Don Barr | YachtPilot.ca
Cuba…. Opening for Yachts?
We hear this statement often from our U.S. friends who aren’t aware that for Canadians and Europeans, Cuba has been open to yachting for a long time. If Cuba becomes accessible to American boaters what are the rewards it offers?
The first big advantage is that Cuba is easy to reach. From anywhere on the eastern seaboard one can sail the inland or coastal waters to Marathon or Key West and then leave the Florida Keys late in the afternoon arriving at Marina Hemingway the following morning. Yachtsmen who cross to Nassau will have twice the distance to cover. Although both routes cross the Gulf Stream, the first route usually has a longer weather window for the crossing with prevailing easterly winds and also there is less current than what can be experienced by those opting for the Bahamas route. Wintertime northerlies hit both the Bahamas and the north coast of Cuba but Cuba has many very secure anchorages with excellent holding. The longest distance between safe anchorages (on the north coast of Cuba) is 37 miles—the distance between Marina Hemingway and Bahia Honda.
Cuba is a large island. It has over 3000 nautical miles of coastline with 81 pocket bays and miles of good water inside the reefs with this much space, Cuba can easily absorb twice the number of boats that currently cruise the Bahamas each winter giving the waters that uncrowded feeling. The island’s land mass is equal to almost half the total land area of all the Caribbean islands combined with many more natural attractions than any other Caribbean island.
Cuba has some of the most historic sites in the Americas with buildings dating as far back as 1519. Anyone interested in architecture and history, music and culture would be remiss if they didn’t spend sometime traveling inland during their winter cruise as there is just so much to see and do.
By April/May, when it is time to head north, Havana is ideally situated as a jumping off point for Florida. In the spring the trade winds shift to the southeast providing sailors with a nice breeze on the beam together with the Gulf Stream current West Palm Beach should be reached in roughly 36 hours doable for even the smallest sailboat. But for those not wanting to travel overnight, Key West can easily be made in one day.
When the time comes that you must decide on to cruise for the winter, be it the Bahamas, down island to the Caribbean or to Cuba you will soon see that Cuba is the logical choice. Cuba is close at hand with lots of secure anchorages and so much to see.
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