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This trip is different. This trip is personal.
It was a very dark and stormy night punctuated by brilliant bolts of lightning booming out from the huge cumulus clouds overhead when captain Santiago, – he was not really a ‘captain’, but it was his boat – spotted the white foam breaking over the reef protecting Akumal Bay, the destination of this night’s trip that started 46 hours earlier from the small town of Cocorilo on the south side of Cuba’s Isla de la Juventuda ("Isle of Youth")*, where Santiago had lived and fished all his life, living in his fantasies of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, but this trip was very different from those usual fishing forays into the deep blue waters where he was renowned for taking the tourists who wanted to play Hemingway for a day to sites where they would catch the largest swordfish and marlin they could imagine. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
As Santiago drove the 22' Aquasport closer to the reef, he eased up on the 250 HP Mercury EFI engine to watch for the opening, when the wind suddenly picked up, now blowing down from the north, creating much larger swells than he was expecting, and then Santiago saw what he was looking for – the well-marked opening – and he gunned the engine and made straight for the beach in front of the Akumal Dive Center, and in the darkness, Santiago failed to see the large green turtle swimming on the surface, and as the boat’s hull hit the turtle, the boat quickly flipped to the port side, sending Santiago and his precious cargo into the warm, shallow waters. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
The cargo – three one kilo packages were tightly wrapped and sealed in light brown plastic – was easily secured as they bobbed on the surface like corks, and the lightening brought the palm lined beach into clear perspective, one that Santiago did not want to venture onto at this time of the predawn morning, so he decided to remain in the air pocket of the overturned Aquasport until sunrise; he had done this many times in his youth to avoid the details from Batista’s army looking for Castro supporters. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
The dark and stormy night passed, and the bright orange sun rose out of the eastern horizon as Santiago took the three kilo bundles from under the overturned boat and made his way towards shore and his final destination, where he knew his fortune would be secured for him and his family, awaiting his ultimate return to Cocorilo, but he was not thinking about the overturned Aquasport or the 250 HP Mercury EFI engine laying on the sandy bottom of Akumal Bay, in six feet of very salty water; he had to keep moving and be there at 7:00 when it opened. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
Besides the three kilo bundles, Santiago also had another water tight bundle that included a change of clothes, and with these he made his way past the Dive Center to the Hotel Akumal Caribe swimming pool, where he stripped naked, soundlessly entered the water, washed the salt from his hair and body, dried himself with an abandoned towel, dressed into his dry clothes – white linen shirt and pants – and made his way past Lol Ha, Akumal Investments, MexicArte, and the Hotel Akumal Caribe lobby, eventually coming to Super Chomak, which he silently entered and asked for Senor Dave, “Tell him Santiago has arrived”. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
Santiago was ushered into the back room, past the freezers and shelves of the warehouse, coming to a corner office with two chairs and a small wooden table that served as a desk, decorated only by a flickering candle, two Redel Ouverture glasses, and an opened bottle of his favorite tequila, El Tesoro de Don Felipe Añejo Tequila, and not being bashful, Santiago poured himself 2 ounces of El Tesor and proceeded to open the three kilo packages, proudly displaying their contents – boxes of his personally grown and rolled Cuban cigars: Cohiba Siglo II, Cohiba Pirámides Extra, and Montecristo Say #4 – knowing they were the very, very best that Dave could hope to get his hands on. Santiago unwrapped one of the Cohiba Siglo III cigars and lit it, blowing a symmetrical smoke ring into the candle light as he swirled the El Tesor in the Redel Ouverture glass. Santiago waited. This trip is different. This trip is personal.
*- From 1953 to 1955, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was imprisoned in the Presidio Modelo on the Isla de la Juventud by the regime of Fulgencio Batista after leading the failed July 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in the Oriente Province.
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