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post #7 of Old 10-18-2000
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Cruising Cuba

I live in Key West and spent the Month of June 2000 In Cuba. Sailed to Marina Hemingway. Departed Key West 5:00 pm with no wind, at 10:00 pm wind picked 10-15 from SE seas 3-5 rolling, excellent sailing. Close call with Frieghter 2:00am, other than that trip down was un-eventful. Arrive 3:30 pm next day. Entrance to Marina easy and well marked. Check in took 2 hours with the half dozen or so officials kicking back with a Budweiser and listening to tunes. Passports not stamped but we were given Visa''s good for 30 days, cost $15US. Marina is clean, staff is friendly, security is tight. Key West Marina Staff should take some leasons. Cost per foot is .45 for the first 14 days and then it goes down to .40 for the next 14 days and then goes down to .35 after that with a retroactive charge (.35) for the entire month. Water extra but cheap and the same with Electricity. CUBA has to be visited to be appreaciated. Police and Military are everywhere, I have never felt safer anywhere in the world. We were never stopped or asked for papers anywhere that we went. People are very friendly and love to talk about America. You step back in time 40 years. The cars and other contraptions seen on the roads have to be seen to be believed. 2 of us stayed on the boat in the Marina and 2 other rented "Casa Particulars" (private homes/ apartments) around $20-$40 per night. US dollars accepted everywhere. Visited Pinar Del Rio and Playa De este and of course Havana. Private cabs will be waiting to take you any place you would like to go in the city. Virtually all boats in the Marina Are USA. We did file the required paperwork with the Miami Office of the USCG for permission to enter a " Security Zone During a National Emergency" you can do it via fax and it only took one day the form is on the USCG Website. Checking back into the US was not a problem. 1 of the crew was a canadian citizen who Hosted us as far as the embargo is concerned. You can read about this in the cruising guides or on the Office of foreign assets control Website. Upon check in agriculture came and took our Mangos, immigration came and stamped us back into the US and Customs asked us to walk down to their office in Key West because all the staff was busy with cruise ships. We filled out our " Declaration" form that asked for names, departure/return dates, reason for trip ( I listed education ) in the comments section we all noted that we were hosted by a canadian and we attached the receipts for all the food, fuel and supplies we purchased in the US. That was it. Some friends did the same thing a year ago and they got a letter a year later telling them they were in violation of the Embargo and " Traded with the Enemy" and to please cough up $250,000. They wrote back and explained the trip and how they complied with embargo and everything appears to be OK. You can also go with permission on a Humanitarian trip if you are willing to transport medical supplies ect. I am going to go this route the next time I go which will be " Tan pronto como possible " - as soon as possible. Speaking of language Many people speak english ( like the college educated engineer that will be driving your taxi)so you should not have a problem getting around. We took bubble gum, crayons, coloring books, dolls ect for the ninos ( kids )a quick trip to the Dollar store is the best place to stock up. The look on the kids faces ( and parents) when you give them the smallest regalo (gift)will stick in your mind for the rest of your life. You will not believe the poverty and living conditions of the majority of Cubans. By the way bring toilet paper everywhere you go and practice at home sitting on the bowl only because toilet seats have not found there way to CUBA. ALso you dont flush the paper put in the box next to the bowl ( no problem for boaters). I could ramble on ( even more than I have ) about the trip, but please go. Take some medicine as part of a humanitarian trip they really need it. As long as your Boat is not loaded down with Rum, cigars and Cubans you should not have any problems checking back into the US, if you choose to do so. Send me an e-mail if you have any other specific questions that I did not answer here.
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