Ole Chris

“It’s the most beautiful land human eyes ever saw”

These words were logged by Christopher Columbus in 1492. He was off Gibara on Cuba’s north coast in present day Holquin. The name may be familiar as the city became a focal point of this week’s news when Pope Francis held mass and blessed the Hill of the Cross.400dpiLogo

 

Columbus was so impressed with Cuban waters he named two reef and island areas for his king Ferdinand and his backer queen Isabella.

We’ll visit those in a moment

For more than a half century Cuba, lying just 97 miles south of the US has been forbidden fruit to Americans. On Dec.17th 2014 all that changed. Today, Cuba is open to the world, including America.

Under the new regulations the largest of the Antilles is once more reachable by both air and water.

As one attorney who’s been doing business for a decade told me “The administration just told Americans…if you want to go to Cuba. go.

There are currently 12 categories under which Americans can legally travel to Cuba,

My favorite is support the Cuban people. It’s all encompassing.

And, if your mission is a mission.

You can follow the lead of a woman who after just returning from a religious sojourn to the island declared. “Cuba is hungry for Jesus.

But, after decades of denial most Americans have difficulty getting their head around this new and exciting travel opportunity…especially boaters.

Propaganda broadcast from both sides of the Florida Straits has distorted the reality that is Cuba.

Tonight, with your permission I rely on more than thirty trips to Cuba mostly by boat to dispel many of these falsehoods. I take pleasure introducing you to this island. It’s an island whose people welcomes we Yumas from the north, as close friends and neighbors, returning from a long absence.

A lady running a new Cuban casa particular summed it up nicely, “We’ve had a family spat,” she said. “now we’re making up.” Being an American means you’re special to most Cubans.

Buffett said it best, “Everyone has a cousin in Miami.

 

How many here have been to Cuba

 

I’m going to make a bold statement now. Cuba is the safest destination for Americans on this planet.

Let me repeat that. Cuba is the safest destination for Americans on this planet.

 

Let me show you why.

 

 

SEE HAVANA THEN FISH AND DIVE

cuba-fishingYour adventure includes two and one half days in Havana and three days fishing on flats, rivers, offshore or a combination of each. You can also throw in a dive or snorkel along the way.

HAVANA – 1st class private house accommodations. English speaking driver, guide available for tours of the city. Visit Moro Castle, Hemingway’s house. Arrive on Friday and begin your adventure with Club Natico’s famous pig roast.

ZAPATA SWAMP

  • Rio Hatiquanico – snook, tarpon and big jacks. (fly or spin)
  • La Salina – bonefish capital of Cuba, permit, muttons and snook (fly only)

HAVANA AND COJIMAR

  • Offshore- marlin, tuna, wahoo, mahi. (all tackle furnished)

Housing, transportation and fishing included. All you add is food and tips.

Four or six anglers – $2400.00 per person.

Diving packages starting at $1400.00 person

philkeywest@yahoo.com

Cuba – 011-535-283-4202

“Support the Cuban People” program allows legal travel to the recently opened island’s aquatic wonders. By providing educational support for captains and staff, we are helping usher in a new era of angling in Cuba.

“This is exactly what the president’s new policy of engaging Cuba is all about,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, board member of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C. “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.”

Havana – Zapata Combo

You asked to be kept up-to-date….Well, I’ve managed to put together a great combination See Havana & Fish Program.

HAVANA

1st class private house accommodations. English speaking driver, guide available for tours of the city. Visit Moro Castle, Hemingway’s house. Come on Friday to Club Natico’s famous pig roast.

ZAPATA SWAMP

Rio Hatiquanico – snook, tarpon and big jacks. (fly or spin)
La Salina – bonefish, permit, muttons and snook (fly only)

HAVANA AND COJIMAR
Offshore- marlin, tuna, wahoo, mahi. (all tackle furnished)
Housing, transportation (except to and from airport) and fishing included. All you add is food and tips.
The trip includes two and one half days in Havana and three days fishing on flats, rivers, offshore or a combination of each. You can also throw in a dive or snorkel or two along the way.
Four or six anglers – $2400.00 per person.

Cuba 011 535 283 4202
philkeywest@yahoo.com

“Support the Cuban People” program allows legal travel to the recently opened island’s aquatic wonders. By providing educational support for our captains and staff, we are helping usher in a new era of angling in Cuba.
“This is exactly what the president’s new policy of engaging Cuba is all about,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C. “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.”

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Come to the Gardens

Who is that masked man?

Who is that masked man?

IMG_1174 (1)IMG_3869diveCome to the Gardens
A waning crescent moon hangs in a deep black sky sprinkled with stars. It’s quiet, very quiet, except for the rumble of distant thunder and the soft sounds of juvenile tarpon rising to breathe, rippling the mirrored surface of the mangrove lagoon. As if signaled by the faint light in the east, a school of jack crevalle erupts in a feeding frenzy. Then as quickly as it began, their fury ceases.
It’s a world away from the mad musical chaos of last night’s carnival in Havana, Cuba.
Yesterday’s six hour bus ride from Cuba’s capital followed by a three hour boat shuttle delivered our diverse group of anglers to tiny cay, 60 miles off Cuba’s southern shore. The Tortuga, our plush floating home lies anchored in a garden, an aquatic garden….”Jadines de la Reina”….”The Gardens of the Queen.”
Described by journalist, marine biologist and anglers from the world over as the most natural marine eco-system in the Caribbean, this diving and angling paradise awakes softly with the rising sun, much like a child emerging from peaceful slumber.
Soon, a dozen fly fishermen will stir with the new light. Rising to the aroma of island grown expresso coffee, they all seek the same goal – leaping tarpon, elusive permit, and tailing bonefish…. The flats slam.
Diehard fishermen will endure a brutal mid-August sun in Dolphin skiffs, gliding over crystal clear shallows while others spend the morning on the water and the balance of the day under it. Whether above or below, the sight of sharks, turtles, tarpon and Goliath grouper with little fear of humans await.
Christopher Columbus claimed this water wonder in 1492. The astounding beauty of its coral reefs, islands and aquatic life, visible from topside inspired the intrepid explorer to name it in honor of his beloved backer, Queen Isabella of Spain.
After what can only be described as a tropical lumberjack breakfast – guava, pineapple, ham omelets and more wonderful Cuban coffee, we prepare our lunch from a buffet table. Each angler builds a mid-day meal from an assortment of fruits, salad, lobster, pork, chicken and beef ropa veija (old clothes) from the lunch buffet. We will dine on one of the beautiful beaches in the shade of island palms.
Avalon fishing Charters – the exclusive licensee for the Gardens – provides mothership operations for fly fishing and diving. For almost two decades, Avalon’s zone management and catch and release practices have been praised by anglers and marine eco- experts.
Avalon guides are assigned specific zones within the boundaries of the preserve which are rotated daily. This unique management plan prevents slamming the hot spots.
Dr. David Vaughan director of Mote Marine’s coral growing and reef restoration projects visited the Gardens this past spring with other scientist studying the preserve’s flora and fauna. “
“The base corals are in great shape and the reef includes all the predator species.”
“I finished one dive,” he said emotionally. “Spit out my regulator and shouted….this is the way it’s supposed to be.”
Environmental Defense Fund’s Dan Whittle measures the Garden’s health by the number of predators. “This area has eight to ten times the sharks we see at other Caribbean destinations.”

Speeding off on a Yamaha powered skiff, our guide Tony heads for our assigned zone. Spreading out over the innumerable islands, coves, creeks, and ocean passes comprising this grand aquatic preserve, each captain will pick his spots free of competition.
Alek Rich, my angling partner and new friend has requested tarpon. The young man from Texas has yet to boat one on fly. Although tarpon season is mid-winter here, I dove among hundreds of juvenile fish hiding along the reef yesterday.
Tony poles us through a tidal pass squeezing between lush green mangroves and directs Alex’s cast along the deeper side. Using a steeple cast perfected on mountain streams, he lays a pinfish deceiver perfectly and the explosion is instant.
The thirty pound tarpon leaps away from the security of his root filled home and sprints for the open bay. Five jumps later Alex has his fish and the slam pursuit is on.
Next are bonefish which, as our week unfolds, will prove to be the bail out fish of the Garden. Bonefish in muds, in mangroves and atop open flats were seemingly available at will. Any time fishing slowed, we caught bones.
Alex’s first bone of the day would prove challenging. Casting to a group of tailing, fining fish frolicking in a small lagoon dotted with new mangrove growth, his first presentation is gobbled. Problem is the fly line is across a small sprout. Miraculously, the six pound fish bolts off and the line clears only to completely encircle another single rooted plant. With great poling and patients from the seasoned angler, the fish is cleared and boated….phase two of the slam completed.
Permit as always would prove difficult. Palometa is permit in Spanish…. it’s feminine. Permit on fly, like the pursuit of a beautiful woman requires time and work with a great deal of desire thrown in. On this particular day Alex suffered from a bit of buck fever on his permit presentations, something any saltwater fly fishermen understands.
On our arrival back at Tortuga, we were met by Milkis and Tania offering Mojitoes and ice cold towels, perfect after the hot August sun. On the back deck of the comfortable barge we debrief, brag, and recount the highlights of the day.
Chris and son Mike of Boulder Colorado stuck with bonefish most of the morning before breaking off for an afternoon dive. They released more than thirty.
Many firsts would occur during the week, like Vlad from Finland’s first flats slam. Alex and Mike’s first tarpon on fly and Reba’s solo sojourn into the Zen of silence – she was fishing alone, isolated by language.
Gardens of the Queen is reverently referred to as the most natural reef and island ecosystem in the Caribbean…. Sublime comes to mind. Here, man’s influence has been minimal. When poled individually, our group’s most common response to the Gardens after “great fishing” was, “there is no trash here”….Above or below the waterline.

Fish Cuba Now! A call to action.

400dpiLogo“Support the Cuban People” program allows legal travel to the recently opened island’s aquatic wonders. By providing educational support for our captains and staff, we are helping usher in a new era of angling in Cuba.
“This is exactly what the president’s new policy of engaging Cuba is all about,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C. “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.”

Nov. 14th-17th fishing and diving – Cayo Levisa
Nov. 17th

John presents Rafeal with a spinner for his young son.

John presents Rafeal with a spinner for his young son.

30 Plus boat fleet arrives at Marina Hemingway from Key West.
Nov. 20th – Maria la Gorda, one of the top five dive sites in the world.
Nov.23rd-28th Wahoo tournament Marina Hemingway.
Dec. 1st-5th Tarpon and snook river fishing, Las Salenas Bonefish
Jan.31st, 2016 – Isle de la Juventud – Cuba’s largest out island on the “Backside of Paradise.”
3 day and week-long land based fishing trips starting at only $2200.
Feb.21st-28th – Cayo Santa Maria – Garden of the King.
“It’s clear this is a big bone & permit destination, we had a collective 25 plus shots at permit and saw at least half a dozen 8 pound plus bonefish….” Dave Baum Garden of the King – 2015

Fly direct and save.

Join me for what will be an unforgettable travel experiences and angling adventures.
Capt Phil Thompson
Fish Cuba Now does not charge a fee to travel under our Support the Cuban People umbrella. We ask only that you bring as much medicine and vitamins as you can.
9 2

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 !

Jeffrey

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

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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: http://www2.tbo.com/news/politics/havana-fishing-event-brings-anglers-worlds-together-20150704/#sthash.CvOPC0M8.dpuf

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)
Sunday,
• 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
Sunday,
• Wake-up /breakfast
• Ground Transfer to Habana International Airport

Low season rate $3,ooo. plus tips.
Fly direct and save.
philkeywest@yahoo.com

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

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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.