For three weeks in January, Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich of the Hemingway International Yacht Club in Havana visited to the US to make agreements with sailing, boating and fishing clubs.
Despite having only two sailboats and one fishing boat, the Hemingway International Yacht Club is promoting itself to fisherman and sailors alike in the hope of reestablishing Cuba as a force in the world of yachting and fishing.
The Hemingway International Yacht Club was founded by Commodore Escrich in 1991 and is the only non-governmental organization of its kind in Cuba.
“Several years ago, the Cuban government decided it was important to build up its industry of tourism,” Commodore Escrich told the TC Palm. “Because Cuba is an island, it was decided that it would be very important to develop tourism through its connection to maritime recreation.”
One recent development includes an agreement with Stuart Sailfish Club in Florida for their participation in the upcoming 66th Annual Ernest Hemingway Billfish Invitational in Cuba from June 13th-18th.
More than 40 Stuart Club member boats will rendezvous in Key West before navigating eastward to Marina Hemingway, located just nine miles west of Havana, for the four-day festival where fisherman from across the globe will battle large ocean fish.
With more than 3,000 miles of coastline and thousands of pristine islets and keys, Cuba has forever been enticing sailors and fishermen to explore her.
The first Havana Yacht Club was established in 1886 and annual sailing regattas began shortly thereafter. Prior to 1960, there were more than 100 fishing and boating related clubs in Cuba. After Fidel Castro’s revolution, the era of private boating and fishing clubs ended.
Today, the opportunity for Cuba to rekindle its watery boating culture is more promising than ever.
In December 2015, the “Pensacola a la Habana Race” was the first permitted yacht race from the U.S. to Cuba since 1959. Twenty-one boats raced the 511 nautical miles from Pensacola, Florida to Havana.
Despite this progress, there are still precautions that sailors and fisherman from the U.S. should consider before setting out for Cuba. Planning is essential.
“Cuba is not ‘totally open for business’,” said Scott Wagner in a panel discussion moderated by the Cuba Journal at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in November 2015.
Mr. Wagner is the Vice Chair of the Admiralty Law Committee for the Florida Bar and a portion of his practice at Moore & Company is dedicated to navigating the regulatory requirements of transiting people and cargo between the U.S. and Cuba.
“There are a lot of restrictions that you need to abide by vis-a-vis not just a vessel going down there but also the people on board the vessel.”
Persons traveling down to Cuba still need to be traveling under one of the 12 categories permitted by the State Department and need to get the permission to proceed by the U.S. Coast Guard at least two weeks prior to their departure.
But for boaters, a unique problem arises over concerns about acquiring insurance for their voyage to Cuba.
Currently, most domestic carriers do not write insurance policies for boaters heading to Cuba citing concerns about violating the U.S. embargo as well as how to handle claims for their clients if something goes awry in Cuba.
However it is possible to obtain one-off insurance coverage through Moore & Co, a leading maritime law firm based on Miami, Florida.