Marina Hemingway in Havana is the exception to much of what you have read here.
While it is true the authorities are officious and may even ask for a small “gift” of cash, you will also find all of the amenities of a first-class marina and easy access to the attractions of Old Havana.
The marina is headquarters for the Hemingway International Yacht Club, the world’s only communist yacht club. It is overseen by Commodore Jose Miguel Escrich, a retired Cuban naval officer. Escrich has political influence in Havana and friends in high places in the United States. He is one of the few Cuban higher-ups who understands the needs of foreign cruisers and sport anglers. He lobbies Havana’s decision-makers on their behalf, albeit not always successfully.
For example, on my last visit, in 2005, Escrich lamented the fact that Baracoa was not an official entry port and said he had been arguing that it be reinstated as such. Others in government, he says, wanted to establish an obscure bay east of Baracoa as port of entry for arriving vessels, but not right away. This new entry port was to be part of a resort being considered for Mata Bay. Escrich says he believed that Baracoa, the oldest European city in the Western Hemisphere, should be the place, not some ready-made tourist destination.
Larry Luxner, editor of the Cuba News monthly newsletter, says the Cuban government has plans for increasing the number of marinas from 20 to 38, with space for more than 6,400 vessels. Right now, the number of foreign vessels visiting Cuba is down significantly from the roughly 2,000 that visited the island annually before the Bush administration’s 2004 crackdown on travel there.
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This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.