WIll This Be the Year?


Feb 12, 2015


Cruising Cuba: Will this be the year?

Cruising Compass has received some great cruising stories and images from Cuba and will be sharing them over the coming weeks. Here’s the first installment…
Every winter, European and Canadian boats head to Cuba. They sail a few miles off Guantanamo’s cliffs or ghost past the 17th Century fort that guards the entrance to Santiago de Cuba. Hundreds of cruisers who follow daymarks into the pocket bay of Cienfuegos are greeted by the human-sized graffiti, Bienvenidos Socialista. Dozens more check in at Los Morros — a mere 100 miles from Cancún — then head to Cayo Largo’s pristine reefs or Marina Hemingway near old Havana.

Smack in the middle of the Caribbean, Cuba is so large that cruisers have to go out of their way not to check in at one of the half-dozen ports of entry along thousands of miles of coastline. And every winter, American boats in Rio Dulce and the Exumas and Hispaniola and Roatán ask, Will this be the year?

Although American citizens still cannot buy insurance or fly directly from the U.S, some go anyway. Cuban authorities estimate that around 1,500 American boats visit annually. Skippers who wait are dreaming and planning. They have their work cut out for them. Nigel Calder’s excellent Cruising Guide to Cuba hasn’t been updated for nearly twenty years. Outside of Cuba, there’s no reliable source for Edimar’s up-to-date charts.


Meanwhile, Cuba is preparing, too. Cienfuegos’s charter operations have tripled and a massive marina expansion has been announced; a new cruise ship terminal is planned for Santiago de Cuba. Varadero’s freshly expanded Chapelin Marina will provide more than a thousand slips just a day’s sail from Florida.

When Americans do come, Cuba will be ready for them.

Will this be the year?

--Sissy Puedes