Eighteen Cuban migrants came ashore in Riviera Beach early Wednesday nearly five days after leaving the island nation in a homemade boat operated by a 1950s Russian car engine, U.S. Border Patrol officials said.
The migrants, 16 men and two women, landed on Singer Island around 2 a.m. in the 21-foot wooden fishing vessel, U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Frank Miller said.
Miller said the group, all adults, had left the area of Manati, Cuba, on Friday. Their small boat was outfitted with extra fuel tanks, a sail that was propped up with a tree branch, a plastic tarp, and a motor that appears to be from a 1950s-era Russian car engine, Miller said.
"It's a very tight venture," Miller said of the group's voyage on the boat, which is just four feet across.
They were picked up by Riviera Police and later taken into custody by Border Patrol agents, who also seized their vessel. The group had brought water and food and were in good physical condition but were given a health evaluation as a precaution.
"Everybody appears to be in good health," Miller said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday afternoon that the migrants were being processed at the West Palm Beach Border Patrol station.
Once they are released, they will likely be picked up by Church World Services, which has an office nearby, agency spokesman Chuck Prichard said in an email.
He said that the Miami Sector of Border Patrol has recorded 47 maritime landings involving 316 Cubans between Oct. 1, 2011 and mid-July 2012. The Miami Sector covers the vast majority of the state, he said.
Below: The engine of the boat. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.