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Cruising Guides to Cuba - A Comparison

By Ulrich Holland — last modified Jun 11, 2014 11:03 AM

Published: 2014-05-25 23:00:00
Topics: Books,Charts and DVDs
Countries: Cuba

Cruising Guides to Cuba - A Comparison

Inside Passage Cayo Avalos to Cayo Rosario: one of the numerous coral patches: © Ulrich Holland

SV TATA - 41' Catana 401 - 4.3' draft - April 2014
CRUISING GUIDES TO CUBA – A COMPARISON

I have been sailing on the south coast of Cuba since 1987 [1- 2 month almost every year until now].

Two new cruising guides to Cuba have been published in 2013. This is a comparison of these 2 guides and 2 older guides. My comparison applies only to the south coast of Cuba and the general information in the guides.

1. The cruising guide to Cuba by Simon Charles (1997)
This guide gives a good description about how Cuba ticks, but some of the navigational advice is questionable. E.g., he enters the Laguna de Cortes against the setting sun…

2. CUBA: a cruising guide by Nigel Calder (1999)
This is a really comprehensive guide with very detailed chartlets and lots of soundings, not covered by Cuban charts. Therefore, this is still the “gold standard” in terms of navigation. BUT it’s 15 years old and hurricanes have moved sand banks and e.g. a new, deeper channel to Marina Cayo Largo now exists.

3. A Cruising Guide to CUBA by Amaia Agirre and Frank Virgintino (2013)
It’s FREE on the internet www.freecruisingguides.com . It’s NOT a comprehensive guide, but is a very detailed description of a passage around Cuba with hundreds of waypoints and hundreds of pictures – like “FOLLOW ME” without much choice of alternative routes and islands. One has to follow the waypoints without much information about bearings and landmarks. The snapshots are informative and give a good idea about the different places. The Satellite views with drawn in courses/marks are sometimes very helpful.

4. Cruising Guide to Cuba [Volume 1: Varadero to Trinidad ] by Capt. Cheryl Barr (2013)
This is THE most current, complete guide once the volume 2 will be published (planned winter 2014/15). Mostly it’s researched well and contents quite a bit of new information. The general information is good. There are some minor inaccuracies like the guide says: “The local peso is pegged at 20:1 convertible pesos.” In effect, at the bank one gets 24 MN = [moneta national, peso] for 1 CUC [convertible peso] , and 1 CUC for 25 MN. Similarly, one can pay at the mercado agro with 1 CUC and it’s counted like 24 MN. Unfortunately a good part of the information about the Marina Trinidad is incorrect [see: Marina Trinidad, Cuba – update April 2014]. Furthermore I definitely disagree with the advice given for the inside passage from Cayo Avalos to Cayo Rosario. The guide says: “there are no significant dangers on the suggested route…“ . There are however numerous coral patches [some 20m in diameter] along this route . A bow watch is definitely necessary and the light should be from behind [I have made this passage over 10 times and I agree with the advice given by Calder].

So, which guide should you buy? It will depend on your cruising route, budget and length of stay. The Barr guide is costly and volume 1 covers only the west of Cuba. The Calder guide is 15 years old, but covers all of Cuba – I would buy it additionally for an extended cruise in Cuba. The FREE guide by Agirre/Virgintino is always a good supplement.

ULRICH HOLLAND

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