“So you’re going to be on the Halcon?”, John Eklund asked. It was the third hour of delays waiting for the Aero Caribe flight from Cancun to Havana, a day and a half of travel and still not even in Cuba yet, and our anticipation was foundering. John was the veteran of 10 trips to Los Jardines de la Reina, the southern Cuban keys, and the organizer of the 14 man party who would be on the Tortuga, the only other boat to share 110 miles of undeveloped fishing territory for a week. He, at least, was still smiling.
“You’ll be with Rey. He’s the captain of the Halcon. You’ll really enjoy him. Great guy. Very interesting man, really. He’s a real life national hero in Cuba. Actually he’s a hero to the Miami Cubans too. Very unique.”
I thought about that, wondering, until someone asked, and John told this story:
Rey was working as the captain of a blue water, big game charter boat working out of Marina Hemingway east of Havana, running a sleek, V hulled, double 150’s outboard for the mostly european tourists wanting to fish the Gulf Stream for marlin and tuna. Such a job in charge of such modern, expensive equipment was a position of immense prestige and privilige in Cuba, even if his pay was the standard $15 a month and the boat owned totally and irrevocably by the state. The tips alone from the foreign tourists eclipsed his pay a thousand times over and made him a rich man. In the most outwardly egalitarian of societies, such a job might be quietly reserved for the most favored, or related, of the highest Communist party hierarchy, so Rey might have wondered why such luck had
fallen upon him, but he asked few questions.
So when the #3 man in the state, one man removed from “El Jefe” Castro himself asked Rey to take him and his wife out fishing in the Gulf stream, Rey was most happy to oblige, even had there been a choice. On the appointed day with #3 and wife and full fuel tanks Rey cleared the harbour and headed north to the marlin grounds. But Rey’s expectations of the day were changed when #3 pulled out a revolver and said, “take us to Miami!”
Rey looked at the gun pointed firmly at him, considered his options, and replied, “sure”. He rev’ed up the outboards and headed north at a chop splitting pace, the gun still firmly pointed at his chest.
All went well until they reached the international boundary where Cuban gunboats with deck
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