The dozen Cuban migrants on the rickety boat must have been terrified Sunday night.
It was dark, the waves about 20 miles southeast of Key West were eight feet high, and were gusting around 30 knots. They were waving for help when the Coast Guard found them.
The Coast Guard crew gave them life jackets and brought them off their “rustic vessel” and onto a cutter. No one was hurt.
"We make every effort to rescue those in distress at sea," said Cmdr. Marc Brandt, the commanding officer of the Northland, in a statement. "I am extremely proud of our crew for completing this challenging nighttime rescue safely. I doubt that the rustic vessel would have lasted much longer in the strong winds and high seas that the storm had generated. While this group was rescued in the nick of time, attempting to illegally migrate in poorly constructed, unlighted and overcrowded craft is inherently unsafe and puts migrants at extreme risk."
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The group was among the 36 migrants repatriated to Cuba on Wednesday and a fraction of the 6,393 Cuban attempted migrants logged by the Coast Guard since last October.