Carrying the Mail to Cuba
Contrast Between the Present Service
and that of Many Years Ago.
The Sun (August 5, 1886)

A fast mail service between the United States and Cuba was begun a few days ago. Mail from New York city is whirled to
Jacksonville, Florida, and across the State to Tampa by rail, where it is taken on board an iron steamship and carried
direct to Havanna.

This service contrasts in a striking way with that which was the sole dependence not many years ago. Men are still living
in St. Augustine who received the mails for Havana in dugout canoes down the eastern Florida coast to the Keys,
between the Keys and the main land to Key West, and across the sixty mile reach of open water to Havana. An old
Minorcan named Bravo, who was living in St. Augustine only a few years ago, and probably is there still, used to spin
exciting yarns of the experiences only a few years ago, and probably is there still, used to spin exciting yarns of the
experiences of these venturesome mail carriers. Their canoes were eighteen or twenty feet long and as wide as could
be hewn from a good-sized cypress log. They were sharp at both ends, and were steered with a paddle held under the
skipper's arm and pressed against a stern post. A mast to which it was laced a spritz ail, was stepped in the forward
thwart. There were two men in the crew, and they were provided with blankets, a few cooking utensils a supply of
provisions, and a keg of water. If the weather was fairly favorable they took on board the mail bags at St. Augustine, to
which town they had come by schooner from northern ports, went boldly out over the St. Augustine bar and turned the
prows of their rude craft southward a little way outside the breakers. They cruised down to Mosquito Inlet, opposite New
Smyrna. If in the course of the run the wind blew too fresh from an easterly direction, they turned the boat's nose toward
the beach, rode through the surf on one of the rollers, sprang out and hauled the canoe up the beach and away from
the reach of the sea. When the sea subsided---sometimes not until after many days of waiting in camp among the sand
dunes--the boat was launched through the surf and the United States mails resumed their southward journey. At
Mosquito Inlet in rough weather the inside passage was taken, thus avoiding the dangerous bit of sailing around the
point of Cape Canaveral. The route was down the Hillsborough River, between Mangrove Islands to either the Banana
River or Indian River Lagoon, down the river and through the Narrows to Jupiter Inlet, and then out to sea and down the
coast to the inlet to Key Biscayne Bay. Thence there was an inside route with safe sailing among the keys to Key West.
There the intrepid mail carriers replenished their supplies. If the weather was favorable they headed their dugout for
Havana, beyond the southern horizon, and sixty miles away. If the sea was rough, or the winds unfavorable, they lay in
port till they deemed it safe to start. It was a daring bit of sailing. When half way across they could not see within fifteen
miles of land in either direction. Their canoes were not decked over, but they were buoyant, and if they shipped a sea
and filled they still floated.

Old man Bravo says that during the years in which the mails were thus carried, the intrepid skippers of the mail canoes
never met with a serious mishap.
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Minorcan History and Culture
British Period
Second Spanish Period
New Smyrna
History of Cast Nets
Canova de Medicis House
Gaspar Pappy House
Gonzalez-Alvarez House
Carrying the Mail
Minorcan Made Cast Nets
Growing Datil Peppers
Captain Jack Usina
Golden Book of the Minorcans
Menorcan Fisherman in the
Benet Family
Menorcan Black Drum Line
The Legend of Carl Canova