Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unseaworthy Vessel of the Week: the Cuban 1951 Chevrolet Amphitruck

A while back I promised I'd write up a story every week about a particularly comical example of foolhardy mariners aboard questionable vessels. I've failed the "weekly" part, so I figure I might as well fail the "unseaworthy" part too. That way I can regale you with the age-old tale of a dozen desperate souls, bound from Communist Cuba to the Freedom of Florida, who drove their 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck out to the beach and just kept going.

I like these guys. In case you don't remember the story, it was a sunny July day back in 2003 when 12 Cubans set out to sea in a pickup truck with some 55-gallon drums lashed and welded to its sides and a propeller mated to the back end of the drive shaft. On the way, a DEA aircraft spotted them and the US Coast Guard then intercepted them.

Here's what they looked like:

I can't rightly call the vessel unseaworthy. When they were intercepted in the open ocean, the truck was cruising at a liesurely 7 knots

Better still, the passengers on the "weather decks" were wearing proper and functional personal flotation devices:

In the end though, these brave camionautas (Spanish for truck navigators) were taken off of their vessel and repatriated back to Cuba. Given the failure of most other amphibious car projects in the United States, I think we should've brought them ashore and found them a job. I know I personally would love to have a pickup truck that could get up to 7 knots while waterborne.

I can't have this one though. Once the people were offloaded, the Coast Guard decided it was a hazard to navigation and that the best remedy for that danger was the liberal application of automatic weapons fire.


FOLLOW UP: I forgot to mention it, but there have been at least two other attempts by Cuban camionauts to drive to the US. Here's some pictures:

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