9 December, 2012
On a previous blog post written on 4 November, 2012 called Puffin On a Cuban we told the story of the two Cuban crew on a yacht next to us during Hurricane Sandy wanting to immigrate to the USA. During the post Hurricane Sandy Survival Party on Vanish we found out that our new Cuban friends had left Havana, sold everything for cash and were planning to escape to the US. We didn't know if this story was true but our concern for these two men was enormous as we didn't trust the owners of the yacht they were on. The captain was continually intoxicated and had zero knowledge of the sea. On the day they left, I gave "A" a puffin on a keychain and told him I'd infused it with good luck as I felt he needed some sort of tangible hope of good fortune to help him and his friend on their journey to a better life. "A" said he would keep it forever.
They left when the forecast was favourable with 5 - 10 knots, increasing to 10 - 15 knots from the NE and seas of 2 - 3 feet. Even though we had no idea where they were going, the weather was ideal at the time but when you put your life into the hands of people who know absolutely nothing about sailing or the sea, the experience can be an absolute nightmare.
I recently received an update in Spanish about their Gulf Stream crossing which I translated using Google Translate, a nifty little helper.
"Finally I'm here in the land of freedom. I will try to tell you everything but the story is very long. Well we left that day as you know almost dark and we anchored about three miles off the coast and near the port. The weather was terrible, so bad that everything, absolutely everything in the boat except the TV broke. We could not sleep all night and at 4 am convinced the captain to start sailing. The weather the whole time was bad and the captain and the wife were eventually seasick as well. We all had terrible moments. We intended to sail into a harbour in Florida but the Captain lost our position and we were delayed. The whole trip was terrible motoring into a headwind and we were only doing 5 or 6 knots.
The captain decided to take down the sails which ended up being worse. The wind was right on the bow and we were going nowhere and really was one of the worst crossings of my life. At about 4 am after sailing for more than 24 hours, we saw lights on the horizon and we were very happy but we were still far away. A little closer to the coast we spotted a Coast Guard cutter coming right at us. That's when I was very scared. I thought all was lost and we were going to jump into the sea. Fortunately they turned back when they came very close to us (we later found out that the Coast Guard was doing manoeuvers with a helicopter above). I think we were very lucky. Well closer to the inlet the Captain wanted to call on the radio to report that they came with two Cubans. You can imagine what happened! We tried to discuss it but he didn't change his mind.
At the last minute we finally decided to jump right into the water and had to swim about 150 meters to reach the coast leaving all belongings in the boat, money, documents. Everything was lost. After two days without eating and sailing in bad weather we had no strength for anything but the need for freedom and the survival instinct was stronger than us. We reached the coast almost dead and threw ourselves into the sand. We began to cry out of joy and the shock we had endured. We were very cold and walked for 45 minutes until we came across a street where we called 911. Three police cars came, the K- 9 unit, the regular police and border patrol who took us to the detention center in Fort Lauderdale. They gave us dry clothes, food and interviewed us and took all our data. For the first time in my life I felt that the police treated me like a human being and I felt respect for them. We had no fear and felt good and from there we were taken by transport at 3 pm to the Church World Service who is in charge of Cuban immigrants.
We filled out more forms and applied for Government assistance. Right now I have one credit card and another with food stamps and I have some cash and waiting for help. We get $USD 200 per month and the initial paperwork which will allow me to get a Social Security Number and a Driver's License later. So far so good, but I will never forget what we suffered to get here nor do I forgive the Cuban Government for forcing me to do this and leave my family. (Burn in hell, Fidel!) Sorry for the expression but I could never say that in Cuba. I plan to go to California. I have my Cuban relatives who moved there one year ago and I have a job and home to stay in. I dream about my family being in Florida or California which I like and I have more calmness now until my wife have daughter join me.
I'm glad to have met you. Thanks for your support and concern. I still have the migratory bird of luck. When jumping into the sea, I just took my ID and that little bird. It honestly gave me much strength. Thank you and I wish you well. My friend is at a friend's house in the south, so he is well.
Greetings from my new land."
We have no doubt that these two men are now extremely happy with their new found freedom and will be supporting themselves independently and their families in no time at all.