What do you get when you have 59 boats, more than 200 sailors and a nearby destination that’s very new for most American cruisers?
Simply put, an incredible experience.
The first Cruising World Expedition and Rally: Cuba, sponsored by Fountaine Pajot and Harmony Yacht Vacations, kicked off in Key West, Florida on March 30, 2017, and I was part of team CW aboard the Saba 50 Quince Amor. Here’s a taste of our week in Cuba.
Crews gathered ahead of our departure date at Stock Island Village Marina, home to Harmony Yacht Vacations, which handled the mind bending logistics of this event. Due to the number of boats, there were staggered starts throughout the day on Thursday, March 30th so as to not overwhelm Cuba customs on the other end. Quince Amor’s start was at 1900, and we enjoyed one of Key West’s famous sunsets on our way to sea.
Marina Hemingway served as our home base for the week. This massive facility, about 9 miles west of Havana, was built in the 1950s and features four long canals instead of traditional docks.
Not wanting to venture all the way to Havana on our first night, we stayed within walking distance of the marina and ate dinner at a tiny local restaurant in the nearby town. This street scene was from our walk back toward "home."
Classic American cars and Russian Ladas are everywhere.
On Sunday, April 1, all rally boats participated in a boat parade into Havana Harbor. Cruising past the iconic El Morro castle into the harbor was a memorable experience for all crews.
Watching the rally boats parade into Havana Harbor was a sight to see.
A gorgeous sunset at Marina Hemingway.
Commodore Escrich of the Hemingway International Yacht Club presents Cruising World with a token of friendship during a rally party at the yacht club.
We took a day trip to beautiful Viñales valley. The mountain air was refreshing for sure after a couple days in Havana.
On our day trip to Viñales, we toured a working tobacco farm.
You never need to look far for great music in Cuba, it's everywhere — on the streets, in restaurants, bars, and homes.
A classic American "Yank Tank" cruises past the capital building. Most (maybe all) of the cars have been repowered at some point with diesel engines.