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: 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.