Reef Queen

Boat Information

  • Vessel name: Reef Queen
  • Arrival: May 23, 1980
  • Captain: n/a
  • Size: 79'
  • Use: passenger
  • Onboard when departed US: 0
  • Crew: 25
  • Refugees: 360
  • Total people onboard: 385
  • Coast guard remarks: Seized by CG/ COI issued 1 Feb 80, MSO Miami, passengers/ subpoenaedTeresa Melero, W. Valcarcel, 30 May 1400

Memories from the Passengers

Luis Jorge Saez Rosete's memory of Reef Queen
07/09/2010

The Reef Queen was loaded with its full load of 360 refugees 24 hours before departure from Mariel. We were starving for those 24 hours and cramped in that "lake boat" without even a compass for the trip, waiting for the order to go.
My mother (read the rest of this memory)and I had been stuck in the concentration camp for 15 days prior eating 1 meal a day of rice and scrambled eggs and 1 yogourt and going to the bathroom in holes on the ground that were overflowing with excrement everywhere.
Someone had to be awake all the time not knowing when your name was going to be announced on the loudspeakers at any time of night of day. Being awake was not so difficult since sleeping in that dusty tent city dessert by the ocean was not much rest anyway.
The boat was supposed to carry a maximum of 100 passengers and it was loaded beyond its flotation mark. As was the case with most of the boats I saw departing the next day.
My mother Georgina Rosete and I were sea sick for the 48 hour trip to Miami. The boat could not handle the rough Gulf currents or go at a normal speed since it was overloaded.
I fell asleep on the top deck under a bench and woke up in the middle of the night with the beautiful sight of a huge Coast Guard Ship towering over our Reef Queen and booming directions for our Captain to correct its course cause we were heading for the middle of nowhere in the Gulf of Mexico, without even a working compass.
We could have very well have gone missing and sank without no one ever knowing had not been for that coast guard's help. Not unlike the unrecorded tragedies of hundreds of thousands of people in Castro's paradise island.
Just after arriving at that concentration camp we were ordered to surrender any identity documents, money or valuables.
When we finally reached Key West it was like a dream to touch land there. I tried for a short time to see if my aunt was around but as the crazy story goes she was still waiting in Mariel, for me and my mother to be released without her knowing.
So we spent a night sleeping under an airport hangar and next morning we were flown to Fort Indian base in Pennsylvania.
In the plane I was very proud to speak with an agent in English. I had spent a few years prior trying to learn as much as possible cause I knew I had to leave Castro's prison jail somehow.
I have never gone back to Cuba since May 23rd 1980. (July 9th 2010) 30 years later I write my memories

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Juan Monrabal Navarro's memory of Reef Queen
05/25/2010

Despues de pasar tantos dias en la carreta donde nos procesaron para salir al Mariel y que nos tenian retenidos por tantos dias pues yo estaba con el grupo de menores de 21 anios , en el 80 yo tenia 19 anios y esto era mucho para la imagen de Cuba an (read the rest of this memory)te el mundo que el hombre nuevo ya no soportaba mas de la porqueria del comunismo y todos queriamos salir del infierno en que viviamos.Parece mentira que ya han pasado 30 anios y la verdad es que la gran mayoria de nosotros ha logrado en la libertad lo que siempre se nos nego' en el paraiso comunista , casi todos estudiamos aqui lo que siempre quisimos hacer y logramos nuestras metas y mucho mas de lo que nunca nos imaginamos, El viaje fue algo aterrador por la cantidad de refugiados abordo a tal punto que se quemo' el motor y fuimos trasladados a un barco de la marina de los EUA y de este nos mandaron en helicopteros para cayo hueso,recuerdo un sandwich de mantequilla de mani' y mermelada de fresa que nos ofresieron, ,que rico algo tan simple y nutritivo, es increhible que despues de 30 anios es una de mis chucherias favoritas teniendo en cuentas que mi profesio'n es Chef De Cusine con 25 anios de experiencia en los mejores restaurantes de la bella ciudad de Nueva Orleans donde resido desde el 80, si hay otros cocineros por este foro que son cubanos y quisieran hacer algo para un futuro no muy lejos en nuestra bella isla en relacion con cocina y quizas el Instituto Internacional de Artes Culinarios de La Habana, donde podemos ensenar a los cubanos hermanos nuestros que se pueden ganar la vida aprendiendo y estudiando una profesio'n que le da a uno y a todos a nuestro alrededor imnumerables placeres COMER.Saludos a todos los bendecidos Marielitas que han logrados sus suenos y que pronto nuestros hermanos puedan tener la libertad para tomar sus propias opiniones y suenos y hacerlos realidad.Saludos Felix Monrabal Navarro.

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