At 5:00 p.m. today, a fleet of sailboats are scheduled to start racing from Key West to Varadero’s Gaviota Marina, and from Varadero to Havana’s Marina Hemingway. The Conch Republic Cup race is being held legally for the first time in its existence. As the organizers themselves say, “This will not be the first time the CRC has raced to Cuba but it will be the first time with government approval.” That is so Key West. Along with the racers will go at least two copies of Cuba Bound, Waterway Guide’s newest guidebook, to assist the racers on their journey.
Unfortunately, we are unable to update you this week on any possible changes to dockage rates at Marina Hemingway. The marina wifi has been out all week, so we have had no contact from cruisers who are docked there. This sort of outage is not uncommon in Cuba, but reliability has been getting better in recent years.
I am often asked what funds to bring to Cuba – US, Canadian or Euros – and there is a lot of misunderstanding and plain wrong advice given out. We discuss the money issue in Cuba Bound but not in this much detail, since the exchange rates change frequently. Consider the following information as valid in the current conditions.
At the present time, $100 US gets you 87 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), based on 10% penalty plus 3% service charge. That same $100 US gets you $141 CAD (Canadian). All good so far.
In Cuba, $100 CAD is exchanged at that same rate as the US dollar. $141 CAD thus gets you 94.47 CUC, which includes the 3% Cuban service charge. Note, this calculation also doesn’t include any service charges for US to CAD exchanges. In other words, you’re most likely to get about $91 US for your trouble and time. I’m not sure it’s worth the small profit to exchange your US Dollars for Canadian funds, especially if you’re already in the U.S. – it’s probably not worth the cost of gas to get to the bank.
If you have certain contacts in Cuba, you might get 95 to 96 CUC for $100 US – but this would be on the black market and therefore illegal.
Some last minute news: There is a recent indication that Americans are not being asked, at least at the airports, to pay for health insurance in Cuba. We’ll be following up on this and report back once we have any further information. In the meantime, presume that the procedures outlined in Cuba Bound regarding health insurance are the standard procedures for cruisers.
Wally Moran, Waterway Guide Cruising Editor
January 28, 2016