Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Florida Keys Watercolor Kapers by Bob Kranich

Western Union Cable Repair Schooner
They could spin many yarns, but one of the most interesting was the time they were returning from a job, and they passed too close to Cuba. It was just prior to the Bay of Pigs affair.

“Captain, we’re kind of close to Cuban waters.”

“Jack, according to my charting, we’re well out of it, at least five to ten miles.”

“ Don’t look now Cap’n, but what is that shape heading towards us on our rear port (left) side?”

“Jack, it looks like a small military vessel. I hope it’s not Cuban! Helmsman, hold your course straight towards Key West. We'll pretend we don’t see him.”

“That’s not going to work, Cap’n. He is bearing down on us very fast. In fact he has increased speed.”

The radio man appeared, head sticking out of his door. “They're trying to get us on the radio, Captain. They want us to heave-to. I can understand them in Spanish. They are also trying to use some broken English.”

“Carlos, don't let on that we can understand Spanish. Speak only in English, and when they finally say something in it, answer them and see just what they want.”

The radio man stuck his head right back out, “They finally got someone who can speak broken English. They want us to stop for inspection.”

“Well, all they will find is a hold of grappling hooks and cable. I guess we will do what they want.”

As the ship was getting closer, the radio man stuck his head out of the cabin again. “Oh, oh, sir, they just called shore and said they were bringing us in.”

“Oh no! We’re not going for that. I don’t want to spend some time in that Communist Cuba with Fidel Castro! Get on the ship-to-shore radio, and try to get ahold of some American authorities on the line, Carlos, and fast!”

“Aye, Aye, Captain Jack, I’m getting on that radio.”

“Here Captain, I’ve got someone who's got us hooked up with the U. S. Navy I think,” the radio man said.
“Hello, this is Captain Dick Steadman of the Western Union out of Key West. I’ve got a Cuban gunboat off my stern and closing fast. They just radioed their HQ and said that they were going to bring us in, to Cuba!”

“Hold on Captain Steadman, this is Captain Smithe of the U. S. Navy. Don’t let them board you. You’ll have a couple of jets from Guantanamo over you in a few minutes. We’re scrambling right now!”

At that point the Cuban gunboat was off their center port-side and they could see what appeared to be the captain with a megaphone trying to get their attention.

Suddenly out of the low-hanging cumulus clouds came two U. S. Navy jets streaking right over them. In fact they were so close that the exhaust blast and turbulence blew their sails and violently rocked both boats.

In a couple of minutes they were coming back. Suddenly the radio crackled on.

“Western Union, this is U. S. Navy jet overhead. Can you make a run for it? We’ll cover.”

“U. S. Navy jet, this is Captain Steadman on the Western Union, negative. I repeat, negative. We have some large drums of fuel for the engines on the deck. We’ll have to ease off.”

Excerpt from Bob Kranich's second full-length book, Florida Keys’ Watercolor Kapers. Composed of 336 pages and 12 stories running from 6 pages to as many as 72 pages, fully illustrated with 88 watercolors and sketches. The watercolors were made roaming around Key West after Kranich finished a 750 mile hike from Georgia to Key West. As you read these stories you will experience Key West, the Keys and the Caribbean. The stories span the time of the early 1800’s to 1969. bkranich.wixsite.com/bobkranich

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