Though they won’t be arriving in Havana by water as they did last year, participants in the Florida Powerboat’s Club still will enjoy a Cuban adventure. Photo courtesy of the Florida Powerboat Club.
By the time yesterday evening rolled around, Florida Powerboat Club president Stu Jones was fried. Jones and his staff had spent the day scrambling to find flights from Miami to Cuba for club members on Thursday as he had to scrub that day’s planned crossing from Key West to Havana for seven boats—five center consoles and two V-bottom sports—because conditions were just too dangerous.
“Thursday’s forecast is for 25-knot winds and seven- to 10 foot seas,” he said. “The weather forecast, and I look at all of them, is tumultuous and all of them say it’s going to be blowing. I had a few people who said they still wanted to go by boat, and I said,
‘No, you can’t.’ Almost 10 people have canceled, and they’re going to be walking away from $10,000 deposits already paid for the hotels, tour operators and visas, when all they have to do is buy a $300 airplane ticket. Half of the group, 20 to 25 people, has already been accommodated. We’re still working on it for a few more.”
Wind and sea conditions in the Florida Straits between Key West and Cuba, Jones said, likely would be even worse than forecasted. “Last year, it was twice as big as they said it was going to be,” he said. “The Florida Straits are different—they’re like a ‘Gulf Stream’ moving from west to east. Then you get a really a strong wind out of the east and the seas start piling up. That’s when you start losing ships.
“There nothing worse than having a bad boat ride to a destination then having to worry about the ride back for the next three days,” he added. “That’s no fun. There’s no way you can relax and enjoy your vacation.”
The FPC members who do arrive in Havana—and a few will be flying directly from their home states rather than departing from Florida—will have “the same great experience in Cuba, without their boats,” according to Jones. The disappointment of not being able to make the transit by sea is understandable, he said, but the rewards aren’t worth the risk.
“It never was all about the boat ride,” he said. “It’s about having an experience. It’s about having an adventure.”
Since the FPC completed its first trip to Cuba last year, Jones has been peppered with interest in the run. Almost 100 people, he said, approached him about the event and asked to be included. Disappointed as he was to have all that interest boil down to seven boats and 40 people, he’s grateful for it now.
“Thank god I didn’t have 35 boats with 150 people to try to help find plane flights for,” he said, then laughed. “If you think about it, with what they’re saving on fuel they come out ahead on airfare. And with Southwest, Jet Blue, Spirit, American and Havana Air all flying out of Miami to Cuba, there are like 15 or 20 flights per day.
“Hard as it’s been, we’re doing the right thing,” he added. “It’s the right call, the safe call, the smart call. We’re still going to be giving people the same Cuba experience. We’re just not going by boat.”
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.