Grantland: From Cuba With Heat
It’s difficult for Fernandez to remember much of the days that followed, but he does remember the boat — towering and luxurious, far more than their group required. He remembers the waves pounding the deck, tossing the boat in all directions, leaving them convinced that soon they’d all be dead. He remembers the seasickness; that’s the one thing they all remember, standing on the deck and wretching overboard. He doesn’t recall passing out, but his sister says he was unconscious for about 24 hours. But he remembers waking up — his eyes opening when the waters calmed and his mother cooked him a plate of ham.
And then he remembers the splash. He heard it one night while he was making small talk with the captain. After the splash, he heard the screams. A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernandez’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in. A spotlight shone on the water, and Fernandez could make out his mother thrashing in the waves about 60 feet from the boat. She could swim, but just barely, and as Fernandez pushed his way toward her, he spat out salty water with almost every stroke. Waves — “stupid big,” he says — lifted him to the sky, then dropped him back down. When he reached his mother he told her, “Grab my back, but don’t push me down. Let’s go slow, and we’ll make it.” She held his left shoulder. With his right arm — his pitching arm — he paddled. Fifteen minutes later, they reached the boat. A rope dropped, and they climbed aboard. For now, at least, they were going to be OK.
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