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With over 1,500 miles of coastline, Cuba is the biggest Caribbean country, and the Cuban archipelago itself comprises of over 4,000 cays and islands. With the exception of bespoke superyacht charters, most Cuba yacht charters are on the extensive south coast and begin and end in Marina Cienfuegos. Within a week or two's sailing holiday you will find around 20 marinas and moorings - with plenty to explore on land and sea.
The communist Republic of Cuba has one of the least developed yacht charter industries in the Caribbean. That means you can dodge the crowds and enjoy a more authentic vacation.
You can enjoy some fabulous scuba diving and snorkelling on a Cuba yacht charter. The coral reefs are protected and you will encounter a wide array of marine life. Miles of totally untouched white sandy beaches round this off as a perfect escape from the realities of home.
In cities like Havana and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, you will get the vibe of the people in all their character and fun.
Cuba is one of the most authentic yacht charter destinations in the Caribbean. It is such a unique country for a sailing holiday, so book your Cuba boat hire with Borrow a Boat today!
On a skippered or crewed yacht charter you need no sailing qualifications for a Cuba sailing holiday. Those on a bareboat charter need to be aware of some differences to sailing elsewhere on the Caribbean Sea.
Every time you enter a port you need to report in to the port authorities. This costs you nothing but this is the law. It is a minor but necessary bit of bureaucracy that comes with the territory.
Night sailing is forbidden on a boat rental. This is due to the poorly charted coral heads inshore that can catch you out even in the daytime, when sailing during the day you need to keep an eye on the depth sounder at all times.
You can moor off a beach for lunch and enjoy the coastline. Just be aware of areas that are designated 'military zones' on the charts as you don't want to annoy the authorities. The Bay of Pigs is a classic example where you shouldn't even try to land.
Do be aware that satellite phones are illegal and you are not allowed to use your personal GPS on Cuban waters - that includes your smartphone's apps.
The Havana Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) has airlines flying in from all over the world. There are also direct flights from Florida so a connection can be made from Miami onto Havana.
From there the yacht charter company will arrange your connection to Marina Cienfuegos or another charter base should you be on a bespoke sailing holiday. It takes roughly three hours each way by shuttlebus.
Cuba's South Coast is the main sailing area for Cuba yacht charters. Generally based in Marina Cienfuegos you will then be able to explore the cays, atolls and islands as well as the beautiful coastline of the largest island. The endless sandy beaches are something you just won't find elsewhere as they are genuinely deserted and you will have all the space you want should you seek it.
The marinas along the south coast are often near attractions and while ashore you should explore inland as you get the chance, perhaps jumping in a taxi that's as old as your mother. If you have a tase for rum, Havana Club is some of the best in the Caribbean and should you enjoy abusing nicotine you can't get better than a Cuban cigar!
Though Havana has a marina, Cienfuegos is the main base for Cuba yacht charters. This is around three hours by shuttlebus from Havana. It sits on a large lagoon next to the Cienaga de Zapata National Park and from here you can explore the cays, islands and breathtaking coastlines nearby.
There are three broad types of charter - bareboat charter, flotilla charters, and skippered yacht charter. Where it comes to the types of charter boat you can hire a motor boat, a monohull sailing yacht, a catamaran, a superyacht or a luxury yachtcharter as-well as RIBs or day boats. Each have their benefits.
Coming in all shapes and sizes from 7 metres to 70+ metres, motorboats are as different as their uses. A seven metre RIB will be a great day boat and can be hired for as little as €110 a day for fishing trips or just blasting about the bay. The 15 metre plus size of motor yacht will have cabins and often en suite heads and cost upwards of €400 a day.
Starting from €10,000 a day a superyacht will come with skipper and crew as part of the package. On the crewed motor yacht or sailboat you will be served with five star service both in service as well as out on deck, with most having its own fleet of tenders and water toys, such as jet skis and even sailing yachts!
Coming with or without skipper and/or crew, a luxury charter yacht will cost upwards of €700 a day and will come fully fitted out with all the modern conveniences and comforts of the very best sailing craft afloat. Expect en suite heads and comfortable staterooms but also a lot of fun under sail!
Starting at €450 a day, catamarans are luxury yachts that offer lots of space, a fair lick of speed on a reach and a shallow draft for mooring close into shore. They have twin engines in the hulls so while large they are incredibly manoeuvrable when in marinas and so forth.
Ranging in size from 10 metres up to 20 or so, monohull sailing yachts form the backbone of the Cuba yacht charter industry. Very good to windward, you will find yourself chewing up the miles at all points of sail without relying on the engines. Costing as little as €120 a day you will enjoy comfort and fun for a good budget price.
Where it comes to a Cuba yacht charter you have two choices - bareboat or crewed yacht charter. Both have their own advantages.
No sailing qualifications or not confident enough to bareboat charter yourself? That's no problem when it comes to yacht charter - you can take on a skipper and crew for the week or two touring Cuban waters! With a crewed yacht charter you have someone aboard who knows the ropes and the best places to visit on your sailing holiday. They will know the best spots for what you want, be it hideaway restaurants or the best diving and snorkelling reefs on the islands! Costing as little as €100 a day (depending on the size and type of vessel) you will get the very best from your yacht charter holiday with one aboard. Don't forget the tip at the end of the week!
A competent sailor? Have the qualifications required? Dreaming all year of casting off and exploring the Cuban coastline and islands with just you and your friends? A bareboat yacht charter is just the thing for you. This is cheaper than a skippered yacht charter but you also get the privacy of being in your chosen group without a stranger in your midst. You get to choose your own adventure and go at your own pace - not a bad thing for a holiday to recharge your batteries.
Do be mindful of the Cuban laws and regulations around entering ports and night sailing - this is absolute and you shouldn't play havoc with the authorities.
If you want to bareboat charter you will need an approved boating qualification, below is a list of relevant qualifications:
International Certificate of Competence (ICC): Standard European Qualification for bareboat sailing
ASA 104 Bareboat certificate: The American Sailing Association's skipper standard qualification for hiring bareboatyachts.
RYA: The Royal Yachting Association's qualifications (minimum Day Skipper level) is necessary for bareboat hire, it's also worthwhile seeing do you need to have done a VHF radio course as well as some private yacht owners will require this.
There are also many other European national boating qualifications that are accepted here too, it's worthwhile checking these details before hiring.
If you want a skippered boat rental as a charter yacht then you don't need any sailing certification at all, you just turn up and off you go.
Unlike Europe, the sailing season in Cuba runs from November to May - perfect for a dose of winter sun. The NE Trades are settled and you will encounter weather between 25-35 degrees C.
Within this period, March and April after the winter northerlies have passed are cooler yet the sailing is just as fun as the rest of the year. Cuba is after all a tropical country!
For those who want to try something a little outside their comfort zone, August and September are said to be the very best sailing months of all.
There's a problem with this - many yacht charter fleets will not be in the area thanks to hurricane season that runs between July and October. If booked and a hurricane is on its way your holiday will be cancelled. There is no minimising the danger of being in the region in a hurricane - and with the general trend for ever fiercer storms, it is not an experience to even risk being around for.
North East Trade Winds: Similar to those of the Canary Islands, these are regular and can get up to F6-F7 at times, but steady and predictable. That can make for exciting sailing conditions at times.
There's almost a yacht for every budget when it comes to chartering. For US $120 a day - $840 a week - you can take a sailboat monohull out with five other adults. That is going to be cheaper than a week in a hotel for everyone.
Catamarans are slightly more expensive - you can expect to pay anything from $500 to $2,000 a day depending on the season.
Motor boats taken on a bareboat basis can cost as little as $500 a day if they have sleeping accommodation - much less if they are day boats.
RIBs can cost as little as $50 for an afternoon.
In each of the examples above you can take on a skipper starting at $150 a day depending on what the vessel is and their required qualifications to sailit.
Nestled at between the US and South America and where the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet, the Cuban archipelago is a sailing destination with a difference. It is determined to remain independent from nearby capitalist overlords and as such is refreshing and rebellious with its culture vibrant and beautiful. For those seeking a genuine sailing adventure without travelling halfway around the world to get there, a Cuba yacht charter is one of the best opportunities available. Book your sailing holiday with Borrow a Boat today!
Cuba yacht charters are legal, and an important source of foreign currency for the country. Do be aware of the local laws and regulations such as having to report in to the authorities when you make landfall.
Your budget for the sailing holiday should come first. Travelling - both getting there and what destinations to explore. What do you enjoy on a Cuba yacht charter? Work out your itinerary from there. Who are you taking with you and what are your limitations as a sailor?
The Cuban sailing season runs from November to April. Do try to get afloat outside of the school holidays.
There are two deposits to consider. Firstly you will normally have to pay a 50% deposit on booking. This secures your trip. On arrival you will have to pay a refundable security deposit for the trip on your credit card though you can get yacht charter insurance - though non-refundable this can be cheaper.
If you are at sea and in danger, call MAYDAY on VHF Ch16. If you have a mechanical fault and can make it to/are on a mooring you will be able to phone a number given by the yacht charter company.
Do you have the experience to handle the yacht charter you want to book? Where do you want to go?
All tourists must have a Cuba Tourist Card that allows one entry and one departure in 30 days. This can be extended in-country a further 30 days and you are allowed to remain a maximum of 60 days. You can only get your Cuba Tourist Card from your country's embassy.
The main points to consider are what is your budget, have you got the necessary sailing experience and qualifications to manage the boat if it's not going to have a skipper, whom you are taking sailing, where exactly you wish to go and what will the weather be like on the proposed dates of your trip.
You will typically pay 50% up front on booking the yacht hire and the balance on arrival. You will either pay a security deposit with your credit card on departure or can get insurance covering damage in advance. In some cases (such as the recent Covid situation) charter companies may be more flexible but this depends on the individual charter companies themselves.
If you are at sea and in danger, call MAYDAY on VHF Ch16 or ring the coast guard on your phone if you have reception. If you have a mechanical fault and can make it to or are on a mooring you will be able to phone a help line number given by the boat charter company.
You should consider do you have the experience to handle the yacht charter or boat rental before you book and where do you want to go along with what the weather will be like. Bring warm weather and cool weather clothing if it looks like the weather can be cool as well as warm and remember at sea it can be cool on most evenings.
If you want to sail without a captain then you will need relevant qualifications like RYA Day Skipper/International Certificate of Competence (ICC)/ASA 104 Bareboat certificate or the US Sailing Certificate. For small 'day boats' or if you choose to have a skippered on board your yacht charter you typically don't require licences.
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