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January 14, 2011

Americans Doing the ‘Cuban Slide’

Nature has blessed Cuba with some of the most beautiful ocean waters of the world.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We cruised the Caribbean last winter, during which time we spent two months in Cuba," write an American cruising couple, the male of which started cruising from Northern California. "We entered at Santiago de Cuba, sailed west along the south coast, and around Cabo San Antonio on the west end, and on up to Marina Hemingway near Havana. We didn’t get any permission, so we did the whole thing illegally. We prefer to keep a low profile, so we’re hesitant to write about it in Latitude. Anyway, it was a fun and interesting time — but we don’t intend to move there anytime soon."

And in El Nicho Falls in the Sierra de Trinidad, Nature has blessed Cuba with some beautiful river waters.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Although the concept is as un-American as can be, it’s illegal for most Americans to cruise their boats to and around Cuba. That’s because the U.S. Treasury Department says it would necessarily involve "trading with the enemy." But as we all know, all levels of U.S. government pick and chose which laws they wish to enforce, and who they want to enforce them against. In the case of taking one’s boat to Cuba, then-President Clinton didn’t care, so countless Americans cruised there. Bush, on the other hand, make it very clear he wasn’t going to put up with it, so such visits stopped almost entirely. Under Obama’s reign, we’re back to non-prosecution. We know of a number of cruisers who visited Cuba last winter — including a Northern California couple who wrote a two-part story for Latitude on it — with no repercussions from the U.S. government. So, if you’ve always dreamed of doing the Cuban Slide, now is as good a time as any.

Avoiding Tahiti’s Dreaded Bond

As many world cruisers will confirm, French Polynesia is one of the friendliest regions on the planet. So it has always seemed ironic that the immigration department there is the only one we know of that requires every visiting (non-EU) cruiser to post a cash bond equal to the price of a plane ticket home to their own country — roughly $1,500 to the U.S.

Cruisers always get a warm welcome in Tahiti, but the bond issue is often a buzzkill. We’re working to ease the pain.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The policy is intended to be sort of an insurance policy, of course, so that if you get in trouble or become seriously ill, they won’t be stuck with you. But for budget-minded cruisers it can be a real headache — if not a deal-breaker. A family of four, for example, would have to tie up $6,000 or more in a Polynesian bank, and wouldn’t get it back until the day they left. And then it would be in French Polynesian currency, which can’t be spent anywhere else. In most cases, they would loose money on the exchange as well.

So you can understand why westbound cruisers have been ecstatic for the past two years when we were able to get bond exemptions for all boats that officially registered with the Pacific Puddle Jump Rally on our website.

Unfortunately, the package deal offered last year through a Tahitian yacht agency proved to be more trouble that it was worth to them. For $110 USD boats got bond exemptions, clearance in and out, and duty-free fuel. This year’s deal will be a bit more expensive, but still a good bargain — and, with any luck, will include duty-free fuel in the Marquesas as well as Tahiti.

Full details should be available on the website by February 1. But we wanted to get the word out today that a deal will, in fact, be offered, because dozens of would-be Jumpers have been chomping at the bit to know.

Registered Puddle Jumpers are under no obligation to participate in this program. We are arranging it only as a convenience to them, and Latitude 38 Magazine is in no way involved in the financial transactions.

So if you’re heading west this season, check the website for updates soon. There is no charge to register for the Rally.

Weekend Sailing Weather

The weather for the past month or so has been decidedly less-than-conducive to sailing, so Bay Area sailors should celebrate this weekend’s weather forecast: 65 and sunny. A ridge of high pressure off the beach should keep the mild weather around for at least the next 10 days or so, giving everyone ample opportunity to shake the mildew out of their sails. The forecasted light winds won’t give you much speed, but after the month we’ve had, who cares?

The last promising sailing weekend we remember was in mid-December. Unfortunately, an odd heavy fog dampened the fun for some sailors — but not for the crew of Ay Caliente!. Why not call up a dozen of your best friends and go out for a fog-free daysail while you have the chance?

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you do get your boat out of the slip this weekend, we’d love to see a few of your best photos. Send them to LaDonna and you might see them in Monday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude or even the February issue of Latitude 38.

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© Latitude 38 Media, LLC Wondering what "exclusive use of the Bay" will look like?
There are all sorts of reasons why summer is the prime time for kids to take sailing lessons, but as staffers at several San Francisco Bay sailing institutions will tell you, there are also some strong arguments for learning the ropes during the winter months.
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