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Coast Guard Pleads With Florida Mayor Not To Make Trip From Cuba In Makeshift Raft


MIAMI — Mayor Clint Johnson of DeBary, Florida, plans to sail from Cuba to Key West on a makeshift raft this month.

Johnson has been preparing for his trip by making rafts and sailing shorter distances. On Friday, he sailed in the Atlantic Ocean to experience the currents and wind conditions, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

He made it to shore, tweeting, “Ocean test run complete! Educational, enlightening, and an awesome experience. #Cuba next!”

The News-Journal reported that the mayor plans to fly to Cuba, where he will make his raft, and then sail back through the Florida Straits.

His trip follows the recent death of nine Cuban migrants that were attempting to reach Florida. 18 others were rescued by a cruise ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the News-Journal said in a separate report, has urged Johnson to reconsider his trip and said there could be “grave consequences.”

“Not only are the consequences of a voyage on hand-made vessels potentially deadly, but they also put unnecessary risk on the lives of our Coast Guard men and women who respond to enforce U.S. law and keep those at sea safe,” the Coast Guard said.

They added that the number of migrants that have died at sea is unknown.

Johnson, who does not want to have a boat follow him, said that he is making the trip for two reasons: For the adventure and to see what Cuban migrants experience.

The Coast Guard said that the trip’s best case scenario will result in a search for him, and that search would cost around $144,000- similar to a search-and-rescue mission last October.

When the mayor begins his trip later this month, you can track his location here.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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