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FORMER KEY WEST MAYOR COMMEMORATES KEY WEST-CUBA SKI TRIP


Sonny McCoy rolls down Duval Street Wednesday. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau

 


Sonny McCoy skis into Havana Harbor on Sept 10, 1978. Photo by Wendy Tucker

 

KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- Former Key West Mayor Charles "Sonny" McCoy commemorated the 25th anniversary of a water-skiing trip from Key West to Cuba Wednesday with a tow down the island's Duval Street, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, on a wheel-mounted slalom ski.

Now a 75-year-old Monroe County commissioner, McCoy encountered six-foot seas and Cuban gunboats as he skied from his island home to Cuba Sept. 10, 1978. It took 6 hours and 10 minutes to complete the 122-mile sojourn.

McCoy vetoed a friend's suggestion to celebrate the anniversary by water-skiing from Havana to Key West.

"I still ski, but some of the equipment has become faulty -- the human part," he said, just prior to his land skiing stunt behind the island's Conch Tour Train.

The Cuba trip, inspired by a challenge from a local reporter, was arranged after a chance conversation with then-President Jimmy Carter at a national mayoral conference.

During the final hour, McCoy was escorted into Havana Harbor by a pair of Russian-built Cuban gunboats. Afterwards, the Cuban government hosted a welcoming party.

"I thanked everyone and invited them to come to Key West to visit us," said McCoy. "The following year 125,000 Cuban landed in Key West during the Mariel boatlift.

"I guess they were looking for me," he quipped.

Greg Oberry

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