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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Key West and Havana, Cuba

Back around 1994 I's say, I was living in Miami and read a fascinating story in New Times, about a sailboat, I believe it was, that would take passengers from Key West, to Marina Hemingway, in Havana, Cuba. I found this incredible and went so far as to mail the article to a friend of mine who had a 38ft. sailboat, suggesting he do it to. My friend, Rick, thought I was daft, regretfully and never took me up on the idea. More regretful than that, was that I never pulled the trigger myself and came down to Key West to cruise, if I could, even in steerage if need be and see the forbidden isle of tobacco, sugarcane, and my all-time favorite, all things Hemingway. When I finally did move here I searched it out, but apparently it fell by the wayside/quayside somewhere in between.

I posted an old picture postcard from the Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana (This is the bar that Joe Russell named his bar after in Key West) on my facebook page and learned quite a bit more, thanks to replies by Bill Blue and underlined by Pati Crimmons, there were also Key West – Havana fishing tournaments, as well as a sailboat race. In my foggy memory of the New Times piece from the mid-nineties, I’m thinking that the sailboat race may have spawned the idea for the passenger sails. It rings a vague bell. Bill mentioned that his friend won it one year and the dolphin he caught hangs at Sloppy Joe’s bar. Both the sailboat race and the fishing tournament have since also fallen by the wayside/quayside as well.

The thing that started all of this posting was a conversation with my friend Mike Del Portillo, who lives in Texas, but was born and raised in Miami, albeit conceived in Cuba. He sent me an e-mail about an enterprise resort he wanted to start in a Free Cuba. That’s what harvested the old memories of the New Times piece. Then, by funny chance, the very next day I stumble across a piece about President Obama relaxing a couple of regulations regarding Americans traveling to Cuba. Nothing major, mind you, but a step in the right direction, in my opinion. The new rules allow students and religious groups to visit Cuba.

Well, all of this got the grey matter churning. Here we are, while it’s still bubbling away and far from a complete idea, this is what I’ve come up with thus far. The sailboat race is educational for many on board. A trip to Cuba is educational for any American on board, therefore, all classify as “Students”. In addition, if Scientology can actually get away with passing itself off as a religion in the eyes of the IRS, a government institution if there ever was one, can’t fishing do likewise? If you have any doubts, just listen to The Conch Republic’s own Mike McCloud and his song “Fishing Fool” and any argument against it will quickly be put to rest.

So, we re-instate both the fishing tournament and the sailboat race as a start. Perhaps a Hemingway tour can be added in the near future as well? After all, companies from The United States of America recently restored Ernest Hemingway’s boat, Pilar and also his home in Cojimar, just outside of Havana, Finca Vigia. Additionally, what would a Hemingway trip to Cuba be without a stop or few to La Floridita Bar? This was his favorite hangout and also where the Daiquiri was invented. The last I heard, the Sloppy Joe’s in Havana was being restored, so naturally that would be part of the educational student tour as well.
In times like these we also will require alternative methods to facilitate the modus operandi. My suggestion is that all traveling to Cuba, at this time, can only do so through the Conch Republic. In leaving from the Conch Republic, all traveling must have an official Conch Republic passport that must be stamped and logged by U.S. Immigration on both departure and return. A US passport must also be carried, however it will not be stamped by either US or Cuban immigration. All people traveling on these trips must be US Citizens.

This is where we are at the moment. Any suggestions please e-mail to:


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