American Boaters to Cruise Cuba?

Hemingway Marina Havana Cuba

Hemingway Marina Havana Cuba

Is Cuba on the Horizon for boaters?

According to Commodore Jose Escrich, head of Cuba’s Club Natico, U.S. regulations restricting boat travel to the island are about to change. Citing an unnamed official from the American Interest Section in Havana, the head of the only non-government supported boating organization in Cuba said restrictions on private U.S. boats crossing the straits will be relaxed or ignored beginning sometime in March. Actively enforced during the second Bush administration, tight regulations have kept all but a trickle of mariners from cruising the largest of the Antilles Island.
For U.S. boat owners desiring to cruise Cuba, hope arrived with President Obama’s announcement in December 2014 calling for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with our island neighbor.
Lying a day’s sail from Key West or less than three hours for the average power boater, Cuba’s close proximity, great fishing, diving and cruising grounds are a treasure U.S. boaters yearn to explore. According to recent estimates, eighty-thousand American boat owners are poised to cruise Cuban waters.
An easing of restrictions would be welcomed news for Club Natico which host the Hemingway Billfish Tournament, the oldest competition of its’ kind in the world. Ernest Hemingway launched the tournament bearing his name in 1950. At the time the famous writer was vice president of the newly formed International Gamefish Association. American participation in the contest would boost registrations and transform it into one of the richest blue marlin tournaments in the world.
In South Florida to receive an achievement award from the International Seakeepers Society, Commodore Escrich met with various yacht club officers and boating organization representatives from around the country.

Cuban Travel Tip # 10 Safety

Old Cuban woman checks on a napping American

Casa Particular owner checks on her napping American guest

Cuban Travel Tip # 10

Travel Safety
Cuba today is not only one of the friendliest travel destinations in the hemisphere…..But one of the safest in the world. Other than pickpockets, panhandlers, petty thieves and hustlers, tourist – Including solo women – are pretty much free to roam the streets of cities like Havana worry free.
Violence on the island nation is mostly drunken bar brawls between sotted locals or domestic violence, both easily avoided. Not to say you are free to wander alone drunk into the poorest barrios at 3 A.M. and not expect trouble, but practice a little prudence and you’ll be fine.
And, unlike other poor countries in Central and South America I’ve traveled, that undercurrent of animosity toward “The Gringo” seems not to exits in Cuba, not yet anyway.
At the end of Conan O’Brien’s riotous romp through Havana last week, he made a point to emphasize the friendliness of the Cuban people. He was not overstating.
Who knows? Maybe after a couple of spring breaks and a few winter seasons of sunburned mid-western tour groups, this love affair with Americans will change. I hope not.

Cuban Travel Tip # 9

Horse cart Paladar on the beach.

Horse cart Paladar on the beach.

2013-05-05 10.11.26Paladars
Paladars are civilian owned restaurants which run a wide gamut from sidewalk coffee and pizza stands to palatial 5 star quality eateries. The evolution of the Paladar in Cuba dates back to the early nineties. In those days street hustling guides led parties of visitors up unlit, un-railed stairs to illegal, unlicensed sources of some of the best food on the island.
Today, the privately owned restaurants are legal, inspected by health inspectors and along with the Casa Paticulars are creating Cuba’s first middle class since the revolution. Popping up all over the island, these establishments offer the best value in dining with the average meal priced around ten dollars. In some of the peso restaurants catering to Cubans the cost can be as low as two or three bucks.
The menus vary offering a variety of locally grown, caught or raised entries of seafood, poultry and sides of fresh fruits and vegetables. La Giraldilla – located a couple of kilometers west of Marina Hemingway – features waterfront dining and tender seven dollar sirloin steaks– something unheard of in Cuba just a few years back at any price.
And, as with Casa Particulars and private taxis, your money is injected directly into the Cuban private sector where it does the most good. So when you ask directions for a good restaurant, use the term Paladar. You and Cuba will be the better for it.