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After 54 years of animosity, the United States and Cuba formally restored diplomatic ties. This morning (July 20), the United States opened an embassy in Havana and Cuba opened an embassy in Washington, D.C.

According to Soundings Trade Only, the warming of relations opens up possibilities for the boating industry as evidenced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) recently announcing a third and final exploratory trip to Cuba, set for December.

Cuba has 11 million residents, and if it were a U.S. state it would rank seventh in population, according to the NMMA. Cuba has 1,400 miles of coastline similar to the Florida Keys — if the Cuban Keys were superimposed on the Atlantic Seaboard, they would stretch from Miami to New York.

The NMMA said Cuba also has more than 100 freshwater lakes suitable for boating. Built by the Soviets from the 1960s through the 1980s, the 3- to 5-mile lakes irrigate rice fields and teem with largemouth bass. That means 95% of Cubans live within five miles of boating waters.

In December, NMMA export director Julie Balzano told Trade Only about the association’s second visit to the Caribbean’s largest island.

“If and when U.S. boaters would be allowed to go to Cuba by boat, I think probably there is enough infrastructure in place at the moment, though I think it would be basic for American boaters visiting Cuba,” she told Trade Only at the time. “I think they struggle a bit with fueling stations in marinas,” for example.

The island, though, has a lot to offer boaters in terms of its beauty. “It’s lush and green and mountainous, and the waters are crystal-blue,” Balzano said.

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