Re: Cuba in my sights
Lots of entertaining replies here. Lots of people who don't know what they're talking about, and a few, such as Jon, who are quite knowledgeable.
Someone referenced the SAIL magazine article - that was me. I also did the Cruising Cuba seminars at the recent Cruisiers U in Annapolis.
There are legal ways to go to Cuba - a general license is one of them, for charitable and other reasons. Whoever said go and write an article is clueless - you have to be an accredited journo to get that permission.
If you want to do a philanthropic trip, that's do-able. One American gal I know brought over about 20 bicycles on her ketch for use in the St. Patrick's day parade in Havana (don't ask, it's a loooong story), then donated them to a local church. She had permission to go.
Alternatively, as someone noted, going through the Bahamas, then returning either far to the north, or continuing on through the Caribbean, also works. Is it legal? No. Will you get caught? Highly unlikely. Should you do it? Your choice, I'm not advising you that way.
Some specific remarks - Cuba does NOT stamp your passport. Being Canadian, I had to ask them to stamp mine, which they did.
Canadians don't require the health insurance because of our government health insurance. Everyone else that I'm aware of does. It's between $2 and $3 a day.
Bring American funds - they'll be exchanged for tourist pesos at a 13% discount. Buy some local pesos for the farmers' markets and other non-tourist places.
It is VERY rare to have the bite put on you by Cuban gov't officials, although it is starting to happen in Hemingway. If I find out you paid a bribe there, I'll personally ream your butt with a rusty wire brush - it makes it tough on the rest of us. If you refuse to pay, the issue goes away without rancor. The officials know better, but they see friends working in the tourist business getting rich from tips, and they want their piece of that action.
For charts, contact Bluewater Charts out of Lauderdale - they will either provide you with copies of the official Cuban chartbooks, or the new NV chart series. Make sure you have Calder's guide, it's indispensable.
Someone at my last seminar asked 'why go to Cuba rather than elsewhere in the Caribbean, given there's so much hassle?' A good question - and the answer is because there is NO place like Cuba. It's simply wonderful, even with all it's faults and rough spots. Superb cruising, wonderful people, beautiful scenery.
Anyone with specific questions is welcome to pm or email me directly.