Free At Last! Let’s Sail to Cuba

9 2hi Phil,

I’ve been in touch with folks at Commerce and Treasury, and yes:

if the people on a boat are going to Cuba under one of the 12 categories approved for a OFAC general license (such as participation in a recognized sporting competition, like the Hemingway tournament), then no BIS license from Commerce is needed and the boat can stay in Cuba for up to 14 days. Also, the Treasury requirement for an OFAC passenger carrier certification license has also been eliminated for such boats.

So, all the boat needs is the CG-3300 permit to enter Cuban territorial waters.

Great progress !


Dr. Jeffery Boutwell serves on the board of The Latin American Working Group in Washington D.C.


Fish Cuba Now! Cayo Santa Maria

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023“This is exactly what the president’s new policy of engaging Cuba is all about,” said Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C. Boutwell was also in Cuba for the tournament and met Thompson there. “Mr. Thompson’s program is providing and empowering the Cuban society in a non-governmental way by providing resources and expertise that can benefit the local Cuban economy.” – See more at:

Cayo Santa Maria is located in the “Garden of the King” preserve on Cuba’s north shore. It’s known for tarpon (see Gaff magazine July 2013) and big bonefish.
This is a fly or spin location.

Saturday, Nov 14th
• Flight arrival in Havana
• Greeted at airport, transfer to hotel (not included).
• Night at 4-Star Hotel (included in package)
• 9:00 am Meet in Hotel lobby for transfer to Villa Las Brujas
• Free afternoon
• Night at Villa Las Brujas
Monday- Saturday,
• 7.30 am wake-up call, breakfast
• Fishing full day with packed lunch
• Return in the afternoon
• Nights at Villa Las Brujas
• Wake-up /breakfast
• Ground Transfer to Habana International Airport

Low season rate $3,ooo. plus tips.
Fly direct and save.

Garden of the Queen,Cuba….and what a garden!



The first order of business when planning your trip to newly opened Cuba is finding out which General License category you will travel under. A General license requires no pre-approval or paperwork.
There are 12 classifications of General Licenses under the new rules ordered by the President and can be found on the O.F.A.C. website. Most involve organized groups with set agendas, but two are of particular interest to Americans who desire to see Cuba on their own terms.
“Support for the Cuban People” is my favorite.

So, visit the O.F.A.C site and pick your mission. And if your mission is a mission, (religious travel is allowed) tell emigration what the lady who just returned from the island with her Bible told me. “Cuba is hungry for Jesus.”
Once you’ve selected a General License category, you’ll need to find a flight that fits your schedule. In Florida, ABC Charters flies out of Tampa and Miami not only direct to Havana, but Santa Clara, Holguin, Santiago and Cienfuegos as well. Flight schedules are on their website.. Other airports including O’Hare and Dallas-Ft.Worth have been licensed for flights to Cuba, so expect them to ramp up service soon. I use Gran Caribe Travel in Tampa who also obtains my Cuban visa and can arrange car rentals on the island.

Casa Particular – Cuban version of a bed and breakfast owned by private entrepreneurs….your money goes directly to the people. 5 star rated for safety and service.
So. You googled “Casa Particular” and found what looked to be a nice room off the Malecon in Havana. You booked two nights and left the rest of your week on the island open. You’d read some crazy travel tip advising a “book as you go” schedule for rooms. Worry not. No matter your travel schedule, Cuba’s Coconut Telegraph (thanks Jimmy) connects Casa Particular owners across the island.
Casa Particular owners, when told of your next destination will call ahead and find you a room.
At this time, travel by boat is going to take some paperwork. The State Department and Department of Commerce are issuing licenses on a seemingly limited basis. Key West to Marina Hemingway is a well use path, but look to the newly expanded 1100 slip marina in Veradaro…a Miami type resort with much better beaches. Either way it’s a day sail or a 3 hour run on your average fishing boat. But don’t let the short distance fool you. It can turn in an instant…. becoming one of the roughest stretches of the sea.

Best Tarpon Fishing in Cuba?


Welcome Christian Oro who has just secured the rights for “The Garden of the King” on Cuba’s north coast.

Even though I haven’t fished there, I wrote about it from the view of Dr. Gerald Millistein who fished the area in 1951…see Gaff Magazine July 2013. Latest reports the Tarpon are thick as fleas.

We’ll be heading there in October 2015 with our Support the Cuban People program.
Join us

Tampa Tribune story on “Support the Cuban People”

Our capitalist crew gathers at Marina Hemingway

Our capitalist crew gathers at Marina Hemingway

Havana fishing event brings anglers, worlds togetherBy Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: July 4, 2015 | Updated: July 4, 2015 at 08:37 AM
Phil Thompson showed up to repeat his 2013 victory when he entered a recent fishing contest in Cuba, so third place left him wanting more.

But the 63-year-old Ruskin native reeled in much more than a third-place trophy during his recent trip to Cuba for the 65th Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament in Havana.

For one thing, he set a tournament record for the most marlin caught and released in a day with five.

But more importantly, Thompson and a group of a half-dozen American anglers shared their knowledge of American fly fishing techniques and equipment with Cubans who either hope to get into the charter fishing industry or are already in it.

The one-week course, called “Support the Cuban People Fishing Program,” brought together two groups from countries isolated by politics for more than five decades. They met June 12 in the Cuban fishing hub of Cayo Cruz, on the northern shore of the province of Camaguey.

“We became like family,” Thompson said.

One of the Americans gave a new Cuban friend the shoes off his feet. They also gave away fishing rods, one to a man who wants to teach his son to fish but can’t afford a rod, and another to a bartender who has a captain’s license and a dream of leading fishing charters.

“Hopefully, by the time we get back, the bartender will be on his way to becoming a guide,” said Thompson, who splits time between Key West and Tampa. “That will elevate his pride and income.”

Thompson is among those who believe restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba will be lifted soon. Currently, tourism trips to Cuba are illegal under U.S. law.

Return of the Americans

billy-the-kid“Billy the Kidd” outdueled a fleet of 25 boats representing seven different countries to take top honors in the 65th Hemingway International Billfish Championships, held in Havana Cuba. In three and a half days, the American boat released a tournament record eleven billfish amassing 5200 points.

Consistency played a key role as the American boat owned by Bill Pullman of Sarasota, Florida released at least one billfish each day of the completion.

For the first time in forty years American boats were granted permission to compete in the Cuban tournament. Over one hundred boats applied under the category of sports competition. In the end only 11 were granted licensed by the State Department.

At the Captains meeting held at Club Natico, located in Marina Hemingway, Commodore Jose Escrich welcomed the American contingent which included Patrick Hemingway, grandson of the Pulitzer Prize winning author. Ernest Hemingway founded the tournament in 1950 while serving as vice president of the newly formed International Game Fish Association and is considered a pioneer of big game fishing.

Outdoor writer and tournament veteran Captain Phil Thompson presented Commodore Escrich with an appreciation award on behalf of the returning American competitors. Addressing the first time visitors to Cuba Thompson said, “Next week you will leave this beautiful island… but this island will never leave you.”

For more than two decades Commodore Escrich – the founder of Club Natico – has battled politics on both sides of the Florida Straits to keep Hemingway’s legacy contest alive. The tournament is the oldest billfish competition in the world.

Stiff East winds countered a strong inshore current producing eight to ten foot swells for the first three days of fishing. “I’ve never seen the Gulfstream in so close.” Said 63 year old Peter Calvo, considered one of the most knowledgeable captains in Havana. The royal blue water of the stream brought with it the marlin and sailfish. A tournament record 52 billfish releases were recorded including Unclaimed’s 5 marlin releases in one day, also a Hemingway tournament record.

Top boat, “Billy the Kidd” took the lead the first day and steadily widen its winning margin, finishing with a total of 11 marlin and sailfish releases.

Second Place finisher Triple F from Key West made a valiant charge on the last half day of fishing releasing two blue marlin and one white.

Third Place went to Unclaimed owned by American Joe Colabela. Unclaimed’s captain and crew was composed of some of Havana’s best offshore fishermen.

Key Player, out of Orange Beach Alabama won the trophy for the largest dolphin weighing a 39 pound fish.

The trophies – works of art – are broadbill swordfish bills hand etched by island artist. It takes a full year for the talented Cubans to carve the intricate designs featuring images of Hemingway and leaping billfish.

An astounding awards ceremony show featured the world renowned band, The Buena Vista Social Club. Their rocking performance of traditional Cuban music brought the crowd to its feet. “They even had the waiters dancing.” Said 20 year old Eric Bowden from New Jersey, enjoying his first visit to the island.

Next year’s Hemingway tournament is scheduled for June 13th 2016 and is expected to draw an even larger group of American anglers.

Fish Cuba Now …. Support the Cuban People!

mms_20150227_075956121Fish Cuba and support the Cuban People.
Share your Fly, Spin and Flats, Reef and Offshore angling expertise with Cuban captains and guides.
Share your knowledge of knots, lines, lures and techniques not known to our island neighbor’s anglers.
In addition you will experience outstanding fishing opportunities in the most pristine waters in our Hemisphere.
Trips special for June-Aug. are available to a limited number of anglers starting at only $2500.00 per week.
By this time next year there will be no off-season in Cuba.
Contact me now for details.

Fish Cuba Now!

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san sal 094
Bonefish, permit and tarpon on one of the most pristine low pressure flats in the world.
Cayo Cruz Cuba has been open for 3 seasons and fished by only handfuls of Anglers.
Trip is June 13th – 20th and provides first class accommodations and six guided days for 2500.00.
For details Very limited offer.