|FYI — April 2004|
|By Brad Dunn|
In January the Coast Guard intercepted a floating Buick full of exiles about halfway between Cuba and Key West, Florida. Among the 11 people aboard were three Cubans who had tried the same stunt last July in a marinized Chevy (above), earning international recognition and the nickname “truckonauts.” In both cases, however, the Coast Guard arrested the passengers, sent them back to Cuba, and sunk the creative off-road cruisers in a hail of machine-gun fire—a standard precaution to prevent the “vessels” from becoming derelicts.
Though much has been made about the immigration issues behind these cases, few have stopped to admire the handiwork of these disgruntled Cubans.
First, a look at the Chevy: The would-be exiles crafted propellers and attached them to the drive shaft, which was still attached to the original 1951 engine. To keep the truck from sinking, they fastened sealed 55-gallon drums to both sides. The converted truck was reasonably seaworthy, save for the tires the Cubans had left attached: The group reportedly intended to convert the vehicle back to a truck upon reaching Florida and drive it to a relative’s house.
The Cubans improved their design the second time around. This time they actually welded a prow to a vintage Buick, then made the entire vehicle watertight and painted it sea-foam green. Though they used a makeshift propeller apparatus similar to that of the Chevy, the streamlined cruiser produced a 50-percent higher top speed. While the truck was able to make about 4 knots, the Buick cruised at up to 6.
The car-boat even captured the attention of Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who wrote a letter to President George W. Bush describing the flood of requests she had received to salvage the vehicle. She stated many Floridians had even offered to buy the Buick “that was valiantly sailed...to illustrate the ingenuity of the Cuban people.”
Things We Like
Turns out the chairs were part of an interactive ad, a brilliant way to inspire passing boaters to consider renting a nearby waterfront home. Of course, if you like this view, you should not only rent the home, called Aeolian, you should also check out our upcoming issue of Voyaging, where you’ll find out more about PMY’s cruise through the Abacos Islands.
This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.