A group of 13 Cuban migrants arrived in Big Pine Key at around 4 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. They were all in good health.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Becky Herrin reported that the group traveled from Cuba on a homemade boat. It was docked at the Big Pine Fishing Lodge when deputies arrived, and the migrants were turned over to Customs and Border Protection.
In an interview with Miami Herald news partner CBS4, the migrants said they were in the ocean for 26 hours and got lost.
"It was a tough journey because the sea was rough, our GPS broke, it got wet, so we had to throw it out," José Ramon Lueje Muestre said. "We guessed which way we were going by the sun, clouds and stars."
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The migrants are believed to be the first group to leave Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro. Castro died on Nov. 25 at age of 90 after a lingering illness that resulted in his ceding power to his brother Raúl Castro in 2006.
On Saturday night, tens of thousands of Cubans turned out for a final farewell to Castro at the Antonio Maceo Plaza on the eve of his interment at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba. He was laid to rest next to the mausoleum of 19th century Cuban patriot José Martí, who fought for Cuban independence from Spain.
“We had to wait a few days because police were everywhere," Muestre added. "If you get caught you get in trouble you get fined. So the death of Castro made it harder. This is my third attempt coming on a raft. I had it planned way before Castro died."