On September 15, we will have a better idea of what to make of President Trump’s recent pronouncements on Cuba. On that date, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Homeland Security will get their acts together and articulate President Trump’s policy. Until then, the yacht world is free to continue its love affair with Cuba. Yachts have and will continue to travel to Cuba in unprecedented numbers, and odds are good that after September 15, things won’t change.
At present, visits to Cuba by yacht are permitted so long as the yacht and those on board are permitted to enter Cuban waters and, for U.S.-flagged yachts and citizens, the activities engaged in while there are within one of the exceptions to the embargo. The embargo, first imposed by the United States on the sale of arms to Cuba on March 14, 1958, remains in effect. In time, the U.S. expanded the embargo to include just about everything except food and medicine in a reaction to Castro’s nationalization of American-owned oil refineries.
You can no longer travel to Cuba under the so-called People to People program. Those trips are precisely the kind of travel President Trump seeks to roll back, and it’s anticipated that in the next phase, to be announced September 15, these kinds of trips will be completely eliminated. In fact, People to People travel is already a dead duck because President Trump has declared that all business interactions with the Cuban government are, per se, illegal. Since it is virtually impossible to travel to Cuba without interacting with the Cuban government (because every business is run by the Cuban government), People to People travel already has effectively been eliminated.
The exception most relevant to the yacht world is travel for environmental purposes. It is possible to enjoy Cuba while doing good. It you do it right, you can be in Cuban waters for up to 14 days without much difficulty. It’s not that difficult to acquire a permit on the U.S. side and to comply with U.S. law while in Cuba. You simply need to engage in a full schedule of activities designed to protect and preserve the marine environment and ecology of Cuba. You must do this under the auspices of a legitimate 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental charity.
Moore & Company, a Miami maritime, art, and aviation law firm, has facilitated over 200 yacht trips to Cuba through the International SeaKeepers Society, an environmental charity compliant with U.S. law. While there, one way yachts can engage guests with Cuba’s marine environment is with the iNaturalist app, which acts as a mobile field notebook to keep track of animals and plants through pictures and sharing them online. The app is free for Android and Apple products and available in multiple languages. www.inaturalist.org; www.seakeepers.org; www.moore-and-co.com
This piece originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Dockwalk.