Visiting Cuba. What will Uncle Sam say?

It’s been about two weeks, I think,  since I began the process of applying for a license to visit Cuba with Brenda aboard Pandora.  As you may recall, visiting under one or more of the “12 rules” is fairly simple now provided that you don’t plan to stay for more than two weeks.  Most Americans visiting these days do so as part of a tour and the operator takes care of all of the work so you can just board the charter plane and head down.  Simple, right? It is actually, unless you want to go by private boat and stay longer than two weeks.  In that case, not simple at all.

As word has gotten around about Brenda’s and my plan to visit Cuba for a month or two, the most common reaction is “wow, that sounds terrific”.   However, some have then gone on to question us on exactly what our plans are and if we are going to hire a “guide” to show us around.  When we say, “no, we are just going to visit and make our way around by ourselves” they tend to get a look on their faces that speaks “Really? Better you than me”.  And, when they learn that we don’t speak Spanish, well, it’s more like “REALLY? You’re nuts!”  I do take some consulation knowing that some of these folks are the same ones that say “do you sleep on your boat every night, all winter?”.

I guess we will have to see if “WOW, THAT’s SO COOL” carries the day or if it turns out to be, well, not so cool in the end.  This plan isn’t completely without precedent, as we visited Portugal for a month last year (y plane) and that went fine even though we didn’t speak the language and only had the first few days of travel and hotel planned out prior to leaving the US.  Brenda handled all the bookings, on the fly, and it went swimmingly.  You go girl!

Those that know Brenda are aware that she doesn’t exactly bill herself as an “adventure traveler”.    I’d say that she is just that and more when compared to many of the folks we know who favor tours for their international travel. Somehow, driving from place to place on a “hermetically sealed bus” with a bunch of other Americans, leaves us a bit cool.  Perhaps it’s just because we are too cheap for all of that.  For sure, that’s a big part of it as by our way of thinking, we can travel for a month or two, or more, aboard Pandora for what a week to ten days of “real travel” would cost.  However, as Brenda has reminded me from time to time, that doesn’t count the cost of Pandora.  Point taken Brenda but we won’t dwell on that right now.

However, before we get all lubed (my word, not Brenda’s) up about going to Cuba, we have to get State Department approval.  No make that approval from State and the Commerce department.  I am told that it’s going to take another month to find out how our application has been viewed.    I did reference our blogs in my application, along with other writing and speaking that we do, and it’s hard to know if posts like this will help or hinder our request. Does Uncle Sam have a sense of humor.  Not sure…

Another issue that we will have to face relates to where you must depart from to go to Cuba.  We may be required to begin and end our visit from US soil without an interim stop in another foreign country.  And, as we would like to first travel to the Bahamas and then on to the southern coast of Cuba and back to the US, that may prove to be a problem for us.

We do plan on spending time in the Bahamas prior to heading to Cuba so if we are told that we have to head back to the US prior to going to Havana, that’s going to pose a logistical problem for us as it will entail a lot of backtracking.

I am hopeful that the folks that are reviewing our application understand that our desire to visit Cuba includes the “real Cuba” which means visiting some of the more rural areas.  Including the southern coast is a must for us and going there from Havana, against the strong easterly trade winds just isn’t practical.   I’d love to write about the things that we encounter along the coast and contrast that to what the more cosmopolitan Havana has to offer.

And speaking of “real Cuba”, I ran into this video by a couple that produce the “Naked” series of travel videos.  Yes, I will admit that the title did attract my attention.  However, more to the point, they travel the world on a tight budget and tell their story.   And, the story they tell about Cuba is a compelling one indeed. I guess that we will just have to wait and see what “State” and “Commerce” decide to do about all of this.

However, I do so hope that they give us the “go ahead” to do the trip and will let us do so in the the way we have planned.  Besides, I “sort of” have approval from Brenda to do the 350nm run from the Bahamas to the south coast with me. Amazing.

Anyway, I guess all of this will become clear when Uncle Sam gives us the word.  I sure hope that it’s a simple “sure, go for it”.  Then, we will see what Brenda really thinks.

Fingers crossed.

6 responses to “Visiting Cuba. What will Uncle Sam say?

  1. George Hallenbeck

    Bob
    Having just completed an overnight journey by train in the US, I
    look forward to hearing about your chapter 2.
    George

  2. Latest news I have read from US Treasury and State deptartments, as of a November 25 update, is that travel to/from Cuba via 3rd country, such as Bahamas, is now permitted.

  3. Bob,
    If you go to Cuba, these charts might help
    Tom
    ——————————
    http://www.oceannavigator.com/Web-Exclusives-2015/NV-releases-handy-Cuba-chart-books/

  4. Bob,

    If you have not already seen it, the December issue of Sail Magazine has an article on visiting Cuba entitled “Looping the Loop” (page 34). In addition to the current requirement (as you noted) that you must depart from the U.S. and return directly to the U.S. when visiting Cuba, there may also be the additional requirement that “a general license only allows citizens to take their boats for up to 14 days, after which they must return (to the U.S.).” However, with your direct communications with State and Commerce, you may have already worked through this matter.

    Best,

    Larry

    • Larry: Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, the issue we face is that we want to spend more time than the 14 days. That’s exactly what all the fuss is about in my working with the two departments. Your tax dollars at work.

      Bob

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *