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Old 10-11-2011, 18:54   #1
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Cuba ?

Still seeking information on going to Cuba. I'm especially interested in talking to US boats that are thinking of going this year.
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Old 10-11-2011, 19:18   #2
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Re: Cuba ??

Not this year but next. I have a friend who has sailed to Cuba twice before. He said the Cubans love for Americans to visit. I don't know the procedure he used for returning. However, another friend I raced with for years sailed to Cuba several years back. He said he called the Coast Guard when he entered US waters and was only asked if he had contraband. I don't think any laws are different now its just that people do sail there and return without incident. A sailor in Miami was busted recently with a boat load of cigars, cigarettes, and rum. He also had a warehouse full so he obviously had made several successful trips.

I plan to go on my boat with my friend as mate.
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Old 11-11-2011, 18:14   #3
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Re: Cuba ?

This is just hearsay, but the way I understand it, the Coast Guard doesn't care if you go to Cuba. But many boaters get a letter from the feds as much as a year or more later, assessing large fines, and demanding to know exery detail of the trip and who paid for it. As has been posted here before, it is not illegal to travel to Cuba on your boat. It is illegal however to spend any money there. You could take plenty of food with you, but the feds would want to know who paid your dockage. So, a lot of people who think they made the trip with no problems, get a big surprise a year or so later. It's something to do with the Office of Foreign Assets, or something like that. Good luck. I would like to go too someday.
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Old 12-11-2011, 05:56   #4
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Re: Cuba ?

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Originally Posted by capstan View Post
This is just hearsay, ..... But many boaters get a letter from the feds as much as a year or more later, assessing large fines, and demanding to know exery detail of the trip and who paid for it....... So, a lot of people who think they made the trip with no problems, get a big surprise ....
It seems like if there really were 'many boaters' and 'a lot of people' then it would be easy to find them and their cruising blogs on the web. You did start off by saying it is hearsay.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:01   #5
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Re: Cuba ?

For good or ill, the US Government still has a near-total embargo against Cuba and restricts almost all imports, exports, travel and financial transactions by US Citizens with Cuba.

There are several US agencies that enforce various parts of the US embargo on Cuba - the Coast Guard (monitors vessels that transit to/from Cuba and watches for illegal immigration and contraband smuggling), Office of Foreign Assets Control (regulates financial transactions with/in Cuba), Bureau of Industry and Security at the Commerce Department (licenses exports of US consumer goods, including "temporary" exports/sojurns of recreational vessels to Cuba), the Border Patrol (looking for illegal entries of Cuban nationals), Customs and Border Protection (monitors smuggling to/from Cuba and enforces the OFAC regulations) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (investigates human/contraband smuggling and also enforces the BIS and OFAC regulations).

Each of these agencies has the authority to issue monetary penalties for violations. You can go to the OFAC website for example and see monthly summaries of the penalties they assess, and a lot of them are for illegal imports of Cuban products (particularly cigars). BIS issued a number of warning letters a few years back to recreational sailboat and fishing boat skippers in South Florida that were involved in regattas and fishing tournaments in Marina Hemingway, and even arrested and tried to prosecute the organizers (the charges were dismissed, but BIS followed up with monetary fines against the organizers, the details are on the BIS website). The Coast Guard, Border Patrol and CBP can seize vessels involved in smuggling or OFAC violations involving Cuba travel; and they along with ICE have arrest authority for criminal violations of the regulations and statutes.

BIS takes the position that a US export license is required for temporary sojurns of vessels to Cuba and as a matter of policy does not grant export licenses for tempoary sojurn of recreational vessels to Cuba.

And the Sarasota Yacht Club has been trying for several years to obtain an OFAC licnese for a regatta to Cuba, and recently put on their website that once again they have had to postpone the regatta since OFAC will not grant them an export license.

US policy is slowly changing, but the most recent changes allowing travel and exports are mostly restricted to Cuban nationals in the US with families still in Cuba. There are some exceptions to the regs but they are limited to recognized charitable and journalistic organizations.

All that said, of course US vessels visit Cuba. I personally think there are better things for the US Government to do, like chasing terrorists and drug criminals, than to arrest and penalize sailboat skippers who want to visit Cuban cruising grounds. But for the moment all indications are that the US Government continues to take a dim view of US citizens and vessels going to Cuba.

We're waiting for US policy to change - my suspicion is that the embargo will remain in place until Fidel Castro is gone, and then it will be lifted. We plan on going the year after that, figuring that for the first year the anchorages will be filled with US boats that sail down.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:56   #6
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Re: Cuba ?

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It seems like if there really were 'many boaters' and 'a lot of people' then it would be easy to find them and their cruising blogs on the web. You did start off by saying it is hearsay.

Who is going to go around posting how they broke the law?
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:41   #7
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Re: Cuba ?

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Who is going to go around posting how they broke the law?
The posting would have been the 'many' fines assessed, if they existed, not the fact that you went to Cuba and sneaked by. Don't think they exist.

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Old 12-11-2011, 09:01   #8
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I know most people will probably think this is in jest, but I have heard of people traveling to Cuba with a Conch Republic passport, and never having your US passport stamped. Any truth to this? Without having your passport stamped, any way to prove you were there? Maybe that doesn't apply to cruisers, but rather airline passengers or such. Any thoughts?
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:06   #9
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Re: Cuba ?

After 14 years cruising in Cuba we have seen a change in the last few years.
There have been very few boats in Cuba since 2003. Only about 12 to 15 at each of the major marinas. Cruising the north and south coast have not met more than 2-3 yachts. 3 years ago the Cubans have made changes so you can no longer go ashore except at major tourist spots. Many of the regular Cuba cruisers have said they would no longer return.
The US Coast Guard is still patrolling 12 miles off the Cuban coast. As a Canadian flagged yacht they just ask for flag of boat and Citizenship of crew. Each year there are a few US boats in Cuba ,2-3.
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:25   #10
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Re: Cuba ?

Say you went to Cuba, not on purpose, but were dragged into port by a 70' gunboat for "transgressing their territorial waters" and held for two weeks until they determined you weren't a hit squad after Fidel. The Cubans filled your water tanks and sold you 50 gallons of #2 diesel, plus fresh food, for a fair price. You paid in Yankee greenbacks, exchanged flags with the Captain of the gunboat and your crew traded a few issues of Playboy straight across to the Cuban crew for a few Havanas and a harbor tug gave you a tow out into the Old Bahama Channel. If,for instance, these events actually happened; is there a statute of limitations on your crime of using U.S. dollars to pay for the fuel and provisions, or are you an international criminal for ever? Just asking about a hypothetical occurrence that may or may not have happened many years ago.
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:43   #11
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Re: Cuba ?

Over the past years have seen quite a few US boats in Cuba for emergency repairs. Some had hit a reef others with storm damage. A large yacht (140 ft) had trouble north bound from Panama , Called the US and were given permission to go into Cienfuego for repairs. Unintended stops in Cuba (repairs. etc) do not appear to be a problem.
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:00   #12
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Re: Cuba ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by marlinespike View Post
...
The US Coast Guard is still patrolling 12 miles off the Cuban coast. As a Canadian flagged yacht they just ask for flag of boat and Citizenship of crew. Each year there are a few US boats in Cuba ,2-3.
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Unless I don't understand things, if your a Canadian flagged boat, the USCG has no jurisdiction to ask you anything unless and until you are in US waters.

Granted, if you don't cooperate, I would suspect you may be "more thoroughly inspected" once you do enter US waters.

Regardless, can anyone comment on the jurisdiction issue?
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:31   #13
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Re: Cuba ?

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Unless I don't understand things, if your a Canadian flagged boat, the USCG has no jurisdiction to ask you anything unless and until you are in US waters.

Granted, if you don't cooperate, I would suspect you may be "more thoroughly inspected" once you do enter US waters.

Regardless, can anyone comment on the jurisdiction issue?
It is relatively easy for the US CG to request permission from the embassy of the boats flag to board and inspect. If no flag is visible, then they can board without a request.
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:50   #14
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Personally I would not take chances. There are a number of posts in various places about travelers fined after returning from Cuba, and if you don't follow USCG rules you could lose your vessel.

See for example http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_1097.html. According to that page, USCG clearance to enter Cuba waters has to be obtained in advance for boaters departing S Florida ports. This page also says temporary sojourn Commerce Dept licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Like it or not, these are the rules for now.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:11   #15
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Re: Cuba ?

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Originally Posted by Domo View Post
I know most people will probably think this is in jest, but I have heard of people traveling to Cuba with a Conch Republic passport, and never having your US passport stamped. Any truth to this? Without having your passport stamped, any way to prove you were there? Maybe that doesn't apply to cruisers, but rather airline passengers or such. Any thoughts?
Someone, an American I know very well, *ahem*, was there a few years ago. It is true, your passport is not stamped. They give you some coupons that you had better not lose, but the passport itself is not touched.
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