Of the 16 center consoles, catamarans and V-bottoms that—in addition to three aircraft—participated in last week’s Florida Powerboat Club Air-Land-Sea Poker Run to Key West, eight headed back to Miami yesterday. They were replaced by another 10 boats, a combination of center consoles and high-performance boats, that will leave tomorrow for the FPC’s inaugural run to Havana Harbor in Cuba.

The 18-boat fleet is scheduled to depart on the 110-mile journey to Havana Harbor tomorrow at 8 a.m. Today’s activities include vessel inspections and a mandatory captains’ workshop.

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Currently in Key West, the Florida Powerboat Club’s fleet heads for Cuba tomorrow morning (click image to enlarge). Photo courtesy/copyright Stu Jones/Florida Powerboat Club.

“The workshop won’t just go through all the boating aspects of the run, but all the dos and don’ts of being in Cuba and what the expectations are,” said Stu Jones, the president of the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based club. “Ideally, the trip will be on the plus side of two hours. Once we get to Havana Harbor, we will meet up at the entrance and parade to the Hemmingway International Yacht Club where we will clear customs and dock. From there, we’ll be met by three buses and several classic cars that will take us to Havana. It’s about an eight-mile trip.”

The plan, according to Jones, is for the vessels to make the transit from Key West to Cuba as a group. Each participating vessel is required to have a TowboatUS membership in the event of a breakdown. (The fleet will continue to its final destination regardless.)

“We have TowboatUS here on notice—they will be on call,” said Jones. “We have a satellite phone we can use if we need to. If a captain has a mechanical problem, he has to sign off and head back to Key West. That’s a risk these guys are willing to take—we’re going as a group and not turning back. That’s all there is to it, and though everyone is revved up to go everyone understands that.

“The waters (between Key West and Cuba) are heavily patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard,” he continued. “We have individual permits for each vessel and the Coast Guard knows exactly who will be out there, right down to the name of each captain, the make and model and color of his vessel—even the fuel his engines run.”

Jones pointed out that of the eight performance boats slated to depart for tomorrow’s run, three experienced mechanical issues on the way to Key West from Miami. “It’s highly likely that will we not have 18 boats when we leave tomorrow,” he said.

With everything from a 37-foot Intrepid that tops out at 50 mph to a 40-foot Skater catamaran that can exceed that speed by 100 mph, Jones said, keeping the fleet together will be a challenge. Barring mechanical issues, however, he’s confident that the group can make the trip.

The participants will spend three days in Cuba before heading back to Key West. Tuesday night activities include a welcome dinner. On Wednesday, the group will take a guided tour of Havana.

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