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.

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




Sail to Cuba for New Years Eve, 2016

It’s Cuba.  What more can we say?  YOU NEED TO GO!  This was Libra’s third trip to Cuba and she sailed this time with a full, excited crew eager to embrace the Cuban culture, food (and, let’s not kid ourselves, primarily the rum and cigars!).  Libra left Pensacola, FL on the morning of Dec. 27th and pointed south across the Gulf of Mexico on a straight shot for Cuba.  Unfortunately, the winds were light in the first days of the voyage and Libra motor sailed initially while the crew got acquainted with the boat, her navigation systems and electronics and the galley, cooking up some hearty passages underway.  It was a good thing the first days were light and easy, though, because the crew was well-rested for some wicked north winds that kicked in during the last leg of the passage, building from 20 to 25 kts, with gusts of 30 kts right on the stern, forcing Libra to charge through the entrance to Marina Hemingway in 28 knot winds and 10-12 foot seas.  “It was one of the most difficult landfalls I’ve ever had to make,” Captain Ryan said.

Thankfully, it was one of his most successful too as Libra made her way safely in and the crew soaked up a few eye-opening days in Cuba, including New Years Eve in Havana before making their way on another incredibly-windy romp from Cuba to Key West in just 10 hours January 1, 2017.  Happy New Year crew!