Cuba to Florida Foiled
My major goal for the past couple of years has been to swim from Cuba to Florida. Since early 2019 the planning and training for this swim went full steam ahead. A support boat was chartered, deposit paid, and support crew recruited.
Unfortunately, the US government has, over the last 2 years, become increasingly more hawkish on travel to Cuba for US residents. On 4 June 2019, the US government officially tightened rules on trade and travel to Cuba, with the Dept of Commerce implementing a general policy of denial for exports and reexports to Cuba. After receiving news of the additional steps needed to attempt the Cuba swim, we applied for all necessary licenses and permits to abide by the stricter regulations. However, on 21 August 2019, less than 3 weeks to our proposed start day, we were denied an export license for our support vessel.
The news struck me hard, but, in a way, it was a relief. Trying to train up to 11 hours a day under conditions where the certainly of the actual event is not 100% was one of the most difficult and stressing things I’ve had to endure in my life. Since the change of regulations in June, I knew that this outcome was a possibility and in the back of my mind I had a plan B: To swim the stretch of open ocean between Barbados and St Lucia, a similar distance and challenge, but without the bureaucracy.
I immediately spoke to a unique and dear Barbadian friend, Kristina Evelyn, who set about organizing the swim. The fact that we managed to pull off the organization and logistics for this swim in a space of 3 weeks is miraculous and testament to Kristina’s organizing skills and passion, as well as the kind and helpful nature of the people of Barbados.
As Kristina went to work, I continued my training. I attempted 3 24-hour swims in a week starting on 22 August and ending on 28 August. Straight after my last 24-hour swim, I flew to the north west coast of Scotland for a training camp for another future project of mine.
When I arrived back in Barbados on 5 September, I went straight back into training 10 hours a day. On the evening of Sunday 8th, during a test swim with ‘Imagine’, our new boat for the crossing from Bolador Charters, we discussed potentially bringing the swim forward from 15 September to 13 September, to avoid a potential storm moving towards the vicinity. I decided to stop training in order to get my ideal taper period of 5 days.