As more yacht captains research possible trips to Cuba, Bluewater Books & Charts has provided the only charts it can — those created by a private German company using its own survey data, or those acquired from Cuba’s hydrographic office, many of which were produced 20 or 30 years ago.
The Ft. Lauderdale-based superyacht chart service has made up for the out-dated government charts with as many land-based maps, travel books and cruising guides it can, but at the end of the day, the real, government charts are just old.
So Bluewater owners Vivien Godfrey and John Mann are making a three-day research trip to the island nation in early September to meet with officials in the Cuban hydrographic office as well as several marinas to see if there isn’t more current information available.
“We want to find out have they done any surveys, what’s available, has anything been updated?” Godfrey said. “Do they have tide tables, coast pilots, light lists?
“We particularly want to know about snorkeling and visiting reefs on the south coast of Cuba where it can be quite shallow,” she said. “The Cubans have concerns as more yachts visit about anchoring, so we want to know what are the regulations and restrictions for entering those areas? Will they require permits?”
Godfrey acknowledges that they aren’t sure what they will find. The jackpot, of course, would be current, government-produced charts and data, as well as an assortment of locally produced cruising guides. But she’ll take whatever she can get.
“The regulations don’t say you must have the best chart, just that you have to have one appropriate for your voyage,” Godfrey said. “Having something older is better than having nothing at all, but we want the updated stuff. … I think they have it, it’s just not out there yet.”
The only Cuban-produced charts Bluewater sells were acquired in the mid 1990s, and even though they were stocked for years after that, they haven’t been updated. About eight or nine years ago, even those charts were no longer available, Mann said.
The U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana on Aug. 14, and while the official U.S. embargo hasn’t ended, January’s easing of travel restrictions has made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba without special licenses.
Godfrey said it took about two months for the U.S. Treasury Department to confirm that their visit fit in the guidelines of research. The in-person visit is necessary, she said.
“We can’t meet the breadth of people with the knowledge we need over the phone,” Godfrey said. “This is a preliminary trip to get the lay of the land and make personal connections that we hope will open some doors.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.