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Couple Flees Cuba in Kayak

May 31, 1988

MIAMI (AP) _ A couple who sailed a canvas-covered kayak from Cuba survived stormy seas and a water spout that broke their 15-foot vessel’s frame before being rescued by a fishing boat, officials said.

″I don’t know how in the world they made it across the ocean,″ said Don Gurgiolo, captain of a charter fishing boat that rescued the couple off Upper Matecumbe Key, near Islamorada. ″It was awfully rough.″

The fishermen called the Coast Guard to pick up Juan Ramirez Gomez and his wife, Regina Gilda Sabina Mendez, who were bobbing in 6-foot seas when they were found Sunday morning, 38 hours after they set sail east of Havana.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Glenn Gerber said he was surprised the couple had survived the more than 100-mile voyage.

″It was not a real seaworthy vessel,″ Gerber said.

The couple said they left Cuba on Friday night in a kayak loaded with drinking water, a searchlight, jackets, a compass and other supplies.

After they were taken aboard the Gonfishin 5 passengers on the charter gave them food and clothing, Gurgiolo said.

″She got on the boat, dried off her Bible and praised God,″ the captain said.

The two were being held today at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Krome Avenue detention center in Miami.

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