"Having nothing to lose is liberating." -Jeffrey Spaulding
"We were running 2,200 pounds of pot and 5 gallons of hash oil to the lower Keys, from Andros in the Bahamas. I'd made the run hundreds of times before, but this one was way different."
"First, we got tagged by a Cuban patrol boat. What he was doing so far north has always left me wondering. Anyway, they're slow and easy to lose. A few hours later we heard choppers to the west. I stopped to drift but the bastard found us. I nailed it but the chopper hung off our stern. Real close, so we could see them. They turned on their spotlights and started making these hand signals that weren't exactly saying, 'Good luck and call us if you need help.' I thought about going back to the Bahamas, but we didn't have enough fuel. Then they started firing entanglers and stingballs at us. So I turned to the Keys and kept going, 'cause I'm like, 'Yeah, I got a ton of weed here and it ain't medicinal.' We start dumping dope to go faster. It was off Big Pine Key when one our outboards died. I still had enough speed to run it up on a mangrove swamp, about 50 yards away from a playground. We hopped out, but you can't run too fast across mangroves. They caught us. I'm doing 10 minimum, and the food sucks."
"I'm always glad when it's over." -Mario Vittone
"As a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I'm literally the last guy you want to meet when you're on the water. It's usually also the last time you're going to see your boat, and you're not sure if you're going to live. "Before I jump in, there's a whole lot of variables I have to figure. So I sit, watch, and study for a long time. What are the winds? Are the waves breaking? Are they on the boat or off the boat? From a rescue swimmer's standpoint, you fly out there and hope you don't screw it up. You know you're it, the last hope. Until you get them in the helicopter it's all you. It's an overwhelming responsibility. Once in the water, you don't know if the victim is going to be cold or unable to move. I'm used to the rotor wash, they're not. I know how to get into the helicopter, they don't. They might be injured and unable to explain what's wrong. If I handle things improperly, I can make them worse. No matter what we hear before leaving, the case always turns out to be different. Straightforward rescues almost always turn into medical emergencies-exposure problems, hypothermia. But once everyone is in the helicopter, there's a rush of relief. It's over. I'm thankful and drained, but it's an absolute blast."