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SCENE Night boat to Cuba Adversity has a way of bringing out unsuspected abilities and strengths in people. Henry Salas, senior accountant at H&S Miami, is a case in point. He managed to leave his native Cuba in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro came to power, but his mother re-mained there. Several years later when the chance arose for Henry to bring his mother to the United States, the only way was by private boat. Although he had 110 seafaring experi-ence before, Henry and four friends bought an old shrimp boat, sailed it to Cuba, and brought out 30 relatives and friends. The expedition began like a romantic adventure, then nearly foun-dered from 10 days of demoralizing dis-comfort ashore and 25 hours of being lost in the open sea. But it ended safely. What launched the trip was Premier Castro's announcement that the shores of Cuba were open and anyone was free to go there to pick up his family. Immediately, hundreds of Cubans in Miami and elsewhere in the United States rushed to Key West with their life's savings to buy boats. Henry and his friends bought a 15-year-old shrimp boat for $3000. It was an open-deck 30-footer without radio, lights, life pre-servers, shelter or adequate compass. But its engine worked and it stayed afloat, unlike many others bought at the time. Henry had the dubious honor of being elected captain mainly, he said, "because I owned the Dramamine pills. I was no seaman." Although the U. S. government at the time officially opposed such trips, the Key West Naval Station men looked the other way as Henry and his crew stowed water and food, and took on gasoline. At 10 o'clock on an October, night, the five men shoved off on their ten-hour voyage across the Straits of Florida to Cuba, about go miles away. Twelve days would pass before they would step ashore in Key West again. The trip to Cuba, Henry recalled, was easy, because Florida points in al-most perpendicular fashion to a hori-zontal Cuba, like a finger pointing at a table. No matter how much you deviate from your course, Henry said, chances are you will hit some part of the long Cuban coast. But on the return trip from Cuba to Key West, you must hold to a direct course to hit the pinpoint of the Keys. If you stray off course, you end up in the open Atlantic or the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, and old 30-foot shrimp boats are not seaworthy enough for those waters. Before Henry could meet with his mother and the other passengers in Cuba to organize the return trip, he and his companions were detained for ten days by Cuban authorities. "We were treated fairly well," he said, "but food was very bad." Not expecting to be delayed, he had 110 26 change of clothes with him. "In other words," he said, "twelve days with the same shirt and pants." When they were allowed to leave, Henry took his mother and a maid who had served the family for 40 years. Heavily laden with 30 refugees and its 5-man crew, the boat headed for Key West and immediately ran into rough weather. Seas were running about eight feet, visibility was near zero and Henry discovered that his compass was thrown out of kilter by the surrounding metal. For hours on end the voyagers did not know where they were, or whether they were heading for a friendly shore or the open sea. Everyone was seasick. Finally, in international waters about 20 miles east of Key West and with scarcely five hours' fuel in the tank, they rejoiced to see a U. S. Coast Guard patrol boat approaching. "The Coast Guard asked us where we were going," Henry said, "corrected our course a little and asked if we needed gasoline, water, and food." It was a crucial assist, because the amateur sailors had been 011 a course for Europe. When Henry and his companions docked at Key West 25 hours after leaving Cuba, U. S. officials seized their boat because government policy had been violated by the trip. "A United States Navy officer told us that we had broken about 30 safety regulations," Henry added, "in packing so many passengers per square foot without life preservers, radio, lights or things like that. Still, we were received more or less like heroes." Shortly after the harrowing trip and safe arrival, President Johnson replied to Castro's "open shore" challenge and said the United States was willing to start an "air bridge" between Miami and Cuba. These "freedom flights," as Henry called them, now arrive daily. The waiting list for the flights ex-tends through 1978, Henry said. Be-cause his mother died last December, he feels strongly "that I would never have seen my mother again," had he not seized the moment with the boat.
Walsh, Mark J.
Rowe, William E.
Schwartz, Charles P.
Lucas, Joseph J.
Barson, David W.
Haskins & Sells. Miami Office
Haskins & Sells. Los Angeles Office
Haskins & Sells. Executive Office
Haskins & Sells. Minneapolis Office
Haskins & Sells. Philadelphia Office
|Abstract||Illustrations not included in this Web version.|
H&S Reports, Vol. 06, (1969 autumn), p. 26-29
|Source||Originally published by: Haskins & Sells|
|Rights||Copyright and permission to republish held by: Deloitte|
|Format||PDF page image with corrected OCR scanned at 400 dpi|
|Collection||Deloitte Digital Collection|
|Digital Publisher||University of Mississippi Library. Accounting Collection|