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Queen’s Yacht Picks Up Cuban Rafter

May 29, 1991

MIAMI (AP) _ A Cuban man fleeing his nation on a raft got an unexpected ride Tuesday on Queen Elizabeth’s II’s yacht Britannia, but his royal treatment ended on U.S. shores.

The 412-foot yacht was returning to Europe without the queen aboard when its crew spotted the man near Sombrero Key off Marathon in the Florida Keys, said Chief Petty Officer Luis Diaz.

″He’s sort of a royal refugee,″ said Diaz.

The yacht picked up the 21-year-old refugee and diverted to the waters off Miami, where he was put on a Coast Guard patrol boat and taken to Miami Beach, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Karonis.

Coast Guard officers said the royal digs must have been quite a change from the small raft he was riding.

″He left by himself from a beach near Havana. He was at sea for three days. He had water but no food,″ said Ensign Andrea Palermo. The straight- line distance from Havana to Marathon is 125 miles.

The refugee was examined aboard the Britannia, which can double as a hospital ship in an emergency. He was walking and in apparent good physical shape when he arrived in Miami Beach, Karonis added.

There would be no red carpet treatment for the refugee, who was to be turned over to immigration authorities, Karonis said.

About 800 Cubans have reached Florida shores so far this year on everything from inner-tube rafts to hijacked freighters, but this is the first time one arrived on a royal yacht, Karonis said.

The Britannia hosted the queen when she arrived in Miami on the second leg of her U.S. tour, serving as her hotel for a weekend cruise along Florida’s coast.

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