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Cuban Chug

July 21, 2011

The Pheebs and I were surfing the news as we are wont to do, and came across and article indicating travel to Cuba is to open up in a few weeks time – no special visa required for a tourist to go see an island nation closed to us for 50 years.

It’s pretty easy – drive to Miami, hop one of at least 4 flights to Havana daily – and you’re there!

Made me think of what cubanos go through to get to the United States…

I went out for a quick motorcycle ride last March in Key West – rode out the Ft Zach for some meditative thinking as the gates opened.  to my surprise, the place was crawling with law enforcement.  The reason?

A homemade boat, called a chug, filled with Cuban refugees had made it to the beach of Key West.

An explanation:

the US has a wet foot/dry foot policy with regard to Cuban refugees.  If they are intercepted prior to landfall (wet foot), they are returned to Cuba, and likely to face some very harsh treatment.

If, however, the occupants of a chug are fortunate enough to make it to land (dry foot), then they are processed as refugees and are granted asylum.

Even with minimal resources, there are people in Cuba willing to take that risk.

This is an example of their determination and ingenuity.  A seaworthy craft fabricated with what we would consider debris.

The craft was 20 feet long and had a beam (draft) of about 8 feet.  An amazing feat of engineering, it’s been constructed out of a foam core garage door, a pair of tarps, some expanding foam (like the stuff in aerosol cans in Home Depot), a brace of two-by-fours and an air cooled diesel engine.

The rock in the chug was tossed in it to keep it from drifting away.

Fuel and water were lashed to the craft for the voyage.

That’s a tiller on the stern and a automotive driveshaft modified to drive the propeller.

The sailors, you ask?

13 of them made the trip – 12 men and one woman.  90 miles and three days in what was far from a watertight craft.

Imagine that.

What struck me?

The fuel tank and fuel line…

The tank had to be repaired to hold fuel, and if you look closely, you’ll see the fuel line is spliced together using different diameter tubing.  The builders didn’t have enough fuel line to span the  3 feet from the elevated tank to the fuel injector pump…they had to cobble together bits and pieces to get this contraption to work…

And they trusted it with their lives so as to traverse the open ocean.

We’ve said this before…No need to exaggerate, as life is strange enough as it is.

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