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Ocean Passages Gap Year Navigates Seas of Change in Cuba

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Ocean Passages Gap Year Navigates Seas of Change in Cuba

Historic change is underway in Cuba – and Maine-based Ocean Passages gap year program combines traditional hands-on sailing with a chance to experience this transformation along the island’s spectacular southern coastline.

Aboard a 131-foot schooner, you’ll navigate by the stars, snorkel on remote reefs, explore cays and mangroves – and engage directly in the dialogue about a post-embargo Cuba. Ocean Passages gap year voyages seize this moment to explore the causes and effects from the unique perspective of a Tall Ship and with a commitment to responsible stewardship of the marine environment.

Ocean Passages offers fall and spring sailing adventures along the east coast of the United States to and from Cuba. These gap programs include a full month of extended sailing in Cuban waters and excursions to coastal communities along its southern shore. Programs operate between the Isle of Youth and the ship’s Cuban homeport of Cienfuegos harbor, one of the most captivating bays in the Caribbean. The ship will also visit several U.S. ports, including Washington, D.C., where we’ll meet with congressional and U.S. State Department policymakers about our experience in Cuba.

No sailing experience is needed, but team spirit is essential to keeping the sails full on the open sea. Each leg of your journey will explore the quickening pace of change in Cuba, a proud island neighbor now emerging from a half-century of isolation from the United States. The 2018 gap voyages are set for this spring (March 18 to May 24) and fall (Sept. 9 to Dec. 19).

Voyaging on a traditional Tall Ship is a life-changing experience. You’ll have more fun than you can imagine while learning the ship’s rigging, mastering its mechanical systems and taking your shift on watch at the ship’s bow. We’ll work and eat and play together, waking up to dramatic ocean dawns, gliding through pristine Caribbean waters and swapping stories in the galley at night. You’ll visit rural vegetable markets and rustic dockside facilities, isolated fishing villages, and colonial port towns, all along engaging with ordinary Cubans who are just as eager to meet us.

All the while, you’ll build personal confidence and forge the lifelong bonds of a ship community sharing an extraordinary moment in history – up close and personal.

By the time the Harvey Gamage docks in her Cuban homeport of Cienfuegos, students will be both able sailors and citizen diplomats, encouraged to participate in dialogue about the changing Cuba.

Traveling by sea and under sail, you’ll experience the centuries-long maritime heritage of this island nation – as Cuba prepares for millions of U.S. visitors by working to balance marine conservation and sustainable development. Our voyages will adapt the sailing experience of a 19th-century schooner to help set the course to navigate the 21st century. This is your chance to be the change.

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Written by Greg Belanger

Gregory Belanger has had a lifelong interest in sailing and maritime history. Over the last decade, he has led numerous initiatives using traditional sailing ships as platforms for innovative education and public diplomacy. These projects include the first transatlantic voyage of the replica slave ship Amistad in 2007-2008. For two years, he served as executive director of Ocean Classrooms, a highly respected Tall Ship education program. In 2015, he helped launch Maine-based Ocean Passages.

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