When the men got close enough, they leapt out of their boat and made a mad dash for shore.
“What’s your name?” one man asked, in Spanish, of Tori Ford, a 23-year-old tourist from Virginia.
“Miami?” he and his partner asked, over and over, as they kicked the sand. “Miami,” she confirmed.
The pair, migrants from Cuba, rushed to the boardwalk with smiles on their faces. They had made it.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Ford was spending her second day in Miami Beach with Nick Novak near 41st Street when they saw the tiny boat in the distance.
“We thought they were kayakers or something at first,” she said.
As it drew nearer, they saw two heavily sunburned men rowing furiously. Ford and Novak were the first people on shore to greet the men, and they were there hours later when the park department showed up with heavy machinery to move the tiny rowboat out of the ocean.
When tipped over, the green vessel spilled a pair of worn-out oars, a black inner tube and a pile of empty water bottles with Spanish labels.
Miami Beach police tweeted that the 30-something-year-old men were in good health. Ernesto Rodriguez, a police spokesman, said the men are in custody of border patrol.