A Coast Guard vessel intercepts a Cuban chug off the shores of Islamorada on Saturday afternoon. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

A Cuban chug carrying 29 migrants was intercepted by a Coast Guard crew roughly 25 miles offshore from Islamorada on Saturday afternoon.

A boat fishing in the Coast Guard’s Dolphin Rodeo witnessed the vessel and called Coast Guard Station Islamorada. A Coast Guard vessel arrived to intercept the handmade boat. 

The 29 migrants aboard the chug and 48 others journeying from Cuba to the U.S. by sea were repatriated by the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark on July 13, the Coast Guard said. While aboard a cutter, migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. While aboard a cutter, migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

Saturday’s interception is one of many seen off the Florida Keys shores in the past week. On Friday, the Coast Guard announced that Cutter Pablo Valent’s crew repatriated 74 Cubans to Cuba on Friday following several interdictions off the coasts of the Florida Keys. Interdictions were made off the waters of Marathon, Key West and Marquesas Key.

On July 7, Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo’s crew repatriated 32 Cubans to Cuba following one interdiction off the coast of Mexico and two off the shores of Long Key and Marathon. 

“Families and friends, please encourage loved ones to seek a safe and legal path to the United States,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, Coast Guard District Seven. “Migrating illegally in vessels without life jackets or safety equipment raises the risk of losing your life at sea.”

Since Oct. 1, 2021, Coast Guard crews interdicted 3,369 Cubans compared to 838 the year before. 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).