La Habana – Eduardo Paz
February 2, 2017
They had made the crossing in a little over fifty six hours despite the many forces that worked against them during the journey. The ancient diesel engine that seemed to have been forged in the age of the Templar had failed them twice during the second night, and the subsequent talk of a fuel filter that should have been capable of screening 10 microns per thousand instead of 100 only confused the ship’s captain who knew nothing of the mysticism involved in coaxing an engine to do man’s bidding. Even the Gulf Stream itself cosmically worked against the small boat as the current slowly pushed the vessel eastwards at two and a half knots when they should have been going south at five. But in time the distant lights of Cuba appeared and with it all omens of disaster were left behind in the vessel’s phosphorescent wake.
The boat idled into the Hemingway Marina and the crew secured her to the quay. The water inside the harbor was calm and the dock lights reflected perfectly in the water below. Raising of the yellow quarantine flag, customs, paperwork, boarding of the vessel by uniformed revolucionarios for inspection and subsequent lowering of the quarantine flag upon passports of the crew of four being cleared. The process was the same for every foreign vessel that entered Cuban waters and soon the Cuban government allowed the vessel the usual ninety day cruising visa on the assumption that the boat and her crew were here for an upcoming fishing tournament.
El Gordo, the crew’s mission specialist and suspected narcissist began a rapid decompression as soon as the first acceptable jinetera caught his eye. Never one for moderation, one jinetera soon followed the other and soon he began to regurgitate the benefits of the apparent willingness of the city’s women to engage in spontaneous sexual adventures. He rationalized that the men loved their women so much that they took no issue with tourists treating them to night outs that they could not otherwise afford themselves. Convinced of his righteousness, El Gordo concluded that the total mass of his anatomy was a positive event for Havana now that he had injected himself into it. Hector rejected El Gordo’s thesis and pushed the idea that perhaps it was abject poverty on the island that pushed women of all ages into prostitution and that El Gordo himself was responsible for emasculating impoverished husbands across the island that could not otherwise afford to feed their families. El Gordo soon felt the moral weight of his argument shift as the other crew members sided against him. “Yeah man, just admit when you’re an asshole and you won’t look like a fucking idiot. The women are poor and hungry and you sleep with them because you can and you want to,” added David. The captain quickly added that El Gordo was replicating the behaviors of a fat colonialist and enjoyed reveling in his exploitation of the world’s periphery. These observations promptly solidified public opinion against El Gordo and soon an impassioned defense was launched but the angry accusations of misinterpretation quickly fell on deaf ears.
They had been on the island for several days now and quickly the whoring, drinking and otherwise swift shift of paradigm had turned kaleidoscopic. At sea, the rationing of the boat’s supply of beer had been a horrifying test of human endurance. Hector was most affected during this time and always alerted the crew of the quickly dwindling supply only designed for a predicted 10 hour crossing from Key West to Cuba. They had thirty six cans of beer, twelve of Heineken, Modelo and Corona respectively.
When the engine problems started occurring, the seriousness of the situation became apparent to Hector not in the measurement of time but in the measurement of the beer. First the Heineken ran out, and as consumption of the Modelos began, so too began a fear that disaster would begin to show itself when only the Coronas were left, for the Coronas not only represented the twelve remaining drinks among the three crew members that drank, but there was also a general consensus among the crew that Coronas were far weaker in potency. A small mutiny broke out as Hector accused the captain of breach of conduct through improperly supplying the vessel and soon began to seriously consider breaking the boat’s gyro compass in order to consume the grain spirits used to float the magnetic needle.
Dark times indeed had passed but now the crew of four gathered in the small bar in an attempt to gain a hold on the tasks at hand. They had lied to the Cuban government in declaring their intentions to participate at a local fishing tournament held every year in honor of Hemingway but it was their only means of obtaining a “cultural exchange” checkmark on the American paperwork needed to circumvent the embargo still technically in effect. Though they would indeed fish at said tournament (much to the pleasure of David and Hector) they were only doing so to justify the time needed to await the arrival of the ship’s future contraband. El Gordo went over the details with the crew once again, for steering of the ship aside, he was in charge of the operation.
The plan was relatively straightforward even by the Miami standards the crew operated by. El Gordo had arranged for a simple human trafficking gig in which seven women needed to be taken out of the island ASAP in exchange for ten thousand dollars a head. Though he wasn’t aware of the landing point the women specifically required, the crew openly speculated of the possible locations these women would demand of them. Marathon Key or Islamorada being the more sound options for a quick crossing, or more likely than not why not fucking South Beach itself? Wet foot dry foot legislation making all things equal, all Cubans usually end up in the bowels of Miami no matter where you drop them off anyway. David speculated that they might even demand a pit stop at the Nixon sandbar party for some celebratory puteria before demanding their social security cards. His comment brought much mirth to the table but many agreed of the practical merits of just taking the boat straight to a sandbar party in the middle of the afternoon before docking at port. What customs vessel would ever suspect a boat load full of ratchet men and women of breaking any law other than boating under the influence anyway.
The day of the fishing tournament brought a sense of apprehension to captain and crew. Their boat was an old 1959 Wheeler Playmate purchased off of Craigslist for only six grand. Her size was ideal at thirty nine feet but her hull and knees were rotted through and through and had required much more than the quick coat of fiberglass Hector and David slapped on her bottom. She had the name ChumBucket decaying on her transom and despite sincere pleas to change the name to something more sexy the captain refused on the grounds of tradition forbidding a boat’s name ever be changed lest some horrible fate await its crew. This latter explanation being all the reasons you ever need to give a crew of Santeros, the boat remained ChumBucket for her new reincarnation.