David asks
A Bridge to Cuba
Click the picture to see the video





        Other Links:



University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies


University of Miami Center for Latin American Studies

Boating to Cuba: Cruisers Forum

Court ruling on "Wet foot, dry foot" policy


University of Florida Smathers Libraries, Latin American Collection


Center for Cuban Studies

U.S. State Department Cuba Information

Cuban American National Foundation

The Right to Travel: A Clearinghouse of Information of Scientific and Academic Travel between Cuba and the U.S.


   Bill and Carolyne Sheets swim at Marina Hemingway with their Cuban friends, Raisa  and her daughter, Gabriel, and Idolka and her son, David.


     A BRIDGE TO CUBA      



                                             A Cuban patrol boat checks out sailboats docked at Marina Hemingway. 



"I thoroughly enjoyed the piece last night.    The moments of raw human emotion were compelling."

    "I really enjoyed your documentary on Cuba.  I thought it was first-rate.   I sat with rapt attention through the whole thing, being someone interested in Cuba and sailing. It was a great documentary."

  " excellent presentation." 



     Returning from Havana in 1994 the crew of Four Sheets to the Wind comes across a small boat with seven Cuban refugees 25 miles from Key West.  The crew stayed at the scene until the Coast Guard came to take them to the refugee center. The refugees had lost others at sea in their three-day journey, but they too were rescued.


    Politics have kept the American and Cuban people apart for more than four decades.  But now a love of the sea and compassion for those in need is changing that.  While the nations’ governments continue to fight the Cold War, a sailing couple, along with members of their crew, are building a bridge of friendship to several Cuban families.

They made four voyages from Florida to the island nation since 1994.  After their first visit to Cuba they began helping a mother (who had a five-year-old son) reunite with her husband. He had fled Cuba on a raft just a few months before the visit.   

A Bridge to Cuba is an epic story of Cuban and United States citizens building friendships despite the odds stacked against them by their governments.  It is a story of a Cuban doctor searching for freedom, only to be separated from his wife and son for years in that quest.  And it’s a story of how Americans helped to bring that family together again.  



A Bridge to Cuba producer,  G. Stuart Smith sails off Havana's Malecon with Bill and Carolyne Sheets.




A Bridge to Cuba visually builds on the excitement of sailboats racing across the sea, but allows natural sound in intimate and group settings to reveal how people can create friendships despite their governments being avowed enemies.   

Besides showing the developing friendships, the documentary also shows the seamier side of Cuba – the poverty and repression.  It also weaves in some significant historical events going back to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  A Bridge to Cuba features some Cuban exiles who oppose Americans sailing to Cuba – but most certainly, the documentary’s point of view is that the Americans and Cubans are building friendships unheard of during this continuing Cold War conflict.  



Producer G. Stuart Smith with Idolka and David Diego near Havana in 1998.  The mother and son were reunited with Idolka's husband, Jesus, Thanksgiving weekend 2000.



As a reporter for a TV station in Fort Myers, G. Stuart Smith went along as crew with a camera on the 1994 race to Cuba – the first since Fidel Castro took power.  He sailed with the captain of “Four Sheets to the Wind,” Bill Sheets.  That ended in a five-part series on the NBC affiliate, WBBH-TV.  That race also turned into an eye-opening experience for Bill and his wife, Carolyne.  They went back to Cuba three times on  “Four Sheets to the Wind.”  

When Smith became news director at WUFT-TV, the PBS affiliate in Gainesville, he saw the friendships were still developing and returned to Cuba with the Sheets in 1996 and 1998 to tell the unfolding story.   He had been bound by a commitment not to use an interview with Idolka Diego and her son until they arrived with her husband, Jesus, in the United States.  They were reunited in November 2000 – so after six long years, the story can finally be told. 



Society of Professional Journalists, Green Eyeshade Award,  TV markets 101 and over

First Place, Documentary


Sunshine State Awards, Society of Professional Journalists, South Florida Pro Chapter

Third Place,  Best Public Affairs Program




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College of Journalism and Communications • University of Florida • Gainesville, Florida