By Elliott Stark
Once I got to Cuba, I wasn’t sure what I should do, but I didn’t feel any pressure. After all, anything—farming pigs, seeing how long I could grow out my finger nails, breathing paint fumes, talking to goats, or racing donkeys– would be more productive than sitting through the 2016 election coverage– Missing Florida Boater
Florida man found, alive and well, after being missing for 19 months. The man, whose identity remains a secret, told his complete story to Tales from the Smelly Bilge. What was feared to be a tragic loss of life, turns out to be a story of great genius. The man’s disappearance, rather than story of loss, was a purposeful act to avoid having to watch the 2016 presidential election.
“I have a 48’ custom sportfisher. I live on the east coast of Florida. The story really starts in April of 2015,” he says.
“The election coverage was heating up. People were whining, complaining, bickering and insulting each other. Everybody was posting those stupid pictures with stupider captions about everything on facebook. More than a political deal, it seemed like my television and my smart phone had been taken over by people who just wanted to bother me while I was watching football. One day, I just had enough, so I left,” he said. “I told my employees that I’d be back and not to screw anything up too badly.”
Rather than sitting idly through 15 months of political debates, harassing and demeaning television commercials and the endless phone calls, e-mails, facebook posts and twitter philosophizing, he just walked out to his boat. He filled her up with diesel, tossed aboard every piece of tackle that he owned, grabbed 17 cases of beer and 36 quarts of rum, bought some pringles, bread and salami and left.
“I pointed the bow south and headed to Cuba. I figured if there were anywhere in the world that I could escape news and phone calls it would be there. I hadn’t ever been, so I wasn’t sure where to go. I used to read a lot of Hemingway stories and something about the town of Cienfuegos always appealed to me. It is on the southern coast of the island, in the middle of the country. It turns out, it has a great harbor and the people were very friendly. Getting there was easy, I just kept west of Cuba and east of the Mexican coast line. The seas were calm and good luck was on my side.”
“I didn’t know much about the visa requirements to enter Cuban waters, let alone hang out on the island for a year and a half. I got pulled over by the US Coast Guard one night. At first they were suspicious and demanded my paperwork and searched the vessel top to bottom. When I told them what I was doing—‘Just trying to get away from the damned election,’ they accused me of being a “drug smuggling, floating meth lab operating, communist.” I told them, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy, fellas. I’m just tired of listening to all of this non-sense. I can’t take any more of the stupid meme things. I hate facebook. I just want to get away,” he recalls.
“When I said this, two of them coast guard guys looked at each other. One of them said, ‘You know, I think you’re right. Can I come with you?’ I had to turn him down because I had only brought enough pringles for one person, so I continued my journey alone.”
“When I finally got to Cienfuegos, I threw the anchor 200 yards off the seawall in the harbor. It was a perfect spot. I then set out to do my boat upgrades. First thing I did, was disable the satellite feed to my television and tear out my wifi. I wasn’t about to let the election back on my boat,” he said. “I brought a bunch of cash with me. My first purchase in Cuba was a panga. It was a hell of a little boat, with a communist-built two stroke outboard that was manufactured in Yugoslavia in 1973. I needed wheels on the ground too. My second purchase was a 1951 Chevy coupe, complete with the original leather interior. I kept it parked in the same spot for a year and a half. I could pull my panga up, tie off to the sea wall, and jump straight into the Chevy. It was great.”
“Once I was all set up and had all the communications on my boat disabled, I figured it was time to figure out what to do next. This part was easy. I wasn’t sure what I should do, but I didn’t feel any pressure, because after all, anything—farming pigs, seeing how long I could grow out my finger nails, breathing paint fumes, talking to goats, or racing donkeys– would be more productive than sitting through the election,” he describes.
“I passed the months doing all kinds of things. I traveled, I fished, I visited all kinds of bars and restaurants. The one thing I didn’t do was keep track of time or politics. I stayed away from Havana or places that might have a bunch of gringo tourists who’d try to make me talk about things. I kept hand written date tally in a notebook on the boat. When I was pretty sure it was November 10, 2016—two days after the election, I figured I’d head back to Florida.”
“We somehow got the Chevy loaded onto the boat. I gave the panga to the guys who’d looked after the boat while I was traveling. I reconnected the wifi to get my navigation and I headed home. When I got back to Florida, the first thing I didn’t do was check my email or turn on my television. I still don’t know what has become of things, but what I can say for sure is that I’m glad I didn’t stick around.”
The Florida man says that he is sorry to have worried his neighbors, but he is touched by the outpouring of emotion upon his return. “It never crossed my mind that people would have thought I’d died,” he says, describing the search efforts and the faded missing signs still tacked up to some of the telephone poles around his neighborhood.
“I didn’t die at all. I had a hell of a good time. In fact, I’m much better off than some of the poor bastards who figured they’d stick this one out. Election coverage had some pretty bad effects on lots and lots of people. Ms. Johnson now smokes 8 packs of cigarettes a day… and she was a nun when I left. They told me that old Leeroy down the street has been dressing himself up like Abraham Lincoln for the past two months. And those two, they’re not even the worst of them. My neighbor Walter just sits in the corner shaking all day, repeating the words, ‘Election coverage! Breaking news! Election coverage!’ over and over again,” he says.
“I missed it all. I raced some donkeys, bought a 1956 Chevy, raised herds of bonefish under my LED lights at anchor and have a pretty clear head about it all. I still don’t know what has happened with the whole thing, but I’m sure glad not to have sat through the 2106 election coverage.”