Sea Tow Cuba’s long, long wait may yet pay off

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For a time in the 1990s, the U.S. marine industry believed Cuba would soon be opened to American boaters. In 1994, the University of Florida hosted dozens of experts and business leaders for a conference that produced a report with a long title: "The Potential Impact on Florida-Based Marina and Boating Industries of a Post-Embargo Cuba: An Analysis of Geographic, Physical, Policy and Industry Trends." The theme was simple; the freedom to travel Cuba would benefit Florida's marine businesses greatly.

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That was also the year that Gee Gee Morgan Beatty visited Cuba for the first time. She and her brother, Floridians both, had operated Sea Tow at Key Largo, and Beatty saw the future need for such a vessel-in-distress service in Cuba once it was open to American boats. She obtained the license to operate Sea Tow services throughout the island nation.

What happened after 1994 was exactly the opposite of what Beatty and the University of Florida conferees had hoped. Not only were relations between Havana and Washington not normalized, they deteriorated during the administration of President George W. Bush. Now Beatty and others are cautiously optimistic that the end of the travel ban is near.

"It is my plan and vision that Sea Tow Cuba will be there to help in the transition for our American boaters and to support the Cuban marinas in emergency response plans for the marinas, not to mention being the towing company that all boaters need and trust in Cuba," Beatty says. "I have plans to be equipped with larger vessels than here in the U.S., because your larger boat members will be going there. The estimated boats going to Cuba in the first year is phenomenal."

Beatty is also vice president of Sea Experience, a yacht delivery and management company operated by her husband, Joseph Beatty. A self-described "visionary hairdresser," she also owns beauty salons in Florida and Georgia.

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