News & Notes
it is part of the program. Five Florida cities, including St.
Augustine, Stuart, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Marathon are
participating in the pilot program.
Speaking of Marathon, a kerfuffle engulfed Boot Key
Harbor last fall when Fish and Wildlife officers, which one
cruiser described as wearing “military-style uniforms” and
using “occupation-style intimidation tactics,” embarked on
some sort of crackdown.
This included after-dark patrols during which spotlights
Cuba Liberalizes Rules
were repeatedly shined into the windows of occupied vessels
and the issuance of a flurry of citations. One anchored boater
was reportedly issued a warning for not having an anchor
light on his dinghy tied astern (the boat itself was displaying
a proper light, however).
After a flood of complaints and threats of a Marathon
boycott, Fish and Wildlife supervisors agreed to meet
with boaters in late December. The meeting went, as
these meetings usually do, with the officers admitting no
wrongdoing but promising to carry out their duties more
thoughtfully in the future.
Meanwhile top Fish and Wildlife officials say they will ask
the legislature to extend the state’s Anchoring and Mooring
Pilot Program, which is scheduled to expire in July.
on Foreign Boats
Cuba’s government recently issued Decree 314, which raised
the amount of time that a foreigner can keep a boat in Cuba
from one to five years, renewable if approved by a Cuban
marina’s staff. In other words, an American boater can keep
a vessel in Cuban waters for up to 10 years without having to
take it out of the country and come back.
The owner, meanwhile, could come and go by other
means, keeping the boat at a marina. The Cuban government
at the same time announced that the 5-percent import tax on
foreign boats, formerly levied after 365
days, had been abandoned.
Not so coincidentally this decree
comes at the same time that Cuba’s
Gaviota company is opening phase
one of its new marina at Varadero, 90
nautical miles due south of Marathon,
Florida. This information comes from
the CubaStandard.com newsletter, which
focuses on economic news from the
Phase one will accommodate 400
boats in addition to the scant 789
slips heretofore in an island that you
would have to cover nearly 1,700
miles to circumnavigate. When work
finishes, the marina will be the largest
in the Caribbean, with capacity of
about 1,250 boats, and berths for six
megayachts. The $1 billion project,
located at the tip of the Hicacos
Peninsula, will also include hotels,
condominiums and a retail center.
At the moment all this is moot, since recreational boats
from the U.S. are forbidden from going to Cuba. Even some
reputable sources such as Noonsite.com fail to understand
that Americans need more than approval for themselves if
they want to take a boat to Cuba; they must also have a U.S.
Commerce Department “export permit” for their boats as
well. As a matter of official policy, such requests have been
denied to all applicants with recreational vessels since the
administration of George W. Bush.
That has not stopped an estimated 120 American cruisers
from going to Cuba illegally each year. They often cover their
boat names and home ports while staying at Cuban marinas
to avoid being identified by agents of the U.S. Interests
Section, our embassy-that-is-not-an-embassy in Havana.
Plans for Marina Gaviota Varadero call for more than 1,200 slips. Gaviota
is a subsidiary of the Cuban military, which has partnered with foreign
companies to build a billion-dollar resort complex at the tip of the Hicacos
Peninsula, 90 miles south of Marathon, Florida, and about an hour and a
half drive east of Havana.