Two Florida Keys fishermen who found and salvaged a makeshift boat also found themselves with an up close connection to someone’s strategic desperate journey from Cuba, probably within the last week.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in 36 years of fishing in the wide blue ocean open,” said Jimmy Verner. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
“There’s a lot of engineering that went into it,” said Bart Sherwood, who examined the vessel from bow to stern and was amazed at the engineering and ingenuity used to craft it.
Sherwood was impressed by the precise welding, symmetry and craftsmanship on the boat, and the resourceful use of materials.
“It has an Isuzu automobile engine complete with the muffler that came off of it,” Sherwood said.
He showed a propane tank adapted to a fuel tank, a homemade throttle for speed, and a rudder apparently fashioned from a street sign.
Aboard the vessel were three sets of men’s clothing, including three uniforms. One of them is from Caribbean Dry Dock, one of Havana’s oldest shipyards.
The boaters brought fuel in plastic bottles, canned food, powdered milk, glucose in IV bags and anxiety medicine.
“These people put their lives at risk,” said Verner. “I honestly do believe and hope and pray that they came to the United States and were given asylum.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, that is not the case. A spokeswoman said she could not release details before their cases are closed, but confirms the people who were aboard the boat were transferred to a Coast Guard cutter and are being processed for intended repatriation.