”, they did not contain the detailed charts of Gaviota and Darsena which are both in Varadero and would have been very useful.  Instead, the detailed charts for those areas were in another chart kit.  Not a nice thing to do to us.

The last part of our planning was to figure out the dates for our trip and request permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to travel in that area.  On the request, we also had to say why we were travelling to Cuba.  Tourist or Vacation are not one of the available categories.  Instead, we would travel to Cuba for “People to People Cultural Exchange” which meant we would talk to Cubans and document our discussions.  We filled out the Coast Guard form 3300 and received it back about 3 weeks later marked, “Approved.”  Yea!

One of the best part of our plans was travelling with another boat for safety and support.  Our friends D and Don on Southern Cross were going with us and we planned everything together.  It was great having another boat along and I highly recommend it.

Shown above is a picture we took of Southern Cross as she was sailing down the Florida Keys with us.

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