Sailboat and Tanker Collide Enroute to Cuba

There are few happy endings when sailboats encounter tankers close range.  The day after we arrived in Hemingway Marina, a 30′-ish Hunter Cherabini sailboat came in missing a big chunk of his bow, his roller furling bent and dangling.  Amazingly, the mast was still standing.1603_DCubaDay62016_002

In talking with the young man, we learned he was a Russian singlehander who just bought the boat on the US East Coast. Sailing to Cuba from the Keys, like us, he encountered several ships/tankers and spent the night avoiding a collision.  His own story:   just before dawn, he fell asleep at the helm and in a haze waking up mistakenly thought he was looking at an oil platform.  By the time he realized it was a small tanker, it was too close to avoid.  Luckily he managed to turn so there was just a glancing blow to the bow and then he slid down the side of the boat.  The tanker never knew anything happened.


He’s SO lucky to be alive!  He’s lucky to be sailing an old bombproof Cherabini.


He limped into Marina Hemingway where David and other cruisers helped him get the roller furling down, access the damage and come up with an action plan.


There’s a boatyard at Hemingway Marina, but they wanted more money than the young man had, so he went to plan B looking for freelancers skilled in boat repair.  When we left, they just started grinding on what was left of his bow, the first steps in repair.  He had located a used roller furling section to replace the one that was bent.


Hopefully all is now put back together and he can keep on sailing – his dream.



  1. Captpage says:

    Hello Cruiser World…As a licensed Captain with STCW, over the years I have found many freighters mostly non-US are not manned properly or with look-outs and found no one on the bridge – maybe down getting coffee, potty, or just gone. Running tugs, research, and other craft, I have many close calls and I swear some even tried to run me down.
    Rule for cruiser #1 do not sail or motor at night; you are a setting duck for problems and lets not rule out pirates…(Pirates – police or military dressed as pirates making extra money) The route between Cuba and Key West has very many vessels traveling east to west and west the east…I would guess that a large vessel is seen every 30 minutes.

    • Hi Capt Page — I’d prefer not to travel at night, but it’s hard not to travel at night when you live on a sailboat that goes 5 knots and the sail to Havana is 100 miles +/-. So while the advice not to travel at night is sound, it’s not practical. Cheers!

    • Admiral V says:

      It’s all well and good to say don’t travel at night but if you need to get into a port during daylight, many times you need to sail at night to arrive before 5 or 6pm. In addition there are many voyages…like Aruba to Grand Cayman or Cayman to Cuba (both of which we did) that require several nights of sailing. The lesson is to always either have someone on lookout or if you are a single handed sailor, set up an alarm system…most GPS/Plotters have the ability to do this.

  2. Tami Breeden says:

    This was aboit our sweet friend. He is a jewel. We are so glad that the fates love him too. Thanks to all.

  3. When I saw this headline in my mailbox, I was a tad nervous as friends of ours left for Cuba a week ago. They’re experienced sailors and had a buddy boat, but you never know. That is one lucky guy!

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