Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cuba - Getting Closer and Closer

Obama's recent announcement on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba has generated a huge buzz of excitement amongst Americans eager to visit this unique island nation. In particular, boaters are champing at the bit to throw off their lines and tie them to a dock at Marina Hemingway.
Is this really the beginning of the end?
History was made recently as the United States and Cuba announced a normalization of relations between the two countries, estranged since 1961.
Indicative of these changes, American prisoner Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba for espionage, is now back in America, as is an unnamed espionage agent jailed for 20 years. In its turn, the US returned the three remaining members of the “Miami Five”, who were convicted of espionage related activities in 2001.
Among the changes Obama announced are the establishment of diplomatic relations, an increase in money transfers to Cubans, and easier travel to Cuba by Americans through currently established channels such as the ‘person to person’ program. However, he made it clear that lifting the embargo was an issue that had to be dealt with by Congress, and for we sailors, that’s the rub.
Without a lifting of the Cuba embargo, the travel ban on recreational sailing or indeed, any sort of independent travel by Americans without a general or specific license, continues to exist. What that will translate into in the real world is, however, a totally different subject.
Anecdotal reports of American boaters traveling from Key West to Havana and back over the past two years, without US government interference or censure, have become more and more frequent. It is entirely possible - and please recognize that this is speculation from a Canadian not affected by the US embargo - that the US will develop (continue?) a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy regarding travel to Cuba by boat by Americans. 
I myself on my last visit to Cuba saw a considerable number of American boats in Marina Hemingway, from small sailboats to a 100+ foot megayacht which traveled through the Bahamas to avoid censure. You can rest assured, the US government is aware of these boats being there, as someone from the US Special Interest station in Havana regularly tours these docks. No action is taken.
So in other words, ‘no you can’t go, but if you do, we won’t slap your wrists for doing it’, which would seem to be a continuation of the policy of the past several years. Bear in mind however, that circumstances could change, and a future government could choose a different direction.
The Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC), the branch of government that deals with the Cuban question and the embargo, issued a press release just minutes after the President’s speech. It stated:

OFAC will implement the Treasury-specific changes via amendments to its Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The Department of Commerce will implement the remainder of the changes via amendments to its Export Administration Regulations.  OFAC expects to issue its regulatory amendments in the coming weeks.  None of the announced changes takes effect until the new regulations are issued.

A new FAQ has been issued by the OFAC, and is available at
I myself will be going to Cuba this winter to cruise the south coast, and will report back to you here in the pages of SAIL Magazine on that adventure.

Or who knows, perhaps, by that time, you’ll be joining me. I will be watching developments for SAIL Magazine and will update readers on the situation as the situation warrants.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Some new Cuba video...

Fascinating process to watch
I've just posted some new video to my Cuba Facebook page, and it's also on the website, Cuba - Forbidden Paradise. This video shows cigar rolling the Cuban way, and there are several other videos - sailing off Havana, a Cuban art atelier, and a nice one showcasing those wonderful old American cars on the streets of Havana and Varadero.
Enjoy, and if you watch on the Facebook page, be sure to like and share us!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cuba News...

Cuban rafters 'emigrating' from the country to the US - photo from the FP article

The changes in Cuba continue. In the past year, the Castro government has permitted Cubans the right to buy and sell those gorgeous old cars. Previously, this was not allowed. The bad news: they can only be sold between Cubans, you're not going to be able to import one of those beauties back to the US.
Another change - Cubans will now be permitted to buy and sell real estate. Again, this was not permitted, with Cubans living where the government told them to, in whatever house they were assigned.
Lastly, Cubans will be permitted to leave the country now that the process of getting a passport has been simplified for them. However, don't expect a huge exodus of Cuban tourist visitors in Nebraska - while changes have been made, the average Cuban cannot afford the cost of travel. As well, professionals such as doctors and engineers are still not permitted to leave the country.
Joani Sanchez' article here gives the entire story. Sanchez is a human rights' dissident in Cuba and an active blogger on the situation there.
Plus que รงa change...


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some Great Cuba Video...

I'm now heading south from the Great Lakes, destination Cuba (to follow the current adventure, check out LiveBloggin' the ICW). I'm sure you're as excited about being along with Aduana (the Wonderpuppy®) and I as part of the 'virtual' crew of Gypsy Wind while we finish the circumnavigation of Cuba, as I am to be going back!
I'd like to give you a sneak preview of some of what we're going to see while we're underway - you can check out the videos at Cuba: Forbidden Paradise - plus you can follow the action on the Facebook Page. And here are a few photos of Cuba for you as well.

For those of you who want a really cool memento, I've done a screensaver, complete with the fabulous sound of Carmelo Son, out of Varadero. This screensaver has shots of those fabulous old time Cuban cars and is lots of fun. It's available for both Windows and Mac computers....all you have to do is 'Like' the facebook page, and leave me a message with your OS and I'll send you a link to get your free (Free is Good!©) screensaver. Or, you can sign up here for email updates or as a follower, and again, let me know what your OS is and I'll send you that link to download the screensaver.*
Also, be sure to sign up for regular Cuba updates from this blog - the link is on the right side of this page - we'll be posting regularly from here on as plans and preparation get underway, and the countdown to this fantastic voyage begins.

* Mandatory fine print! I created this screensaver from my own photos, so there is absolutely no chance of any virus, etc. with it. Not to mention, I don't have the skills to do that stuff anyway. So enjoy your screensaver without worries.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Some exciting news...

This blog is again live...and there's lots and lots of news! First of all, the 2013 trip to Cuba's south coast will be for the purpose of filming the show  'Cuba - Forbidden Paradise'. You can get more details on that project at the show's site or at our Facebook page 
We've also started a fundraising program to cover the costs of producing this show....check it out and earn great gifts for your donation at the site. (The fund raiser is now over, but you can still check out the site).
More details later, but lots of new stuff at those sites for you to mull over until I get back here!
Hasta la vista, baby...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Route to Cuba...

There are several ways you can head to Cuba from North America. You can leave from the Keys and head across to Varadero or Havana. That limits you to cruising the areas to the west of your landfall, unless you're a serious masochist, due to the current and winds you'll be fighting. The saying, Go West, young man....never applied more than sailing the Cuban coast.
Chartlet showing route through the Bahamas to Cuba and back to the US
My preferred route is to sail through the Bahamas, and then drop down from Ragged Island at the south end of the Jumentos to Puerta de Vita, 65 nautical miles away.
Two years ago, I did that route and went west to Varadero. This upcoming winter, I plan to do it again, sail the 150 or so miles to the far east tip of Cuba and then sail west along the south coast. When I arrive at Cabo San Antonio at the western tip of Cuba, I'll have completed a circumnavigation of this amazing island.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cuban made pajamas removed from shelves in Wal-Mart...

Ok, I've got your attention now, don't I?
This article concerns the current status of the US embargo against Cuba. According to the article: "At present the U.S. State Department says the biggest obstacle to improving relations between the two countries is the imprisonment of an American aid worker Alan Gross."
You can read the entire article at Cuba: U.S. embargo causes $1 trillion in losses