Your mind is about ready to go on a little adventure. Smuggling, a daring low altitude flight across Cuba and some of Jamaica’s finest home grown; a story that you have to read. This is a guest post by JC Perez, author of Heisting the Beard
The Seven Ton Calamity
It was a hot day in Bimini, the year was 1984. Jamaica was waiting, they had the plane, but a few things were missing, vital of course, or this trip wouldn’t happen at all. What a shame, all that Ganja would go to waste, that sweet Jamaican “Lambs Bread”, and the boys sure wanted a taste.
Crazy Eddie was ready, but like I said before, the plane wasn’t. They had a C-130 on the strip on South side, an old army cargo plane with a rear hatch big enough to drive a pickup in, and more than enough room to accommodate the 14,000 lbs of herb, but they needed a right engine propeller and aviation fuel, and they had neither. The weed was stacked up and ready to go just out of sight off the strip in Cay Manus, down in the Yard, Jamaica for those who don’t know. They needed to be there in two days or the weed would have to be moved and preparations made a new. That was bad ju ju, if they couldn’t make it now there was a good chance the weed would begin to mildew and they could lose hundreds of pounds, none of them wanted to lose that kind of money or sweet herb.
With time running out, the decision was made to get together at Pony tails house on South Bimini. Everybody involved on this endeavor was there, Speedy, Lickum Dead, Sneeze, Bugaloo, Shine, Sarge, Dreamer, White Boy, and fly boy Eddie, island people all go by nick names. They
had a few cases of St. Paulie beer and were hoping that they didn’t get too ripped before coming up with a plan on how to get the weed to Bimini. They also had a couple of ounces of great Jamaican herb to remind them of what they would miss out on if a solution didn’t come
up soon. One beer led to another and one joint was never enough for a group like this.
The Cuban boys from Miami were already in port on the North side, ready to move the weed to the Magic City, and a lot of money had been invested to pull this job off. There was no going back now. It looked like they were shit out of luck and no one had come up with an answer yet. Suddenly in the middle of a toke from the weed and a swig of a Paulie girl that engulfed half the bottle, Eddie had an epiphany. All that was needed was a prop and fuel right, he was the pilot, and a good one at that, maybe the best in the smuggling game.
Bimini being the plane graveyard that it is had many crashed planes all around and near the airstrip and he knew of an old DC 3 that had crashed on the east end. He figured he could use the prop from that, and as far as the fuel went, well, they’d just have to use regular boat fuel that could be bought at the government dock on North Bimini. If the prop was in good shape, or if it could be gotten into good shape it would work, and the fuel, well it wasn’t AV fuel but the engines would run on it. The only problem was he wouldn’t be able to get real good altitude because of it, but he thought he could at least get the plane up to 200 hundred feet or so. It was a dangerous proposition, but that’s all they had, and he was the pilot and everyone believed in what he was doing. They trusted his judgment, and it was his ass up there anyway, Eddie was crazy but not stupid. They finished off the last of the beer and smoked a few more joints of the sweet Jamaican herb, then decided to go get the prop off the crashed DC 3 and begin hauling fuel back to the airstrip on South Bimini. The game was on.
Shine was the mechanical one in the group, he and a few of the boys headed to the mangroves on the east end of the strip and began working on getting the prop off the old DC 3. They were soon done and returned with it where Eddie waited for them by the C-130 at the airport and promptly began fitting it on the old army cargo plane, taking out all the nicks and bends it had on it so it could be used. A bent and nicked up prop won’t grip air good enough to be of any use and was quite dangerous to try and fly with, but Eddie was the right man for the job. The rest of the boys began hauling fuel back from the government dock, it was an easier task, but time consuming considering they were doing it with 10 gallon containers and it took the better part of the next two days to fill up the plane with the necessary fuel.
Everything was finally ready for takeoff, they gathered at the strip and waited for Eddie to power up the trusty cargo plane and leave for the Yard where a small fortune waited to be picked up and delivered back to the waiting boats. Shine, Bugaloo and Lickum Dead would be making the trip with Eddie, and there their two Jamaican buddies Squeechy and Niya would come back with them to help kick out the load to the waiting boats on the water. They’d be stationed between South Bimini and Cat Key that evening at around 5:00 pm when Eddie would have C-130 back and on schedule for delivery.
He needed to leave early to be able to make the trip in one day, the longest part of this adventure would be loading the weed onto the plane down in Cay Manus. That would be a manual job one bale at a time and it would take some doing and balancing the load correctly.
It was 4:00 am when Eddie powered up the two engines on the C-130 and readied for taxiing. When the engines turned over the noise was deafening, but everything seemed to be running smoothly as the big plane took off heading east on the runway then veering south towards Jamaica. Everyone headed back to Pony tails house and got things ready for Eddie’s return trip which was expected at around 5:00 pm. If he made it back on time they would have about 2 and a half to three hours of daylight to do the air drop and have the boats pick up all the bales before dark. Not a lot of time considering it was 14,000 pounds of weed, that was 280 bales, and for those uninitiated that’s a lot of bales. The average 30 foot speed boat was only going to carry 1000 pounds, which was 20 bales; a 50 lb bale takes up a lot of room on a 30 foot boat. There were 6 boats, which meant each boat had to make 2 1/2 runs to and from the stash house on South Bimini, all this work was going to take some time and coordination to pull the job off correctly and on time. All this is good and well, but they also had to be very lucky, meaning, the plans were considering that the D.E.A., Coast Guard, Navy, and the Bahamian Defense force didn’t get involved; luck was a big player in this game of cat and mouse.
Once the prep work and planning was done they headed back to North Bimini where the talk of the island was that noisy plane that took off early in the morning and woke up every Biminite up from Alice town to Porgy Bay. They all played dumb, the islanders knew what was going on and pretty much who was involved, but the boys weren’t admitting anything and just went about their business avoiding the questions.
This deal was just beginning, Eddie had to make it there first, that meant hopefully avoiding all the authorities, and getting the big plane down to the Yard wasn’t going to be easy. He had to stay as far away from the normal flight routes as possible, and in between him and Jamaica stood Cuba, and Castro wasn’t exactly the friendliest guy in the Caribbean. There was only two ways around Cuba, and there wasn’t enough fuel to go the western route. The other way was through the Windward Passage, in between western Haiti and Cuba, but that meant flying right in front of the noses of the American Naval base in eastern Cuba at Guantanamo Bay, and that was suicide. There was only one other way, straight over Cuba, it wasn’t that farfetched, many smugglers did it, the route was the Mayaguez corridor. All plane routes over Cuba had to fly through this corridor or risk getting shot down. The difference was that commercial flights did it at 35,000 feet altitude, Eddie was about to do it at 200 feet altitude, balsy, but it was the only choice he had, or lose the whole load right now.
As it turns out he had no problem in crossing Cuba and had a personal escort by Castro’s Migs almost to the shores of Jamaica. When he reached the north coast of the Yard it was still early, the sun was barely breaking the horizon. The noise of the C-130 caused a raucous on Jamaica as it had in Bimini, and lights from all the homes on the island began to turn on as people rushed out to see what the commotion was. Eddie crossed the coastline and headed for the airstrip at Cay Manus where he landed safely and the work of loading the cargo began under a hot sun with high humidity atop a hill in the lush surroundings of the resort.
A few hours later the work was done, Eddie cranked up the plane and took off on the same route back to Bimini, straight over Cuba. When he crossed the north coastline of Jamaica the people were out in force once again wondering what all the noise was. Only this time they waved at the low flying fortress as it headed into Cuban territory where it caused the same commotion from all the people below. The air force Migs showed up once again and escorted Eddie to Cuba’s north coast while the boys in the cargo area held up bales of Ganja in the windows letting the pilots know it was a pure humanitarian effort; the pilots saluted as the plane continued on into Bahamian waters. Luckily they never ran into any authority that could have caused delays on this adventure, but Eddie knew the odds were on his side. Getting stopped on the water would have spelled instant disaster, but in the air the odds were with him. In those days before the onslaught of the Cocaine Cowboy days, when Ganja was king, and before all the techies turned reefer into an indoor product, the US authorities weren’t allowed to land on Bahamian territory, so all he had to do was make it to Bimini without crashing, so far so good, and the view was exquisite at two hundred above the pristine gin clear waters of the Caribbean and the Bahama bank.
Eddie delivered the C-130 on time; it was 5:00pm when they arrived at the rendezvous spot between Cat Key and South Bimini. The 6 boats were in position when he brought the plane down to 75 feet above the clear water and opened the gigantic rear hatch to begin pushing bales of sweet Jamaican Lambs Bread out onto the water. He made his first pass to the waiting boats where the boys dropped 30 bales to the waiting crafts. The plane moved forward and began a long looping turn to come back to the spot and make another drop where the boats waited patiently. There was one problem though, it took 35 minutes to return to the spot of the drop due to the size of the plane and its slow pace, at this rate it would take a very long time to unload all the bales when only dropping thirty at a time. They made the second drop and Eddie began making the loop once again to get back to position, but this wasn’t their only problem. The noisy plane had alerted everyone on Bimini and they had come out to see what all the commotion was about. They came out in droves, and not only to look, but they came out in boats to help themselves to the feast of Manna from heaven. When the boys realized what was happening, the plans changed on the spot, they had to empty this cargo fast and it had to happen right away.
Eddie open the rear hatch all the way and asked everyone in the plane to strap themselves in with whatever they could so they wouldn’t go crashing out of the plane onto the water with all the weed. He flew over the drop sight once more then pointed the craft upward. The bales began to tumble out while the boys inside held on for dear life. All bales of weed gushed out in an instant and everybody below scattered for their lives to avoid being crushed by the flying Ganja. A melee ensued as the bales of weed hit the water like bombs from a WWII movie.
The pickup boats began to grab the weed as fast as possible, but to no avail, so did everyone else. The Biminites were out in full force, men women and children, it was incredible, and the whole island was out there grabbing bales like it was a giveaway at a soup kitchen. From inside the plane Shine screamed out in dismay at the goings on, it was a high pitched scream and no one in the plane understood a word he was saying. Everyone began to laugh considering Shine was a big man of about 6’2” tall and weighed the better part of 250 lbs, and what came out of his mouth sounded more like the high pitched screeching of a little school girl. There was nothing anyone could do, so the pickup boats grabbed as many bales as they could and watched the rest get swept away by the mass of people who had joined party, uninvitedly so. It was a complete mess; all they could do was watch as the sweet herb got toted off. The Biminites had become the beneficiaries of a bad plan. The crew was able to salvage 5800 lbs and the rest had to be kissed goodbye.
That evening on North Bimini the party was on and the burning weed from all the partiers could be smelled 47 miles away across the Gulf Stream in Miami. What else could the boys do, they couldn’t recoup their losses, so they joined in and were glad to have recovered what they did. Considering the low cost of the weed in Jamaica they made a small profit and enjoyed some good Ganja and plenty of Pauli girls with the rest of the island.
In the days to come the word had gotten out about the 7 ton Calamity in Bimini and the boats from Miami swarmed in to buy up the abundance of weed that had been dropped on the island, and at rock bottom prices, considering the islanders had gotten it free. The boys never forgot that adventure and laughed about it in the days, weeks, months, and years to come and neither did the Biminites; it became folk legend on the island.
There are many stories of modern day pirates and smuggling all throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean when Mota and Ganja flowed out of Colombia and Jamaica, but that was before the techies went indoors and weed became a home grown product, and the Cocaine cowboys turned smuggling into a dangerous game and everything went to hell. Ahh, the good old days of adventures on the high seas, those days are gone, but the memories still flow as strongly as the rum does in every little island bar from Freeport to the tip of Colombia.
See you rummies somewhere in paradise.
Till the next story of adventure on the Bounty Main.