Navigating the Entrance to Marina Hemingway

While it is not a particularly difficult entrance to make, there are some challenges. Libra has successfully made the entrance to Marina Hemingway multiple times, once in heavy winds and big seas as you will see in the video below.  As so many cruisers are setting their sights on Cuba and getting ready to cross the Gulf Stream and make the entrance themselves, we wanted to share some tips and insight about navigating the channel inlet to Marina Hemingway for those of you planning your own voyage to Cuba or who will be sailing there with Libra in the second annual Pensacola a la Habana Race.

Marina Hemingway is nine miles west of Havana.  Do not attempt to enter Havana Harbour as small vessels cannot clear into Cuba through Havana.  Marina Hemingway is west of Barlovento Harbour at the mouth of the river Jaimanitas and east of the low-roofed houses of Santa Fe. First, spot the large bell-shaped red and white Barlovento marker noting the channel.  Round the outer red and white marker and then follow the channel into the marina.

There are three subsequent markers—red to starboard and green to port—marking the narrow entrance through the reefs.  Know that these markers have been placed on the reefs themselves, not inside of them, so vessels need to really shoot dead center between the markers rather than hugging one side versus the other.  In strong north winds, the conditions and waves can really push your boat quickly through the channel so be diligent and steadfast in holding a steady course in between the markers.  After you navigate the inlet, channel markers will guide you to make a left turn toward the customs dock, a bright turquoise concrete sea wall on your port side.  Vessels must stop and dock at the customs dock first to clear in before navigating further into one of the three canals in Marina Hemingway.

The customs process is fairly easy and requires only passports and vessel registration along with a simple inspection of the vessel and crew by the customs officer and doctor before you will be cleared through and sent to your assigned slip in one of the three canals of Marina Hemingway.  The bathroom facilities, shower and laundry are located at the west end of Canals 1 and 2 and Hotel Aquaria, along with dining and pool facilities, is located on the south side of Canal 2.

Once you are docked in your assigned slip, you will be greeted by more marina staff, including the port captain, to help get you connected to shore power and orient you with the facilities.  Electricity is provided via standard US turrets with 30 amp or 50 amp connectors.  While the marina does provide water, many cruisers do not consider it potable and use it merely for washing and cleaning but do not fill their tanks with it.  Membership at Marina Hemginway is not required for access to the marina.  For Libra and her crew, the staff at Marina Hemginway have always been courteous, polite and helpful.  They seem genuinely eager and excited to welcome you to their country, help orient you to the facilities and answer any questions you may have.  If there is anything you would like to know about Marina Hemingway and navigating the entrance on the north shore of Cuba to Santa Fe, please let us know.  We’re happy to share!  We also hope some of you will join a sail on Libra to Cuba soon.

Voyage: Key West to Pensacola, February 2017

Fort Jefferson, what a beautiful place!  Many thanks to our National Park Rangers who help to maintain and preserve the pristine beauty and history of this national monument.  Libra took an adventurous crew of six out of Key West to the Dry Tortugas to spend a warm sunny day walking around Fort Jefferson before shoving off to make the remaining 400 miles north to Pensacola.  With big winds, strangely from the south that time of year, Libra made some great speeds in the southern part of the Gulf, rocketing along at 10+ knots.  The wind died off the last two days of the voyage and the crew spent some very serene, beautiful evenings on the deck of Libra watching the sun dip down below the horizon.  Many of the crew members said their biggest takeaway from this voyage was time spent with Captains Ryan and Randy learning sail tactics, navigation and just, in general, a passion for offshore voyaging.  Ryan and Randy look forward to sharing the same experience with you:

Voyage: All Women’s Sail Miami to Key West, February 2017

Captain Ryan was probably a little nervous about making this trip.  All women.  Overnight.  Many first-time sailors.  *gulp*  But you know what?  These salty gals were actually some of the heartiest, most engaged and active passengers we have had aboard Libra.  They were all curious about the electronics, navigation, maneuvering ships at night and each gal held a hand-steering shift during the short one-night voyage.  The trip was definitely a success and a great way to introduce women to overnight sailing.  It was also good for many of the women to break from their partners and truly get a feel for sailing and holding the helm of a sailboat on their own.  With Annie Dike from HaveWindWillTravel leading the voyage, the intent was there was no stupid question, only questions not asked.  Let the learning begin!  Libra will probably put together a few more “all womens” sails in the 2017 season.  Be on the lookout!

Voyage: Pensacola to the Miami Boat Show, February 2017

Aerial silks underway!  This was our first time attempting this stunt on Libra and we actually caught it via drone footage. What a sight!  Annie with made the voyage with us and was brave enough (or crazy enough!) to climb the silks during our last day on the water while it was calm and glassy out.  That was not the case when Libra left Pensacola.  Strong south winds pushed Libra far to the west, to the point that the crew began spotting many of the oil rigs around Louisiana and Texas during the second day of the voyage.  It was a sporty ride the first two days and several crew members sadly were getting a little green around the gills.  (Seasickness is definitely something that happens on Libra but it is good to learn what your motion tolerance is and what medications help you prevent it.)  The last three days of the voyage offered calmer winds and a chance to hop off the boat and get a refreshing swim in in the Atlantic Ocean!  The crew also enjoyed amazing meals cooked most nights by Phillip from HaveWindWillTravel who loves to play head chef on the boat!  Fresh black fin tuna and Mahi Mahi caught underway made for some exceptional meals on passage.

Voyage: Pensacola to Havana for New Years Eve 2016!

Whew!  What a trip!  As Captain Ryan would say: “We left.  The wind blew.  We got there,” there’s WAY more to it.  This was Libra’s inaugural trip to Cuba in the 2016 season and what a ride.  Unfortunately, the winds were light in the northern part of the Gulf and the crew had to motor the first couple of days.  But, Mother Nature, must have heard their pleas for wind because it really turned on when Libra got down near Tampa, blowing 20-25+ for the remainder of the trip.  While wind is great for making long, fast runs across the Gulf, unfortunately, the one thing it is not good for is making a tight, narrow entrance to Marina Hemingway.  Captain Ryan spent the last 24 hours of the passage readying himself to make this harrowing entrance in 30 knot winds and 10-12 foot seas.  But, this is the type of invaluable offshore training you will get on a sail on Libra.  Join us to Cuba next time in 2017!

Once in Cuba, the crew enjoyed a private tour of historic Havana and got to explore the colorful, dirty streets of the city on foot and dine at many of the authentic local restaurants.  Classic cars are abundant in Cuba and a ride along the majestic Melacon in a classic Corvette many said was the highlight of the trip.  Cuba offers a wide array of culture, history, tragedy and memories and is definitely an unforgettable place to visit.

Libra’s Busting out the Silks at the Miami Boat Show!

That’s right.  We’re going to make sure we put on the BEST show at the boat show.  Libra will be hoisting aerial silks at the Miami Boat Show and we’ve found two fun acrobatic sailors to perform.  What more reason do you need now to come and check out Libra at the show?  Hope to see you there!  We are also giving out one free ticket to the Boat Show every day this week on Libra’s Facebook page.  Meet our first two winners here!  Or you can join us on the sail from Pensacola to Miami with a $250 discount, promo code MIAMIWEEK.

Meet our silky superstars: Hanna

And Annie

We can’t wait for you to see these fiery two perform in Miami.











Our Miami Boat Show Ticket Winners

It’s MiamiWeek on Facebook and SailLibra is handing out one free ticket to the Miami Boat Show every day to a lucky Libra follower.  We hope to see some of these guys and gals on Libra at the Miami Boat Show in February and we would love to see your smiling mug among them.  Jump on Facebook, check out this week’s fun Miami posts and share to be eligible to win!  If you would like to sail to the Boat Show with us, click JOIN THE SAIL above and sign up with promo code MIAMIWEEK for a $250 discount.

Winner No. 1: Glen J. Stettler

Winner No. 2: Devlin Wilson

Winner No. 3:  Mary Wright

Winner No. 4:  Jeffrey Wettig

Voyage: Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Pensacola, December 2016

BIG FISH ON!  This was definitely Libra’s most exciting voyage for fishermen as we had Big Dave aboard who runs a deep-sea fishing charter out of Orange Beach, Alabama and has a killer instinct on how to hook the big ones and keep them on the line.  The Libra crew caught blackfin tuna, mahi mahi, mackeral and another tuna.  One was so big we had to cut him off the line.  Big Dave guessed around 100 pounds!  What a monster!

It was a very sporty sail across the Gulf departing the colorful Mexican island of Isla Mujeres December 5, 2016 in the morning hours and lighting Libra’s rockets the minute she got out into the Gulf to make a record run across the Gulf, sailing over 600 nautical miles in under three days.  The crew aboard included some return voyagers who found the the trip down from Pensacola to Isla Mujeres on Libra to be so much fun they wanted to hitch a ride back across the Gulf, too.  Thanks to crew members Joe and Kim for hopping back aboard.  It was a fast, windy run, one none of the crew are sure to soon forget.  In the back of their minds, they’ll hear the wind, waves and Big Dave shouting “Fish On!”  Want to reel Libra’s next catch in?  Join us at

Voyage: Key West to (the Dry Tortugas) to Pensacola January 2017

Check out Libra!  Docked at her very own remote tropical island:

What an incredible trip this was.  Each time Libra makes a runs from Key West back to Pensacola, we always try to include a stop in the Dry Tortugas, weather permitting, as it is such a pristine, captivating place to explore.  The historic ruins of Fort Jefferson, jewel-toned green waters, excellent snorkeling and diving, not to mention (on this trip) a stop at Libra’s own private island.  Captain Ryan bravely nudged Libra up to this dock with just inches to spare under the hull.

The sail from Key West, departing the afternoon of January 4th on an approximate 24-hour run, was calm and required some motor sailing, and the time was spent acclimating the crew to the navigational equipment aboard the boat and the many systems and sail plans as well as enjoying the sunset and a night under crisp stars.  Libra docked at Fort Jefferson right at sunrise the following morning and allowed the crew most of the morning free time to explore and learn about the interesting designs and uses of the fort over its lifetime and snorkel around the vastly-populated reefs and pilings along the fort’s shore before sailing over to Loggerhead Key for more snorkeling around “Little Africa” reef on the back side of the island.

Libra tossed the lines around sunset and continued her way approximately 200 nm north to Clearwater to pull out of the Gulf while a cold front set to bring north winds of 25-30 mph rolled through the Gulf.  This was when Captain Ryan captured the stunning drone footage of Libra that so many have commented on on our social media pages!

The last 300 nautical miles of the trip, from Clearwater to Pensacola Pass, on the back side of the front in the Gulf, offered some very sport sailing conditions and excellent upwind offshore sail training for the crew.  Libra galloped along at an average speed of 8.1, completing the passage in a record 37 hours.  It was a wet, windy, memorable ride!  Here are some more photos from the sail.  Join us next time at

NIMA Pilot Charts

What is NIMA?

National Imagery and Mapping Agency.  This the agency that collects data and creates pilot charts.  Pilot charts are a collection of historic data over time based on months and seasons.  They give the prevailing winds, strengths,  wave heights and much more info.  Year to year pilot charts do not change (much). View the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico pilot charts below.

Pilot Charts

Every ocean sailors friend…  Here are the charts for the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean