The more I travel, the more I am made aware of just how enormously fortunate I am to have been born into a middle class family in a western democracy. I’ve never had to worry about finding food on the dinner table and certainly never had to consider the possibility of coming to harm at the hands of my government because of my views on any particular topic.
This was brought home once again during the second day of our trip when the ship made an unscheduled stop to rescue 8 guys who were spotted from the deck in a tiny, homemade raft. We didn’t hear for sure but it seems pretty certain that they were heading from Cuba and trying to make it to Florida.
The raft was made of 5 inner tubes, a tarpaulin and a bolted wood frame. As far as I could see, they had no food and little, if any, water. They were also taking on water and spending a fair bit of time bailing.
We picked them up about 30 miles off Florida’s east coast (I’ve marked the location on the map below – isn’t GPS a wonderful thing?) which, assuming they left from the closes point on Cuba meant that they had been paddling for about 120 miles or so before they were spotted. As far as I can tell, at this location, the current would be pulling them north-east so getting to shore, even though it was only 30 miles away, would likely have been quite a struggle even if their boat had been in good repair.
The captain brought the men onboard, gave them clothes and food and looked after them until a Coast Guard cutter picked them up a few hours later. Despite their efforts, there’s a very high likelihood that they will be back in Cuba shortly since they didn’t make it to land.
I may be pretty unimpressed by the partisan bickering going on in our government these days but, put in context, I don’t see too many folks from the US building rickety rafts and taking to the ocean looking for a better option. Think yourselves lucky, despite everything that’s going on in Washington D.C. just now!
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