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Coast Guard Pleads with Cuba-Raft-Trip Mayor

Clint Johnson
DeBary Mayor Clint Johnson testing a homemade raft similar to what he plans to build in Cuba in Daytona Beach Shores, FL. Photos by Beach Safety Ocean Rescue

By MarEx 2016-04-04 18:41:45

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging the mayor of a small Florida town to reconsider his plans to travel back from Cuba on a makeshift raft.

DeBary Mayor Clint Johnson is apparently not heeding those warnings. He spent the weekend making test runs for his upcoming Cuba trip. According to Fox News Latino, Johnson “started at a Ponce Inlet ramp, went around the jetty and about 12 miles north to Daytona Beach Shores.”

During his Saturday excursion, Johnson posted photos on Instagram, with the caption: “Ocean test run complete! … #Cuba next!”

Johnson became the youngest mayor in Valusia county, Florida, when he was elected at the age of 28.

Johnson says he plans to cross the Florida Straits in mid-April without a motor because he wants to understand what Cuban migrants experience. “The journey they take is largely unreported, and there is very little information on exactly what these men, women, and children go through to get here.”

Since Johnson is a U.S. citizen returning home from an approved trip to Cuba, he says there is nothing barring him from making the potentially dangerous attempt.

“I have finally secured a license to visit Cuba in mid-April,” he said. “I will be floating back to Florida on a raft with no motor to share the experience and weigh the pros/cons of a more open relationship with our neighbor 90 miles south.”

Johnson addressed the issue of rescue crews, saying he would not want to endanger them in any way.  “I definitely would be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their satisfaction,” Johnson said.

He goes go on at “least three unorthodox adventures” a year and documents his travels on his website teamclint.com.

“I appreciate and respect the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast recent concern for my personal safety and the safety of possible responders,” Johnson wrote on Facebook.  “I will continue to be as cooperative as possible in the final planning stages.”

Under the so-called “wet foot/dry foot policy,” Cubans who reach U.S. shore generally can stay and pursue citizenship, but those who are caught at sea must return home.

With news that special immigration privileges for Cubans may soon end, the number of Cubans making their way to Florida illegally, has surged over the last year.