Sailing to Cuba

Information about how to enter Cuba with your own boat is hard to find, the pilot book that most sailors rely upon are more than 10 years old and therefore it isn't strange at all that few really know how it work until they get here. Before coming here we searched Internet and talked to fellow sailors who also intended to sail here, still we where not sure where the Port of Entry was until we were 12 nautical miles off the Cuban coast. That is where Cuban territorial water begins and where you should make your first contact with the authorities. That much we had concluded from the pilot book and Our newly bought Cuban paper charts (corrected December 2009) showed that Marina Vita in Bahia de Vita was the most easterly Port of Entry, but most Internet sites stated that Bahia de Naranja was the place to go in the east. ´


On VHF channel 16 we called Marina Vita as the sun rose above the horizon. They answered in English and we were told to proceed towards Bahia de Vita, which really was the most easterly Port of Entry on the north coast.  Close to the beginning of the channel leading in to the bay we took down our sails and hoisted the yellow flag. Catrine and I were almost jumping around with joy, finally reaching our dream destination.


This is actually my second visit to Cuba, last time I was here was with the school ship T/S Gunilla in 2003, but then we only visited Havanna and the western part of the country. After that journey I told Catrine about the country and showed here my photos, ever since she's been wanting to come here. Last time in Cuba I was very fascinated by what I experienced, how different it is, the history, the friendly people and the feeling of safeness. On some island in the West Indies I have felt a bit uneasy because of how the men approach us and in some places we have avoided walking in certain areas during the dark hours. I remember feeling safe on Cuba in 2003, this together with a big curiosity for the many interesting places I never got to see last time made me want to come back, being able to experience it together with Catrine is a big bonus.


When we got close to the marina we were told to anchor out in the bay and wait for the doctor. It didn't take long before he arrived and climbed aboard, he asked us about our health and then we had to fill out a form, the most interesting question was weather our rats or mice had any diseases. He was really nice and smiled a lot, the conversation was mainly in English although he sometimes said things in Spanish, especially since he learned that I know "un poco Español". After he had stamped a few papers he told us that we could take down the yellow flag, hoist the Cuban and go into the marina where the rest of the clearing in procedure would take place. In Cuba you are not allowed to go ashore, not even on the dock, before you are cleared. Two men helped us with the ropes and we were soon tied up in the marina.


Escape, who arrived the day before, had welcomed us to Cuba over the VHF on our way in, now they walked up to Cantare. Long time no seen, it was good to see them again. Susanne was injured though and to see how bad was not fun. She fell down from a ladder when they had their boat on land to repaint it and broke the collar bone and injured her ribs and pelvis bone, slowly she was limping towards us. The hugs had to wait though, since we weren't allowed to step off Cantare.


An immigration officer came by and picked up our passports then we sat down on deck waiting for more info. Four persons came aboard after 45 minutes and the paperwork could begin, I had to fill out two forms and sign a lot of papers. We were questioned about our intentions with the visit, our occupations, the boat, previously visited countries and a lot of other things. Most of the conversation was in Spanish although they tried to translate into English when we didn't understand. I was glad that I can a bit of Spanish since it seemed to speed up the process. The veterinarian checked some of our food stores and the fridge, we didn't bring with us anything fresh except garlic, butter and cheese. Now I have found out that it is alright to bring in fresh food like chicken, eggs and meat as long as you don't take it ashore and it is in good condition. It is like that with all food, you can buy what you want in Cuba but once you have taken it aboard the boat you are not allowed to take it ashore again. The last part of the clearing in procedure was being searched by the sniffer dog. It was a very cute one and it didn't take long, since we have almost no floor space for it to walk on. All the time the officers were friendly and smiling, telling us a few useful hints about travelling in Cuba and flattering us without being rude, apparently we are the first all female crew yacht in Marina de Vita.


The only disagreeable part of coming here was the fees, there are fees for all of the officers and in the end we have now paid 60 cuc for clearing in the boat, 15 cuc per person for tourist visa (valid 30 days) and 15 cuc for a cruising permit, which will be issued when we leave our Port of Entry. To receive or leave crew on Cuba you pay an additional charge of 5 cuc and when we leave the country we will have to pay 10 more cuc in departure fee. Totally that makes 130 cuc (a little less than 130 euros), more than we have ever paid before to clear in. Still it felt great to finally be able to step ashore on Cuba! / La Capitan

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