1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Cuba - you got questions? We've got answers...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cuba - you got questions? We've got answers...

I received an email today from a friend about what's needed to cruise in Cuba, and it inspired the following blog post...which will be the last blog post here until I reach Cuba in a few days. You can follow my progress along the Cuban coast at Where's Wally?
I'll be posting regular short updates via my Delorme Inreach satellite tracker to my Facebook page about Cuba until I reach someplace where I can get back on the internet.
Here's what my friend Carlos had to ask about cruising in Cuba...

Hi Wally,
 My imagination has been “running” at high speed with this discussion of ours on Cuba.  I saw your video (sailing to Havana) last night on You Tube.  I hear that there are less than 100 usable slips in Hemingway Marina.   Most of the slips are in dis-repair..no water..no power per the websites I saw.  100 Slips isn’t that many for the Miami Crowd.  Over 60,000 boats in Florida….any decent 20 footer could make the trip on a nice day….Aside from Havana where should one go?   Varadero?

1)      Does my Raymarine GPS/Chartplotter need more charts?  Where can I buy charts for Cuba here in FTL?  How about a Cuban FLAG?
2)      Do I need a SSB Radio to do this trip? Or VHF sufficient.  In some countries only SSB is permissible.
3)      I don’t have a Mariner’s or Captain’s license…like most American boaters..is this an issue?
4)      Insurance—not sure if US Boat will cover me there.  Will need to check.  If not,  I hear that a Canadian and a German company sell insurance for Cuban waters.
5)      Medical Insurance for me and my crew.
6)      Harmony is in top condition—all maintenance has been done.  I did remove the Staysail—but we should be ok with the furling genoa and the main.   I don’t have any spare sails.    I wonder what spare parts for the engine I should bring?  Water pumps, belts, starter…..I wonder what would be a prudent “spare set.”  I can’t predict everything…what should I have on board?    I’ll top off with fuel and bring plenty of gas for the dinghy before going.  50 gallons of diesel should be more than enough…and 5 gallons for the dinghy.
7)      Are their pump outs at the marinas in Cuba…probably not but should not dump except way offshore…
8)      I read a lot about provisioning—How long will we be in Cuban waters?   A week?  10 days?  I hear fish, chicken, pork and veggies are easy to get….I would bring “other stuff”…canned stuff, booze, things for “trading” everyone suggests.   If the trip is for 10 days—I’ll provision for 20+ days. Just in case of bad weather..or the winds keep us from departing on time, etc.   Its not a long passage---the water supply on board 60 gallons is ample.   Good suggestion to bring some clean  “Jerry Cans” to bring water back in the dinghy if water isn’t available dockside.     
9)      Security—I hear that you really can’t leave your boat unattended. Security at the Marinas is a “joke”….what has been your experience?   Can we leave the boat locked up—and go into Town?  Taxi’s available?
10)   US Credit Cards are now usable in Cuba….but how much cash should we bring?
 My sister was just in Cuba and really enjoyed the music and food….She said that there are many “inconveniences” but nothing major.  If we’re staying aboard Harmony, we’ll be very comfortable…especially if we have power and water at the dock.  

All of these topics seem obvious to someone with your vast experience—but would be useful information for a novice like me to have before leaving. 

Here are my answers to Carlos...

For charts and a flag, contact Bluewater charts and books in Lauderdale. 
VHF is sufficient, especially along the north coast. SSB is always nice, but not needed.
No license, Captain or otherwise required, to cruise in Cuba
No US firm will cover your boat at this point. Lloyds of London is one option. This may change if you are traveling legally with a license for your boat - and since the situation is changing so rapidly, you need to check with your insurer on this before leaving.
You purchase medical insurance in Cuba, approximately $3.25/day/person US. Mandatory for all but Canadians, whose health insurance covers them while in Cuba.
Spares - the usual. Fan belt, impeller, filters. Fuel and water are easily had in Cuba, and are of good quality. 
No pumpouts. Best to void the tank at sea, yes. 
You have the right idea about provisioning. Also, bring adequate toilet paper, it's $3.50 a roll IF you can find it.
Security is good at the marinas, but I would lock up in Hemingway all the same, it's more open than most other marinas. Be more worried about other boaters, not the Cubans. It's against the law for a Cuban to board your boat, other than the officials, and they don't. Taxis, no problem.

Despite what some so called 'knowledgeable' people are telling you, US credit cards do NOT work in Cuba, not yet anyhow. Bring cash. Bring cash anyway, because ATMs are not that easy to find and often do not work. Mini-rant to follow...
(I really hate watching someone at a boat show give wrong information, especially when those in attendance paid $100 per head to listen, and I give the correct information for free. If you put on the show, at least have the courtesy to hire someone who knows what they are talking about - and yes, that means you, Trawlerfest and Passagemaker. We had this discussion last spring and you didn't like it, especially when the next day, the Wall Street Journal backed me up on this. Then your speaker got her information on bringing a dog into Cuba wrong also. Not impressed at all). End of mini-rant.

No, there are not a lot of usable slips at Hemingway, but the marina is slated for improvements, or so the rumour on the Malecon goes - but those in use do have water and power. However, power may only be 30 amps. Not sure about 50 or 100. The dockmaster will have an electrician set things up for you on arrival. The electrical setup is not as scary as it looks - or perhaps it is, I'm no electrician.
Varadero is nice, although I've not yet seen the new marina there, which is way outside of town. The old marina, Darsena, is nice but dated. It's also close to town, making it very convenient. 

That's it for this blog post folks. I have to get the boat ready for sea, and pick up some last minute items - not TP, got lots! Mas tardes, amigos y amigas!