This new Port of Entry is on the western tip of Cuba. It lies on the north coast, just around from Cabo San Antonio. It was previously known as Club Náutico en Cabo San Antonio.
Position: 21° 54’07″N, 84° 54’30″W.
This not a protected marina.
Docking consists of one long dock previously used for fishing and commercial boats. There is no breakwater and in any sort of weather, it is not safe to stay here.
It is possible to anchor in the bay close by, but it is reported that the holding is poor.
The marina here is remote and there are no real facilities other than a bar and restaurant. Fuel is available.
Los Morros is the location of Cuba’s smallest marina and the only PoE in western Cuba
Located at Cuba’s western tip, Los Morros is situated on the north shore just around from Cabo San Antonio. This is not a conventional marina. Dockage consists of a long, concrete pier previously used by fishing and commercial boats. Today, yachts can lie alongside but only when rafted together can six to eight boats be accommodated. The approach is buoyed and 2.4 m can be carried to the dock. Unfortunately this pier is completely exposed to the north and is not protected by a breakwater. As a result, it is untenable during the passage of a cold front. When prevailing easterlies blow more than 18 to 20 knots the eastern side becomes untenable. If you cannot find space on the west side then I suggest anchoring in the lee of Cayos de la Leña. During a cold front it is essential that all boats move from the marina to this anchorage.
Facilities ashore include a restaurant/bar with extremely helpful and friendly staff who speak English. The only road leading to the marina is a dirt track that runs through the Guanahacabibes Natural Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 3 km from the marina on this road you will arrive at Las Tumbas, a small hotel/beach complex. The beach is nice but steep indicating possible undertows? Within the reserve don’t be surprised to find, among other things, boa constrictors, crocodiles and domestic cattle gone wild. Birders may be interested to know that roughly one nautical mile east of the pier there is a small cayo which is the nesting habitat for local frigate birds.
In prevailing settled weather, Los Morros can be a pleasant stop and a good jumping off point for rounding Cabo San Antonio for the south coast or for hoping across the strait to the Yucatan Peninsula. Those arriving from Mexico will find it a convenient place to clear into Cuba.
CUBA’S BOAT YARDS AND FACILITIES
As more boaters cruise Cuban waters, will there be opportunities to have work done at Cuban boat yards?
Cuba has a long history of boat building and their workmanship is generally considered good. Although there is some new construction, the bulk of the work being done is repair work and most of these jobs are for the island’s fishing and tour boat industries. The materials used are; steel, fiberglass and wood. Cuba has no recent history of “yacht” work. At most boatyards hauling is done on marine railways or with large cranes. While the machinery is old, the yards are typically well equipped. Cuban shipyard workers have been trained by European companies in welding aluminum and spray-coating epoxy paints such as Interlux.
By and large, the majority of yachts visiting Cuba from northern latitudes will cruise west about the island—Varadero to Cienfuegos so let us examine the yards in these locations. The yard most familiar to yachtsmen who have been to Cuba is the one located at Marina Hemingway. Situated between canal 3 and 4, this yard was never intended as a real working boatyard. Boats are lifted with a construction crane that is brought in specifically for each job. The lifting capacity is limited to about 13.5 m (45 feet) or 25 tons. As traffic increases at Marina Hemingway this yard will no doubt cease to operate, as dock space will become too valuable.
The boatyard in Havana that has the most potential is Astigal. It is located across the harbour in Casablanca near the base of fortress El Morro. It has three marine railways with a side rail giving the ability to have six vessels hauled at one time. Its capacity is 24 m (80 feet) or 150 tons. This yard is well equipped for all types of work including mechanical, electrical and woodworking. There is also a bronze foundry on site.
The other yard of interest is Chullima located just past the swing bridge on the Almendares River in the Havana suburb of Vedado. This yard specializes in fiberglass and has built new vessels for the tour and fishing boat industries. I believe it has the potential to become a major yacht facility due to its central location between Old Havana and Marina Hemingway.
There is a large shipyard with some yacht capabilities in the harbour of Mariel, the next major harbour west of Havana. This facility recently completed two sailing ship conversions. This yard, however, has one major downside. Due to its close proximity to a power-generating station and large cement plant the air is polluted with tremendous amounts of dust.
There is a yard on the south coast at Nueva Gerona on Isla Juventude. It was built in the 1960’s and its sole purpose was to maintain a hydrofoil fleet. This unique Russian-built fleet of ferries serviced the island with daily runs to Batabano on the mainland. Unfortunately for those coming to Cuba for a glimpse into the past, these strange looking vessels are no longer in service. On site there is a large building whose purpose was to house a fleet of fiberglass yachts that were to be constructed for a charter company. These boats were never built but the building still stands. The yard is well equipped for any kind of work. Hauling is done with a large fixed crane.
The Esmar yard is located in Batabano and they can haul boats to 30 m (100 feet) or 100 tons. Esmar is quite active and well equipped as it maintains a large fishing fleet and they have worked on a few yachts. The largest and most active port on the south coast is Cienfuegos. Within this large pocket bay there are two yards servicing the fishing boats, tug boats and periodically they work on the local sail charter fleet. Hauling is done by railway or crane and occasionally there is a yacht or two having work done.
At the east end of the Hicacos Peninsula in resort town of Varadero there is now a fine boatyard with a modern travel-lift. This facility located is in the new Gaviota Marina complex. It has a large work and storage area. The lift, imported from Italy, is now in operation and can haul yachts to 30 m (100 feet) or 100 tons.
In addition to the major yards there are a few smaller ports that build and repair local fishing boats. These facilities could do yacht work if the demand warranted it. Two of the most likely yards on the north coast are in La Esperanza and Los Arroyos. Both are small isolated ports but maintain a fairly large fishing fleet. I estimate they have the capacity to haul approximately 50 tons. Workers here are experienced in wood, steel, fiberglass and ferro-cement.
I have been involved in a few projects in Cuba during the past ten years. The owners were satisfied with the price and the quality of the workmanship. The work pace, however, was slow and getting materials is always a problem. Should these conditions change Cuba would be the ideal place for yacht work. With dozens of well-sheltered bays the possibility exists for many yacht facilities to be established. In time, given a changed economical climate, Cuba can easily become the largest yachting center in the Caribbean.
Boaters will arrive on the shores of Cuba from many different regions. The most common sailing routes are those between Cuba and: Florida, Mexico, and the Bahamas. Europeans are most like to arrive from the Eastern Caribbean.
Cuba has only seven ports of entry (PoE) and your landfall must be at one of these designated ports. To arrive in any other location—regardless of your circumstances—will result in being turned away and with the likely-hood that you will not be granted entry into Cuba when you do finally reach a designated port of entry. This may sound harsh but Cuba has a set of rules and procedures for foreign boats entering the country and these rules are strictly adhered to.
The first thing you must do when you are roughly 12 nm from the PoE is to make contact via VHF. Often 12 nm is too far away as most officials are using only a hand-held radio – contact will likely not occur until 3 nm from the coast. In most ports the harbour master will respond in English but often with a heavy accent. In all the years we have been entering Cuba we have not needed any advanced knowledge of the Spanish language. Once you have made contact, the harbour master will give you all the pertinent information for entering their port—buoyage, depth, courses, where to tie etc. After your vessel is secured the officials will come aboard. Everyone on your vessel must have a valid passport.
The entry process is relatively quick and easy. Expect it to take up to 2 hours. American’s with firearms can expect the clearance procedure to be much longer. Cuban officials will be friendly and happy to welcome you to their island. The number of officials and inspectors that will come aboard will vary from port to port and the procedure will vary slightly too. For example at Puerto Vita the Doctor will actually take everyone’s temperature, this does not happen in Varadero or Havana. For your check-in expect anywhere from two people to a dozen people including drug sniffing dogs in the larger ports. It is recommended that a member of the crew accompany any official who searches your boat.
In 2015, the entry fee was $55CUC and this is paid to the marina at your port of entry. The break down is: $20CUC for customs entry, $20CUC exit fee and $15CUC cruising permit. Once clearance of the vessel has been granted tourist visas will be issued for each member of the crew.
NOTE: Some officials will ask for a “tip or donation”. You are not in away way obliged to tip them and in many ports a handout is frowned upon by the ranking official. Tipping should never be more than 1-5 dollars.
Cruising within Cuba
If you will be doing any coastal cruising then you must have a cruising permit. The fee for the permit (despacho) was paid as part of your entrance fee.
Arriving at an out port where there is a Guarda Frontera post you will need to present the despacho for the official signature with a time/date entry. This is a quick procedure and no vessel search is required by the official. If, however, they insist upon a vessel search, then a crew member should accompany the person doing the search.