Truck-boat passengers lose again in second attempt to get to America

| 10/1/2003

If at first you don’t succeed …

A group of 12 Cuban refugees who turned a truck into a boat and set sail for Florida has been stymied in their second attempt to make it to the United States, The Associated Press reported Sept. 30.

Media outlets across the country reported on the group in late July, when they took a 1951 Chevy truck, strapped on some air-filled 55-gallon drums, put a propeller on the driveshaft and set sail for Florida.

Unfortunately, the group’s low-tech James Bond routine was discovered, and they were picked up by the Coast Guard 40 miles short of their goal, having crossed most of the distance between the Communist island nation and the Florida coast.

Under a policy established during the Clinton administration, if Cuban refugees make it to American soil, they are allowed to stay. If caught on the ocean, they are returned to Cuba.

Having failed in using a truck to cross the ocean – a predictable result for less creative people – the group applied for legal visas that would allow them to emigrate to the United States.

Last week, The AP said, the group began to receive letters denying their requests for the visas.

"We are really disappointed," said Eduardo Perez, a truck-boat passenger.

The truck was doing about 8 mph when it was discovered by airborne officers July 18. It wasn't hard to spot – the truck is bright green, the tarp covering the bed was bright yellow and the barrels keeping it afloat were blue.

After the Cubans were taken off, it was deemed a "hazard to navigation," and sank, Reuters news service reported.

Despite the wide variety of boats used by Cuban emigrants in years past, the boat still stands out as unique.

"We haven't come across any vehicles like that before," Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss told reporters.