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Old 12-07-2008, 14:27   #1
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Question About Sailing to Cuba

Can a British registered sailboat (BVI) legally sail to Cuba without getting in trouble with the White House, Home Land Security, USCG etc etc ?

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Old 12-07-2008, 14:41   #2
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Andre,

I can't definitively answer that question, but here's some food for thought.

In 2004, President Bush issued a proclamation that said, in part,

"Section 1. The Secretary may make rules and regulations governing the anchorage and movement of any vessel, foreign or domestic, in the territorial waters of the United States, which may be used, or is susceptible of being used, for voyage into Cuban territorial waters and that may create unsafe conditions, or result in unauthorized transactions, and thereby threaten a disturbance of international relations. Any rule or regulation issued pursuant to this proclamation may be effective immediately upon issuance as such rule or regulation shall involve a foreign affairs function of the United States.

Sec. 2. The Secretary is authorized to inspect any vessel, foreign or domestic, in the territorial waters of the United States, at any time; to place guards on any such vessel; and, with my consent expressly hereby granted, take full possession and control of any such vessel and remove the officers and crew and all other persons not specifically authorized by the Secretary to go or remain on board the vessel when necessary to secure the rights and obligations of the United States. "
(emphasis added)

The Canadian government issued this advice to Canadian boaters,

"Boat Traffic
The U.S. government closely monitors boat traffic in the Straits of Florida. Officials will seize any vessel without an OFAC licence if they believe it is headed for Cuba. Canadians who dock their Canadian-registered boats in Florida are subject to these measures, whereas those Canadian boats simply en route to Cuba via the U.S. will be exempt. Expect to be thoroughly searched and questioned if you are in the latter category."


If the Canadian government believes that their citizens are subject seizure and search, I'm sure the same would be true for British-flagged vessels, or those from any nation leaving or entering U.S. waters.
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Old 12-07-2008, 16:11   #3
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Andre, my advice to you while in US waters is to not mention that you are going to Cuba. Once out of US territorial waters you will not be bothered by USCG. When we went from Stock Island to Cuba a USCG cutter did come by to eyeball us and asked us a few questions of nationality. When advised that all aboard were Canadian they wished us bon voyage. This was before the President Bush proclamation though.
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Old 12-07-2008, 17:04   #4
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And there in lies the issue. If you are in US waters and the USCG believes you are going to Cuba you may or may not be subject to seizure. If you are outside US territorial waters and then decide to go to Cuba you are not subject to those same laws.
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Old 12-07-2008, 19:13   #5
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To err on the side of caution, one should not directly sail to or from the US to Cuba. Go to the Bahamas first. You will save yourself a hassle. Remember, you have the butt and they have the boot.
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Old 13-07-2008, 04:44   #6
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The US Department of Treasury, Office of foreign assets Control administers the
Cuba Sanctions: U.S. Treasury - Sanctions Program Summaries - Cuba
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Old 13-07-2008, 07:10   #7
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Thanks for all this valuable information, in summary: If I sail, lets say from Panama straight to Cuba without touching US waters in my British registered vessel then I am fine. Question, what would happen if for instance one year later I decide to sail in the very same boat to Florida, can the USCG seize her just because we went to Cuba a year ago? Does anybody knows what are the British regulations regarding sailing to Cuba? Regards
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Old 13-07-2008, 07:40   #8
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Soft Air - a red-ensigned vessel with no US Citizens or residents aboard can sail to Cuba from any country apart from the USA and later travel to the USA (indirectly only, not directly) with no danger of seizure. That doesn't mean that the American authorities are going to make it easy on you. The embargo is a unilateral American one, the UN annually issues a condemnation with similar votes 194:4.
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Old 13-07-2008, 07:54   #9
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Thanks Zanshin, my boat was purchased in Tortola a few weeks ago and she is now out of the water at Nanny Cay waiting for BVI registration and some other formalities. Do you have a link where I can find the British law that will allow me to sail to Cuba? Can the US authorities give me a hard time (even seize) my British boat if I go there from a third country but after having sailed to Cuba? I went to Cuba twice with all my family (air) as a teen and I would like to go again as a sailor. Zanshin can I also PM you since you are in the BVI where my boat is now? Best JC
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Old 13-07-2008, 08:09   #10
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My boat is on the hard at Nanny Cay right now, I'm off earning money for the watermaker in Europe .

Cuba and the UK entertain diplomatic relations (unlike the US and Cuba) and there are no travel restrictions. You will need a tourist visa.

The US Embargo applies to commerce between Americans and Cubans, the laws quoteed earlier in this thread extend that embargo but apply only to vessels with the intent of travelling to cuba.

Note that although a seizure is mentioned, there are a lot of "ands" in the letter of the law and the US Authorities will need good reason to actually go through with that.

Remember that you will also need a US visa to sail into USA - the normal US visa waiver program does not apply to private vessels. Entry into the country is not automatic with a visa, the immigration officer can still deny entry at will.

p.s. I would recommend calling or, better yet, writing to the dept. of the Treasury stating that you intend on entering the vessel from the Bahamas but that you will have stopped in Cuba prior to that and what their stance is - that way you would have official word, in writing.

{Edit, addendum}
I looked through the treasury pages to see if an restrictions are placed on visitors or vessels that have been in Cuba, and could only find
Quote:
In addition, vessels which enter a port or place in Cuba to engage in the trade of goods or services are prohibited from loading or unloading any freight at any place in the U.S. for 180 days.
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Old 13-07-2008, 09:41   #11
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I would think that if you enter Cuba from the south or west (Central America or Mexico), then go to the Bahamas after leaving Cuba and then to the US, you would be fine. Government officials in Cuba are very helpful about not creating lots of paperwork for those visitors going to or coming from the US and they will give you the option of not stamping your passport if you think you may have trouble later on. That way if you go to the Bahamas, you can check in there as if you came directly from Panama or wherever and not necessarily from Cuba. I could be wrong about any of this since I haven't been to Cuba in almost twenty years, but that was how it was back then.
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Old 13-07-2008, 15:55   #12
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JC, are you a Brit? Or is that a flag of convenience?

Your citizenship may also matter here.

I would assume that much as a US citizen could get direct replies from our State Department and Coast Guard, a Brit should be able to enquire directly of the Admiralty and...whatever passes as a State Department in the UK? Whoever has signed off and issued your passport and vessel registry papers?
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Old 14-07-2008, 05:08   #13
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The issue is that the UK and Cuba have direct diplomatic relations and there is no issue with visiting there. Only the US has issues with Cuba and thus only the US can answer what it might do regarding a foreign flagged and crewed vessel that has been in Cuba.

The matter is entirely different if any of the crew were US citizens or residents - in that case the US law is quite clear as can be read in

An overview of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations
Title 31 Part 515 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
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Old 14-07-2008, 06:29   #14
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Even more peculiar is the constant stream of US freighter traffic in and back from Cuba. Despite the formal embargo, a great deal of business has been formally approved and is fully sanctioned.
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Old 14-07-2008, 06:50   #15
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Sort of like the Iraq embargo, right?
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