Eleven Cubans in a vintage Buick three of them the original ''truckonauts'' who tried a similar intrepid journey last year aboard a battered Chevy pickup were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard early Wednesday and now face a return trip to the communist island.
Tere Figueras and Luisa Yanez, "Cubans' Buick pulled over at sea," The Miami Herald, February 5, 2004
The idea quickly turned into a secret project. Diaz hid out in his garage in Diezmero, a working-class Havana suburb, and worked on his Buick.
"He'd spend 12, 14, even 16 hours a day working on that car," said his wife, Nivia Valdes Galvez, 39.
A similar contraption was unveiled in July when some of Diaz's neighbors attached 55-gallon barrels to a 1951 Chevrolet truck, hooked the drive shaft to a propeller and made their way north. The Coast Guard caught them as they approached South Florida. Some Cuban exiles pressured the U.S. government to let the "truckonauts," as they called them, enter the country.
Tracey Eaton, "Latest effort to flee drives Cuban migration debate," The Dallas Morning New, February 16, 2004
Anderson Cooper,"Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, October 31, 2003
"'Lo perdimos todo', dicen los camionautas," AFP La Habana. July 27, 2003 (Google translation)
Thanks to Gareth Branwyn for spying this word.
Note, too, that a related term — autonaut — has recently been coined, possibly because the latest vehicle-turned-boat was a car, not a truck:
Les Kjos, "Cuban refugee policy in a dilemma," United Press International, February 11, 2004