Received this email at 4:45 this morning:
It is 4:22 AM, and I just got home a little while ago. We are having our annual firm retreat this weekend at my home in Tavernier. At around 12:30am I was sitting on my second story balcony in Tavernier talking with Ismael Compres (the head of my firm’s Santiago D.R. office) when we heard what sounded like very faint and distant cries for help. At first we were not sure, and listened closely and again heard distant cries for help. We ran down to Dusky II and got her underway with a northward bearing following the mainland keys looking for stranded boaters. Within minutes we called the Coast Guard and told them we were hearing distant cries for help (they were coming from windward) and had not yet located the source.
We deviated from the northern course and turned eastward toward a sailboat with only its mast light on. We called to the Coast Guard and told them that we would approach the vessel. No answer. We then saw a faint light flickering inside Tavernier Key (a small islet east of mainland Tavernier). We told the Coast Guard we would approach. The cries for help got louder. The faint light was a fire. As we made our way toward the fire, we got close enought to yell out. They responded – they were Cuban. I asked how many – they responded “22.” I asked how many had set out from Cuba – they said “22”.
We congratulated them and informed them that they had reached American soil. They gave out a roaring cheer. We let them know we had sent message to the Coast Guard and that we were witness to “Dry Foot.” We called the Coast Guard and relayed the information. The Coast Guard confirmed they were dispatching a vessel. While the Coast Guard vessel was in route, one of the stranded cried out that a female was dehydrated. There was desperation in the voice. We told them to hang on a little longer, and that help was on its way. The Coast Guard arrived and deployed a flats boat to the island and shuttled the new arrivals to the main vessel using the flats boat. It felt great to watch them get on the boats and be ushered into freedom. I recently received my US Merchant Marine Officer – Master Captains License. I am going to sleep tonight grateful for the opportunity to have helped out.
UPDATE: I wanted to post this as soon as I received it but I had not yet obtained permission from the person who sent me the email so I redacted certain portions to protect the author’s identity, just in case. I have since received that authorization and have included the names that were redacted and can tell you that the person who located those 22 souls last night was Joe Zumpano. You’ll remember that I wrote a post about Zumpano as the man who beat fidel castro in court as he represented Janet Weininger in her suit against castro, inc.