Summit County-led trip to Cuba sets new mark for American sailing

Courtesy Lindsay Atkins | A large group of Americans, many of which hail Summit County and Vail, helped set a new mark for sailing the route from Cienfuegos, Cuba, to the islands of Cayo Guano and Cayo Largo del Sur. Here, they all pose with a local harbor master at center.

For at least the last two generations of Americans it’s taken a pioneering spirit of immense proportions to visit Cuba, and reaching the forbidden country is only the first of many unknowns.

When longtime Summit County local Lindsay Atkins started plotting a course for a large group to the Caribbean island nation approximately 105 miles from Key West, Florida, she had grander plans than just landing on its soil. Once there, the 29-year-old Copper Mountain resident hoped to embark on an exceptional sailing voyage few U.S. citizens had experienced before her.

The Obama administration began re-establishing relations and easing travel restrictions to Cuba in December 2014, but President Trump said in June those diplomatic gains would be reversed and American tourism there is still prohibited. So the obstacle of just getting there remains wholly intact.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Atkins. “We had no clue, because everyone that was going to Cuba had never been. I was worried that half the Americans wouldn’t get into the country.”

This past spring, the boat owner in Dillon Reservoir posted designs of an ambitious trip to social media and rapidly confirmed a band of 27 made up mostly of Summit and Vail attendees, on top of a few friends from Texas and Louisiana. From there, Atkins issued a simple directive: Find your own way, and meet in Havana in May.

Those who made it — in fact, only a would-be third boat captain had to bow out from making the trek the day before due to a broken leg — instantly became the journey’s maritime crew. And, with the element of lending a hand as a major component of Atkins’ burgeoning commercial bareboat charter operation, Beach Please Adventures, that’s part of the sell.

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