Travel Destinations

Cuba - A Cruising Wonderland

|
October 2015
|
By
Capt. Cheryl
Barr

Set just 90 miles south of the Florida Keys, Cuba is a cruising wonderland. It is the largest island in the Caribbean, with approximately 4,000 miles of coastline and 24 pocket bays large, sheltered bodies of water with deep, narrow, offshore entrances. The country's geographic diversity is stunning, with three distinct mountain ranges plus coastal regions filled with hundreds of cays teeming with coral reefs, reportedly the world's most pristine.

With the recent easing of some restrictions between the US and Cuba, the country should be on your cruising radar. Our first voyage to the island was in 1997. Since then we have made more than 18 trips. At the moment there are still restrictions for private US registered boats (see the information at the end of the story from the US Department of Treasury).

Currently, Cuba has nine operational, all-purpose marinas for international visitors. Five marinas are located on the north shore and four on the south, with a good distance between them all, which leaves the average cruiser with a week or two between services.

The principal marinas are from the pre-revolutionary era, built in the early 1950s, with decades of little or no upkeep. Although facilities have dockside power, hook up can require an electrician to hotwire your power cord to the plug-in. Cruisers with alternative ways to charge batteries opt out of shore power. Getting freshwater dockside can also sometimes be an issue -- many of the underground water mains are old, leading to poor water pressure or, at times, no water at all. Having said that, metered power and water rates at Cuban marinas are very reasonable, and improvements to facilities are slowly but surely being made.

The well-known Marina Hemingway is nine miles west of downtown Havana, and accommodates about 200 boats, with maximum vessel size of no more than 125 feet long with a 16-foot draft. This year, the marina replaced its antiquated power receptacles with new pedestals and wiring. The facility construction is fixed cement walls where vessels tie side-to. Most of the country's other marinas are piling construction with cement decking on finger piers. The exceptions are the 30-slip marina at Cayo Largo in the south and the 10-slip marina at Trinidad at the foot of the Sierra Escambray Mountains -- both of these facilities have floating finger piers not unlike the small marinas in the Florida Keys.

The country's newest facility, Marina Gaviota Varadero, is near the famed hotel-beach strip Varadero, about 85 miles across the strait from Marathon, Florida. It is projected to have 1,200 slips upon completion, making it by far the largest marina in Cuba. Dockage is Europeanstyle, with vessels tying their sterns to docks by securing lines to side piles or moorings. There is a large haul-out and storage yard with a 100-ton travel-lift. Labor is available, but any necessary materials must be brought in -- everything from sandpaper to varnish is difficult to find on the island.

All Cuban marinas are government owned and operated, so dockage rates are fairly uniform and are among the cheapest per-foot rates in the Caribbean. And, contrary to popular rumor, vessels can always anchor out among the cays and beautiful reefs. Cruising in Cuba can take a bit of extra effort, but the rewards are immeasurable. It's a chance to experience the country's incredibly rich culture and extraordinary people in a unique way. We all hope that US/Cuba relations continue to warm and normalize so that this exceptional country becomes ever more accessible to boaters.

Cheryl Barr, a Canadian sailor with a 200-ton RYA Yachtmaster's license, has made numerous yacht deliveries worldwide including over 15 extensive cruises to Cuba aboard a 62-foot Herreshoff schooner. These voyages allowed Cheryl to collect and compile data for her two volume Cruising Guide to Cuba series. Visit cruisingincuba.com to order your Cuba guide. Other guides by the author include Down East Circle Route and The Canadian Maritimes.

May an individual authorized traveler use his or her private boat to travel to Cuba? This excerpt is taken directly from the US Department of Treasury Frequently asked questions related to Cuba.

A person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel pursuant to an OFAC general or specific license may use a personal boat for his or her travel, and the travel of the boat's crew, to Cuba provided that he or she obtains a license from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for the temporary sojourn of the vessel, and otherwise complies with all other applicable U.S. government laws and regulations. Goods exported to Cuba also require a license or must be eligible for a license exception from BIS (www.treasury.gov).

Related Articles
Camden, Maine
|

True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.

WHERE TO DOCK

Camden Public Landing
Town Docks
207-691-4314

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine
207-236-7108

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.

WHERE TO DINE

40 Paper
207-230-0111

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water
207-236-4032

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro
207-230-8199

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café
207-236–2661

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

Read More
Jamestown, Rhode Island
|

Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.

WHERE TO DOCK

Conanicut Marina
401-423-5820

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard
401-423-0630

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard
401-423-0600

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.

WHERE TO DINE

Slice of Heaven
401-423-9866

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table
401-423-3709

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café
401-423-9282

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant
401-560-7979

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

Read More
Explore the Spirited Lakefront of Burlington, VT
|

A vibrant, compact city hugging the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, Burlington abounds in scenic beauty, four-season recreation, a college town vibe, arts and culture, and a quirky character all its own.

Burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Eclectic shops named Anjou & the Little Pear or Common Deer, and restaurants called Zabby & Elf 's Stone Soup or The Skinny Pancake dot the urban landscape. A local artist's satirical comment on the bureaucracy of urban planning called File Under So. Co., Waiting for..., consists of 38 filing cabinets welded together to a 40-foot height. Birds frequently nest in the upper chambers.

History buffs stroll through the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum or the Fleming Museum of Art's multi-era artifact collection while hikers trek the 12.5-mile path at Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers bicycle, rollerblade and kayak rentals. In season, the path connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Bike Path | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Since the 1800s, the Old North End has been the city's melting pot, and global cuisine from Nepalese dumplings to the African Market can be found here today. Between munches, stroll over to historic Elmwood Cemetery, whose residents include Revolutionary War soldiers. Hear their stories and perhaps have a chance encounter with a local spirit on a Queen City Ghostwalk Tour. Liquid spirits rule when the internationally famous, regionally beloved and hidden gem breweries line up for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. Year round, enjoy homemade bratwurst and drafts at Zero Gravity Craft Beer. At acclaimed Foam Brewers, the patio faces Lake Champlain waterfront and the Adirondack Mountains. Hop on the Sip of Burlington Brew Tour for a dozen tastings and the sights of this dynamic, energetic city.

Where to Dock

Burlington Community Boathouse Marina

802-865-3377

This full-service marina is the centerpiece of a growing waterfront. Amenities include 105 slips up to 65 feet, Splash Café and a fantastic sunset over the Adirondacks.

Burlington Harbor Marina

802-540-6869

With 160 slips (60 transient slips up to 80 feet), this new marina's tranquil harbor setting is convenient to downtown amenities and recreational activities.

Where to Dine

Honey Road

802-497-2145

Savor sophisticated Mediterranean small plates, cocktails and creative desserts in a comfy tavern setting.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

802-859-0888

This farm-to-table gastropub dishes up local burgers, charcuterie and innovative specials. Sip on local brews in the beer garden.

RíRá

802-860-9401

According to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. RíRá fuses classic Irish with pub grub to satisfy the first two.

Leunig's Bistro & Café

802-863-3759

Step inside the lush garden courtyard to watch fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood transform into classic French dishes. Come enjoy a romantic evening meal.

Hen of the Wood

802-540-0534

Enjoy a true Vermont dining experience in a romantic, rustic atmosphere adjacent to the Hotel Vermont.

Read More

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.