- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

MIAMI (AP) — Eleven Cubans trying to sail to Florida in a 1950s Buick converted into a tail-finned boat were intercepted at sea by the Coast Guard and will be sent back to their homeland, exile activists said yesterday.

Marciel Basanta Lopez and Luis Grass Rodriguez, the two men who turned the classic car into a floating vessel, tried a similar stunt last summer and got caught: They set out for Florida in a 1951 Chevy pickup with pontoons made out of empty 55-gallon drums and a propeller that pushed it along at about 8 mph.

On Monday, the men set out again, with four other adults and five children, relatives said. The Coast Guard intercepted the group late Tuesday en route to the Florida Keys, picking them up off Marathon, about 90 miles southwest of Miami, activist Arturo Cobo said.

Coast Guard officials refused to confirm the floating car’s status, but Mr. Cobo said the Buick sank.

“My uncle is very brave. He is not irresponsible,” Eduardo Perez Grass, a nephew of Mr. Rodriguez, said in Havana. “There is no danger to the children. The car is very safe.”

He said the others on board were Mr. Rodriguez’s wife and son, Mr. Basanta’s wife and their two children, and a third couple with two children.

The Buick’s doors had been sealed to keep out water and it was powered by its original V-8 motor, said Mr. Grass, who was among those on the earlier attempt to reach the United States.

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