his audience is made up of salty dogs or
fledgling powerboaters, Kessler seems to find
that resonant chord about voyaging and soon
everyone is thinking, “Why not me?”
AN EAST COAST FUBAR?
At 76, Kessler splits his time between Florida
and Marina del Rey, California, so it seemed
natural that he’d consider bringing his power
rally to the East Coast. Dock-to-dock cruising
is nothing new for Eastern powerboaters and
neither are offshore rallies, but Kessler’s idea
had a twist.
The rally, which was dubbed CUBAR, was
going to lead a team of powerboats to Cuba.
Because the events always have a charitable
component, each boat was going to arrive
with an Optimist sailing dinghy on its bow
PHOTOS: MEXICOBOATING.COM, GEORGE SASS, SR. (TOP RIGHT)
to be donated to the youth program of
the Hemingway International Yacht Club in
Havana. Over a hundred boaters responded
almost immediately and that number grew to
200 interested parties, but there was a snag.
Under the United States’ trade embargo with
Cuba, it is illegal for U.S. citizens to spend
money there, effectively barring ordinary U.S.
tourists from visiting the island. Thousands
of Americans do make the trip every year, but
it requires a special license from the Treasury
Department, granted for professional or educational visits.
Efforts to obtain permission to conduct
the CUBAR event started in earnest in the
summer of 2012, with an intended departure date of April 2013. Visits to Washington
included meetings with foreign-policy
experts, Department of State officials, and
aides from the staffs of both Democratic
and Republican members of the House of
Representatives and Senate.
The paperwork shuffle persisted, but so
did Kessler and his team. At one point, they
scaled down the flotilla to a handful of boats,
but in April, the application was denied by
the Bureau of Industry and Security in the
Department of Commerce, which concluded
the proposed trip was “not in the foreign
policy interest of the United States.”
Kessler was dismayed, but was told that
there was an appeal process, and he hasn’t
given up. Not a man used to taking no for an
answer, he holds out for the possibility that
CUBAR may someday cruise the Caribbean. TEXAS
Meanwhile, the fourth running of the FUBAR
Odyssey in 2013 is in full planning mode at
this year’s host venue, the Newport Harbor
Yacht Club in Newport Beach, California.
The point of departure is 80 miles south
in San Diego, so that the first day is a short
hop to Ensenada, but boats will be coming
from all over the West Coast, including the
The rally leaves November 7 and is
expected to arrive in Marina Costa Baja in
La Paz on November 19. At press time, 20
boats were signed up, but FUBAR Odyssey
co-chairman Chris Murray expects 35-45
boats in the fleet this fall.
“The interesting thing this year is that the
rally includes fewer new people and more
repeats,” says Murray. “We have a number of
boats that have done it in years past and have
enjoyed the social aspect so much they’re
back. It’s another fun reason to go to Mexico.”
Getting 50 boats down an isolated coastline is an accomplishment. But FUBAR’s
Palmer-Wilson says the pride and confidence
this journey builds and the bonds formed
along the way are the real story behind an
odyssey that delivers more than boats. “The
most rewarding thing was seeing the confidence grow in these people,” she says. “They
learned so much and were so proud.”
Writer Zuzana Prochazka is a USCG 100-Ton
Master, and has cruised, chartered, and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world.