We’re back home now. I still can’t get over how beautiful the reef at Roatan Island, Honduras is. Our voyage back north from Honduras was pretty uneventful, except for …. what happened to the Cuban Refugees? There were rumors throughout the ship. They’d been dropped off in Mexico – that’s why we docked even though many of the ships didn’t because of the danger from the high winds. Or, we’re going to drop them off with the Cuban military as we pass by Cuba on the way home. Or, we’re going to turn them over to the US Coast Guard somewhere in south Florida.
Turns out the last one was the correct story. As we neared Key West, the cruise director made an announcement that we’d be meeting a Coast Guard cutter and transferring the refugees. He didn’t say what would happen to them after that. The wind and waves finally were starting to subside, so there wasn’t any difficulty with the mashup. (Had to through that word in there. I hate it.)
But it was kinda like the Keystone Cops. The reason we had kept the refugees all week long was because the Coast Guard Cutter had mechanical difficulties on the day we found them. On Saturday, as the cutter drew alongside us, they lowered their red Zodiac into the water, and came over to pick up the folks a 3 at a time. They grabbed the first group, and pulled away from our ship. Then they started slowing down, then drifting backwards. Their outboard engine had stalled out and they couldn’t get it restarted. A guy fiddled with the engine while the other kept trying the ignition switch. Nada. After a couple of minutes they were pretty far behind us and the cutter, and it looked like our rescue boat would have to go rescue the Coast Guard Zodiac. I was embarrassed for the guys.
But then they finally got the engine started (to a rousing set of cheers from our ship), and made the transfer. The refugees were taken aboard the cutter and processed. We could see them filling out some paperwork, and they had to put on special wristbands (no, not handcuffs). As the last group was offloaded we could see the same guy who was last to leave their original boat. They were smiling and hugging each other once again. Our ship gave a couple of loud blasts with its horn, everyone cheered, and away we went. The cruise director announced they were being taken to a Cuban refugee camp in the Keys.
Saturday evening we all went to the lounge where the band sang Happy Birthday to Cindy. We had a couple of beers, danced a few dances, took pictures with the band, and called it a night.
We sailed our way back into Tampa Bay in the early hours on Sunday morning. The ship’s fog horn sounded every so often; the fog was super thick. Anyone who lives near Channelside, like on Davis Island, had to be blasted awake by the horn. Very loud. It meant business.
After I posted my refugee pictures on my Flickr site I did a search there and discovered we weren’t the first cruise ship to pick up Cuban refugees. But our group definitely had the best boat. Our people looked like they were out on a merry boat ride – some of the others were rescued from totally unseaworthy “boats”.
Well, Pam and Cindy are suddenly another year older, Dave is about to be, and me just a couple of weeks away. Time flies. It was great to see them on the cruise. Dave had fully recovered from his water fountain fun times, care of the Cayman Islands. He definitely didn’t mind that part being over with. : )
Let’s do it again!