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Cubas Boating Ambassador Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich

In August, Commodore José Miguel Díaz Escrich of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba (HIYC) was appointed President of the Business Group Marinas y Náuticas MARLIN S.A, better known as Marlin Marinas Business Group, the biggest marinas company in Cuba.

Throughout his life, Commodore Escrich has made it his mission to share his love of the water with all who come into contact with him. For 17 years he has successfully used his position as founder and Commodore of the HIYC to reach out to the international community and create relationships that transcend politics.

All At Sea interviewed Commodore Escrich, and over the course of the last few months, we learned a little about his history and a lot about his hopes and dreams, not only for the marina industry but also for his country. In this two-part interview, we introduce to you José Miguel Díaz Escrich, the boating ambassador to Cuba.

How did you develop such a love for the water?

 I was born on December 21, 1946 in the port city of Santiago de Cuba. I entered into the Naval Academy of Cuba when I was 16 and worked for more than 25 years in the Cuban Navy. My love for the sea is precisely a consequence of having been born in a coastal city and having sailed along the Cuban coast for many years, enjoying the beauty of its beaches and its more than 3000 isles and surrounding keys.

Can you tell me a little bit about your history as founder of Hemingway International Yacht Club?

 In 1991, I started to work at Marina Hemingway as adviser to the development of the emerging recreational boating in Cuba. Our country was isolated from the international boating community and there were only three foreign recreational boats moored at Marina Hemingway, plus a few charter fishing boats. At that point, I came up with the idea of creating a nautical institution gathering the Cuban nautical family and aimed at promoting friendship and cooperation with the international boating community, and contributing to foster nautical tourism in our country.

Cuba has a rich nautical history. In 1886, the first yacht club was founded. In 1950, Havana International Yacht Club was founded as an institution open to the world with members coming from different countries, such as Ernest Hemingway. This institution was a building in Havana Bay with a bar for the members to share drinks and fishing stories. Sadly, this and all institutions like it disappeared in 1960.

We founded the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba 32 years later, on May 21st, 1992, as an institution devoted to continuing the work of the Havana International Yacht Club. The first 32 members came from Spain, the United States of America, France, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Greece and Mexico. On the first meeting that Thursday morning of May 21st, I had the honor to be elected Commodore and Executive Director of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba.

The yacht club is a non-governmental and not-for-profit civil society. Currently there are 2049 members from 47 countries. More that 50% of its members are Americans.

During its 17 years of existence, the Club has established friendships with hundreds of yacht clubs, associations, institutions, publications and renowned personalities of the international boating community, for example, the Yacht Club Argentino, Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and the New York Yacht Club. We also represent the International Game Fish Association, a prestigious institution for sport fishing lovers, and we are members of the ICOMIA Marinas Committee (IMC).

We have organized a number of regattas, fishing tournaments, seminars, etc. The HIYC of Cuba has hosted regattas from the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States and the Caribbean. In 1999 we celebrated the first regatta Transcaraibes des Passionnés from Martinique to Havana. It is now a rally and will arrive to Cienfuegos, the only Cuban city founded by French people, in April 2010.

It is worth mentioning the special friendships with the Caribbean boating community. Thanks to their cooperation I have had the opportunity to visit Guadeloupe, Martinique, Antigua, St. Martin and St. Maarten, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Dominican Republic. In the 1990s, I also participated in meetings organized by the Caribbean Sailing Association.

How do you plan to apply what you have learned at HIYC to your new job?

The marinas business group Marinas y Náuticas MARLIN S.A. is formed by eight marinas; out of this number, six are international marinas (Marina Hemingway, Marina Dársena Varadero, Marina Callo Guillermo, Marina Santiago de Cuba, Marina Cienfuegos and Marina Cayo Largo), and two are national marinas (Marina Tarará and Marina Trinidad) which welcome foreign boats that have gone through the clear-in process. In my position as Commodore, I have visited marinas in more than 20 countries, which has given me the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experiences that I will apply to Marinas MARLIN S.A. to help improve their services to boaters. I also would like to create a plan to increase safety while sailing along the Cuban coasts, and I will work to celebrate the marinas at national and international nautical events.

What are your goals for Marinas y Naúticas MARLIN S.A?

As in any other marina in the world, companies like Marinas y Náuticas MARLIN S.A. are subject to rules and regulations that could hold up marina management. Despite this situation, I reaffirm my dream of transforming my country into a paradise for recreational boating and nautical tourism. To me, paradise means working for excellent qualities on services rendered by our marinas, diving camps, sport fishing camps, boat charter bases, beach clubs, boatyards, yacht repair workshops and all companies that form this nautical company.

How do you plan to balance being both Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club and President of Marlin Marinas Business Group?

My intention is to work both as Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba and President of the Marinas Business Group, redoubling my efforts and feeling the same passion and commitment I have had during all my 17 years at our Yacht Club. I love dedicating my time to the noble mission of contributing to the development of recreational boating in my dear country.

Part two: January 2010 issue of All at Sea

Andrea Bailey is a recent graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and a former collegiate sailor who has returned to her home island of St. Thomas.

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