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Cuba-bound sailors take note

Jun 24, 2015
Havana’s skyline from the iconic Malecon, or seawall/esplanade, which extends 5 miles from the mouth of Havana Harbor to the Havana neighborhood of Vedado.

Havana’s skyline from the iconic Malecon, or seawall/esplanade, which extends 5 miles from the mouth of Havana Harbor to the Havana neighborhood of Vedado.

John Snyder/Marine Media

Thinking about sailing to Cuba? A recent thaw in U.S./Cuban relations may have made it easier for American sailors to visit Cuba, but obstacles still remain.

In May, the U.S.-flagged yacht Consulting Time II, a well-traveled Morris 486, visited the island having prepared to travel under a “General License” for its crew of three. The crew included a journalist reporting on Cuba and two environmental engineers who were conducting an independent water quality survey of marinas along the route.

Morris 486 Consulting Time II at rest at Marina Hemingway in Santa Fe, Cuba. The marina is about a 1.5-hour sail west of Havana.

John Snyder/Marine Media

Having painstakingly prepared documentation for the General License, a little-known fly was discovered in the ointment. On Feb. 28, 2004, President George W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation No. 7757, which prohibits recreational vessels from visiting Cuba without having been granted an export license for the vessel, as issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The vessel’s crew is covered under the General License, but without an export license, the vessel is illegal under U.S. law. The Bush proclamation reverses Clinton-era law that permitted recreational vessels to visit the island. 

In a conversation with Comodoro Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich of Club Nautico International Hemingway de Cuba, Cuba’s only yacht club, Escrich stated that the Bush proclamation has created a difficult situation for the club and American sailors. Escrich explained that prior to the Bush proclamation, the club held five to six yachting and fishing events a year. Now they are struggling to host one. As of this report, the club has plans to host a Hobie Cat regatta with boats from Key West, but so far all of the support vessels have not received the required export licenses from the U.S. Commerce Department, making planning difficult.

Escrich urges American sailors to contact their elected officials and President Obama, and ask them to no longer require the export license and grant American recreational boaters the right to visit their neighbor to the south.

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