One of the Caribbean’s most enchanting sailing areas, Cuba has it all— serene waters, spectacular scenery, gorgeous weather and historic charm. The first known sailor to drop anchor off this green-and-blue isle was Christopher Columbus, and seafarers have been setting their sights on the archipelago ever since. Ernest Hemingway spent three decades tooting around the Cuban keys in his fishing boat, the Pilar, later immortalizing the area in his novels, The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream. And Fidel Castro sailed the Cuban seas in his cabin cruiser, the Granma.
The largest land mass in the Greater Antilles, Cuba is strategically located at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, some 180 km south of Florida, 140 km west of the Bahamas, and 210 km east of Cancun. While it is directly in the path of the Gulf Stream, the current is not strong—averaging less than half a knot, and sometimes reaching a maximum of three knots.
Cuba’s 5,746 km coastline is marked by 200 sheltered bays, more than 4,000 keys and islets and 588 km of sun-soaked beach. Most shores are covered with mangroves and cut by rivers, creeks, marshes and lagoons. Parts of the coast are rocky and steep. Both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts are sheltered by coral reefs, one of which is part of the world’s second-largest reef originating in South America. The water here is crystal-clear, with visibility of 30 to 40 metres, and the surface water temperature averages between 24°C and 29°C.
On the north coast, ENE winds prevail, while in the south ESE and SE winds predominate. Average wind speed varies between 8 and 12 knots. Hurricane season is June to November, with September and October being the highest-risk months. While Cuba’s average air temperature is 25.5°C, the island has about 20 cold fronts a year. These last for two or three days and come with high swells and dramatic temperature drops. Nevertheless, Cuba averages 330 days of sunshine a year.
Cuba welcomes sailors from around the world, on private boats, chartered vessels and cruise ships. Cruise-ship facilities are available in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, although vessels also dock at the Isle of Youth, in Nuevitas Bay and on the northern coast of Holguín province.
Ports of entry provide customs clearing as well as dockage, electricity, water, provisions, fuel and minor repairs. Authorized ports of entry for non-Cuban vessels are:
- Marina Hemingway
- Marina Puerto Sol Darsena de Varadero
- Marina Gaviota Varadero
- Ciego de Avila (the “Cuban keys”):
- Marina Gaviota Varadero
- Base Nautica Gaviota de Naranjo
- Base Nautica Marlin Boca de Sama
- Santiago de Cuba:
- Marina Marlin Punta Gorda
- Marina Puertosol Jagua
- Los Canarreos:
- Marina Puertosol, Cayo Largo
- Pinar del Río:
- Maria La Gorda Centro Internacional de Buceo Puertosol