Book trailer for SLOW BOAT TO CUBA by Linus Wilson

In SLOW BOAT TO CUBA, the author, Linus Wilson, wants to start his round the world trip by sailing to the Panama Canal before hurricane season. Unfortunately, a 50-year old embargo, wild currents, and adverse winds and waves stand in this American sailor’s way. This is the story of how he overcame government road blocks and sailed offshore to the forbidden paradise of Cuba. He stops at the remote west coast and southern barrier islands fighting human and nautical obstacles to get a clear path to Panama.

You can watch the whole vlog series covering the material in the book on YouTube.

The audiobook at

is 3 hours and 30 minutes long and the vlog series Slow Boat to Cuba is only 40 minutes long. Thus, the movie version leaves out a lot of material from the book.

You can get the full audiobook of Slow Boat to Cuba by pledging as little as $3 at

The paperback and Kindle versions of SLOW BOAT TO CUBA will be launch on Amazon worldwide on November 21, 2016.

This is Linus Wilson’s 3rd book.

Buy How to Sail Around the World Part-Time…

and Slow Boat to the Bahamas…

at Amazon.

Charts are by Jennifer Clark’s Gulfstream.

Music is by

Ep. 28: Slow Boat to Cuba (audiobook sample) by Linus Wilson

Get the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast on Stitcher and iTunes!

Your podcast host has been hard at work on his third book over the last couple months and is ready to share part of it with you. Slow Boat to Cuba does not go up for sale in print and Kindle versions until the end of November, but you can listen to the audiobook now. In this episode, we listen to the the first four of 19 chapters of the audiobook of Slow Boat to Cuba.

You can get the full audiobook of Slow Boat to Cuba by pledging as little as $3 at

You can be part of sailing history and be thanked in the acknowledgement if you pledge at the Captain or Admiral Level on Patreon to support monthly podcasts and vlogs.
In this book, the author wants to start his round the world trip by sailing to the Panama Canal before hurricane season. Unfortunately, a 50-year old embargo, wild currents, and adverse winds and waves stand in this American sailor’s way. This is the story of how he overcame government road blocks and sailed offshore to the forbidden paradise of Cuba. He stops at the remote west coast and southern barrier islands fighting human and nautical obstacles to get a clear path to Panama.
You can watch the whole vlog series covering the material in the book on YouTube. The book is 3 hours and 30 minutes long and the vlog series Slow Boat to Cuba is only 40 minutes long. Thus, the movie version leaves out a lot of material from the book.
We start our “On the AIS” segment in this episode. We have some great mini-guests, who tell us in 30 seconds in their own words about their awesome sailing channel in their own words. When you see a boat on the AIS you are usually not close enough to touch them, but you may be close enough to hail them for a brief chat on the VHF. Our “On the AIS” guests are the creators of Coast Life.  Check out their great YouTube channel. I have recorded many great hour plus long conversations with awesome sailors like the creators of Chase the Story and Sailing Baby Blue but there are way more sailors than I can edit hour long interviews for that you should check out.
We have been giving away signed books when we hit key numbers on YouTube and Twitter. Our next book giveaway will be held after hitting 500 YouTube subscribers. To win the book you have to be YouTube subscriber who sends us their USA address by Facebook messenger before the drawing.

Thanks for joining the voyage!  Check out my book How to Sail Around the World Part-Time, which is now available as an album on iTunes or Amazon. Links to my books are at my website. Buy How to Sail Around the World Part-Time or Slow Boat to the Bahamas at Amazon. Both books have been #1 bestsellers in the Amazon sailing eBook categories. (If you are a non-US Amazon customer, e-mail me at linuswilson outlook [dot] com, and I’ll send you the link addresses for your country’s site.)  Like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter and tell your friends to do the same. I’m putting up more videos of the Slow Boat crew on YouTube. Also check out my new study guide entitled Navigation Rules: International and Inland (Abridged), Study Guide for Uscg Captains’ and Merchant Mariner Exams.  Episode 6’s South Pacific Weather with Met Bob has became anAlbum on iTunes. Subscribe to my free newsletter at for free books and boat repair and upgrade tips.  There you can also find a orange banner link at the bottom of the page and promo code to save $15 off your next purchase of $200+ at West Marine. Write a review on iTunes for the podcast or on Amazon for my books. Finally, have some fun on the water!

SLOW BOAT TO CUBA by Linus Wilson audiobook sample Chapters 1 to 4

In this book, the author wants to start his round the world trip by sailing to the Panama Canal before hurricane season. Unfortunately, a 50-year old embargo, wild currents, and adverse winds and waves stand in this American sailor’s way. This is the story of how he overcame government road blocks and sailed offshore to the forbidden paradise of Cuba. He stops at the remote west coast and southern barrier islands fighting human and nautical obstacles to get a clear path to Panama.slow_boat_to_cuba_album

You can get the full audiobook of SLOW BOAT TO CUBA by pledging as little as $3 at

If you liked this book you will probably enjoy my other books,

Slow Boat to the Bahamas

and How to Sail Around the World Part-Time.
If you want to keep abreast of our latest travels and get the opportunity to get free books, subscribe to my free e-mail newsletter at In addition, you can check out my blog.
There are many other ways to connect. You can follow our adventures on Twitter @slowboatsailing. Moreover, you can like the “Slow Boat to the Bahamas” page on Facebook for daily updates at
In addition to interviewing the most interesting sailors in the world on the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, I talk about the preparation for and the progress of my most recent travels in the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast.
A vlog of the Slow Boat’s round the world trip is on the Slow Boat Sailing channel on YouTube. While the videos cannot do justice to one one-hundredth of the adventure in the book, they let you see key parts of the journey. Below is a list of our episodes covered in this book and how they correspond to chapters in Slow Boat to Cuba:

The whole playlist is

S1E1: Getting Easting, Sailing Offshore from New Orleans to St. Petersburg went over the same time period as chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 in this book.

S1E2: Sailing Into Venice Inlet, Florida, Preparing for Cuba corresponded to chapter 9.

S1E3: Cuba’s Cabo San Antonio, Sailing to the End of the Earth covers the parts of the trip in chapters 11 and 12.

S1E4: Nueva Gerona, Cuba, Sailing Back in Time touches on chapters 13, 14, and 15 of the book.

S1E5: Cuba’s Cayo Largo del Sur Resort and Marina Vistited by Sailboat was based on the parts of the trip covered in chapters 16, 17, and 18.

Subscribe on YouTube for free. More videos that go beyond our Cuba trip have been uploaded at the time of writing. At the time of writing, the Slow Boat is in Ecuador.

Capt. Linus Wilson, October 2016

Getting Permission to Sail to Cuba, Chapter 2 of SLOW BOAT TO CUBA

photo-may-08-8-56-35-amThis is chapter 2 of the Slow Boat to Cuba (c) 2016, by Linus Wilson, Oxriver Publishing. It will be available on in late November 2016.


2.Getting Permission to Sail to Cuba


According to my research, only one U.S.-flagged boat received a permit required to sail legally to Cuba in 2014! Regulatory changes in 2015, allowed 90 boats to obtain the necessary permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to sail to Cuba in the first 10 months of that year.[1] My route planning to sail to the Panama Canal via Cuba was made possible based on the changing regulations in 2015, allowing some U.S. sailors to visit Cuba.

There are many tales of U.S. sailors who have violated the embargo and faced no sanction. Nevertheless, if a U.S. sailor violates the Cuba embargo, the penalties can be very stiff:

“Any person …may be subject to:

(1) Imprisonment for not more than 10 years;

(2) A monetary penalty of not more than $10,000;

(3) Seizure and forfeiture of the vessel; and

(4) A civil penalty of not more than $25,000 for each day of violation.”[2]

Starting in December 17, 2014, the President of the United States, Barak Obama, began announcing executive orders which made travel to Cuba easier.[3] The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control’s (OFAC) general permit process began on January 16, 2016.[4] The general permit process allowed individual Americans to determine on their own if they fall under one twelve categories. This allowed Americans to travel to Cuba without applying to the U.S. government. Qualifying travelers could visit Cuba with no spending limits while in Cuba and with no prior U.S. government approval under the new regulations.[5] For decades prior, OFAC licenses were almost impossible to get. Even well-qualified journalists complained about how difficult it was to obtain one. Suddenly in early 2015 no application was necessary.

I did apply for an OFAC license in July 2015. The U.S. Treasury wrote back to say no application was necessary as long as I wrote down for my own records why I qualified. I travelled under journalistic license based on my writing in books, magazines, and blogs. The twelve permissible categories of travelers were as follows:

  1. family visits;
  2. official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
  3. journalistic activity;
  4. professional research and professional meetings;
  5. educational activities;
  6. religious activities;
  7. public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
  8. support for the Cuban people;
  9. humanitarian projects;
  10. activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
  11. exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials;
  12. and certain authorized export transactions

Unfortunately, this was not enough. The boat needed an export license. I found from other sailors on Facebook that an export license for the boat could be obtained from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and applied in August 2015. I made some errors in what was a complicated two-page application. It only took about an hour to fill out. BIS also had telephone support that was helpful. The person who checked my application showed me my errors by e-mail and told me to reapply with corrections. In early September 2015, I was granted a 1-year license to take my 31-foot Island Packet sailboat, the Slow Boat, to Cuba.

A few days after I got the 1-year license, on September 18, 2015, export license applications were not necessary for many U.S. boaters. As long as the visit was 14 days or less to Cuba, the boater did not have to apply to BIS. Boaters could obtain general licenses for themselves and their crew (OFAC approval) and for their boat (BIS approval) merely if they wrote down why they were in one of the 12 categories of travelers permitted by the embargo.[6]

I thought I was ready to legally sail for a few weeks. Unfortunately, I soon found out that one more government approval was needed to legally sail to Cuba. Three approvals were needed. The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and U.S. Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) offer no application licenses. Still one application is mandatory for all boaters. U.S. boaters have to apply for the Coast Guard permit CG-3300 form to legally sail to Cuba.

I sent in my CG-3300 application, which is a simple two-page form, on October 23, 2016. Rosa Garrison, who processes the Cuba permit applications for the USCG, called me a few days after I applied on October 27, 2016. Unlike the folks at OFAC and BIS, Ms. Garrison did not seem to have a good grasp on the regulations and was unable to answer the most basic of questions.

She asserted over the phone that I was going to visit under a temporary (14-day) sojourn from BIS. In fact, I applied and was granted a one-year permit, for which I supplied a license number, on CG-3300. She also asserted that you must return to the U.S.A. under OFAC general licenses. This is only true under temporary sojourns without a BIS application. One-way trips are permitted with BIS applications. Further, OFAC since September 2015 has circulated a FAQ that says that there was no requirement that travelers to Cuba had to return directly to the United States.[7]

After my application languished for a few days, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) on November 11, 2016. I requested the submission dates, decision dates, and the decisions (accept or reject) for all CG-3300 applications submitted between January 1, 2014, and November 1, 2015. I did not get a response for the FOIA until late January 2016.

On November 20, I got word that my application was rejected. I immediately disputed the grounds for rejection over e-mail. I was not travelling under the 14-day rule as they asserted. I spoke to the captain who reviewed and rejected my permit, Mark J. Fedor. He granted that they had made an error not reading my BIS export license. Nevertheless, he insisted that I had to specify the names of my crew members on my reapplication. I had left the crew blank. He encouraged me to reapply.

This meant I had to choose a crew member quickly. I had been interviewing dozens of crew members since July. All the trouble with the USCG permit made me risk-averse about selecting an American crew member. I would have to justify why that crew member qualified. I selected my first choice among the crew applicants who were not U.S. citizens. Stevie was a Canadian citizen and backpacker who had lots of offshore in boats in the low 30-foot range. I really liked that he filmed himself living in a cave in the Bahamas for several weeks. Contango had to be a step up from the hot, buggy cave. If he could tough out being a cave man, he was tough enough for life on a small boat. He was my first choice among that pool of applicants. Stevie quickly accepted.

I resubmitted my application with Stevie as crew on November 24, 2015. Captain Fedor reconsidered and approved my Cuba application on November 30, 2015. It took me four months and three applications from three different federal agencies, OFAC, BIS, and USCG, to legally travel to Cuba. My BIS license took about a month as did the USCG permit. I applied to OFAC even though I did not need to which also delayed the process a month. Between the BIS approval and USCG application, I waited over month before filling out the CG-3300.

Based on my research, Half-of-the-time a CG-3300 application has a decision within 13 days. In 10 percent of the cases, a decision is reached only after a month has passed. Some applications are approved the same day. One application took 143 days to process. Since March 2015, the acceptance rate was 95 percent. Prior to that, only 14 percent of applications were accepted. Based on the time until acceptance and the initial rejection, my experience was worse than the typical applicant in the sample. Nevertheless, I suspect that the USCG got very few applications for trips that did not start and end in the U.S.A.

There were 50 times more applications (100 applications) in the first 10 months of 2015 than in all of 2014 (two applications). The changing regulations had a huge impact on the numbers of U.S. boaters seeking permission to sail to Cuba.

[1] I filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) on November 11, 2015, requesting the application dates, decision dates, and decisions for all CG-3300 applications with the U.S. Coast Guard for all applications made between January 1, 2014, and November 1, 2015. That request was replied to on January 26, 2016.

[2] Taken from 33 CFR Part 107.230.

[3] FACT SHEET: Treasury and Commerce Announce Regulatory Amendments to the Cuba Sanctions, U.S. Treasury, accessed online on October 11, 2016, at

[4] See 15 CFR parts 730-774. Accessed online on October 11, 2016 at

[5] Under the new Obama-administration rules, there was no limit on the amount of money authorized travelers can spend in Cuba although exporting goods for sale was generally prohibited.

[6] See

[7] See the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS RELATED TO CUBA which was updated on July 26, 2016, which said, “33. As an authorized traveler, may I travel from a third country to Cuba and from Cuba to a third country? Yes, a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba from a third country or to a third country from Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to and from Cuba via a third country may only do so if their travel-related transactions are authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, and are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as persons traveling directly from the United States.” It was accessed online on October 13, 2016, at

Why Cuba?

Cuba was in the way. Open up a map or a chart and any boat coming from Florida or the Gulf of Mexico has Cuba standing between it and the Panama Canal. If you want to head south and sail around the world by way of the Panama Canal, as I did. You must work your way around Cuba.

The most popular tactic for sailors from the Gulf Coast of the U.S.A. or Atlantic Coast of North America is to head down the “thorny path.” The thorny path involves island hopping. That means slowly going east against the steady trades until you land in the eastern Caribbean. Once there, instead of motoring and beating into the wind, you can have a beam reach until you reach the Trinidad and Tobago. After 2,500 nautical miles up-wind from New Orleans, my home port, a boat will have to stop outside of the hurricane zone. It will surely have taken six months (or likely more) to get there.

Then, the crew still has a 1,000 nautical mile downwind sail across the whole length of the Caribbean Sea. On this downwind sail, the boat almost surely will have to sail through near gale or worse conditions past Colombia. There is a permanent Colombian low that often stretches from the Caribbean coast of Colombia to Jamaica that makes for a rough passage for most boats bound for the Panama Canal from the Eastern Caribbean. 3,500 nautical miles is a huge distance especially when you are mostly tacking upwind on a boat that is lucky to make 3 knots dead into the wind.

If all goes well, I would stop in the Eastern Caribbean after I had circled 90 percent of the globe. Right now I wanted to take the shorter path of about 1,500 nautical miles from New Orleans. That path went through Cuba.

I did not have the luxury of time. I was sailing around the world part-time. My wife and I decided that we did not want to quit our jobs. Since I taught, I had summers off. I could sail during the summers and my wife and my five-year-old daughter could join me for part of the summer cruise. My wife worked a more typical schedule. She only had a few weeks of vacation per year.

The earliest that I could sail was May. That was just one month before the start of hurricane season. I did not want to be living on or sailing on a boat in the most dangerous part of the hurricane belt during the height of hurricane season. June is historically the least active month of hurricane season. My new insurance company, Lloyds, required that I had to be out of the hurricane zone by July 1. Panama is outside of the hurricane belt. That meant I had May and June to get to Panama. If you factor in weather windows and going upwind, bypassing Cuba was out of the question.

In theory, you could just sail around Cuba, but the trade winds make that very difficult. Tacking on the bay is very different than beating in two-to-three meter (6-to-10 foot) swells in the Caribbean Sea. Plus the Yucatan current is stronger than the Gulfstream and it pushes a boat north at speeds of around three knots. Strong currents are prone to creating dangerous waves when wind opposes current. Thus a fair wind in the Yucatan channel west of Cuba would mean dangerous waves. If your boat’s top speed is 6 knots like mine, sailing upwind in such a strong current is almost impossible.

Being able to rest and refuel in Cuba would make sailing to Panama so much easier. We could use the barrier islands on Cuba’s south coast to break up the trade winds and swells much like sailors use the Intracoastal Waterway ICW on the eastern seaboard to make progress south to the Bahamas. The problem with the Cuba strategy was the half-century old embargo. The Cuba embargo prevented American sailors and U.S.-flagged vessels from visiting Cuba.

When Janna, Sophie, and I were sailing in the Bahamas during my sabbatical from teaching, the U.S. policy was changing on the executive level. These changes raised the prospect that I could legally sail to Cuba. This change upended fifty plus years of sailing orthodoxy that said that sailing the entire 1,000 mile east-west distance of the Caribbean Sea was the best way to sail to Panama. This orthodoxy was not brought about by good sailing directions, but in large part by the failed 50-year embargo that prevented U.S. sailors from visiting the largest island in the Caribbean Sea. We were prevented from sailing to the island that lay due north of the Panama Canal and due south of Florida. Sailing to the eastern Caribbean is sailing east to go south. It makes no sense except in the prism of the Cuba embargo.

This is a preview of Slow Boat to Cuba which will be available on Amazon in late November 2016.