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,
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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