Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Cuban row boat

One of the more interesting aspects of the cruise occurred on our journey homebound from Belize.

At one point going Northward, the ship passes parallel with a part of Cuba--albeit the coastline is miles away--and it's well-documented that many Cuban refugees strike out from her shores on rickety row boats toward the United States and South America. The night had been very rough going and the ship's listing and rocking had awoken me many times--no, I didn't get sea sick because I have a stomach that seems made of steel.

Just after breakfast the following morning, the captain made a public announcement that a small boat had been spotted at a distance and he felt it his duty to turn the ship and seek out the vessel and investigate if there was someone who perhaps needed help. It took the ship a while to turn and Larry and I went to watch from the bow. All we could see were choppy waves and miles and miles of water. Of course, the decks were buzzing with muted excitement as to what would be found.

After twenty minutes, we spotted the boat--a rowing boat just like one sees in any city park lake. The ship drew nearer and nearer until we were upon it. It was a surreal experience standing high on a huge, modern cruise ship as it drew gently closer and closer to the rowboat in order to see if anyone was aboard and perhaps injured. No one was inside and it had taken on some water. On its floor were three coconuts and a few bananas. My heart went out to whomever had decided life in Cuba under Fidel Castro was so intolerable and their circumstances so desperate that they were prepared to risk their lives in the stormy Gulf waters. I hope the boat slipped its mooring or the people were rescued by a merchant ship or something.

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