A Florida mayor who wants to get an up close and personal look at how it feels to be a refugee sailing over perilous waters will build and row a makeshift raft from Cuba back to the states.
DeBary Mayor Clint Johnson plans to fly to Cuba on a journalist's visa in mid-April, then build a raft with the help of local contacts and row to Key West. He will blog about the 90-mile (145km) trip. He believes the trip could take up to four days, weather permitting.
To prepare, he is practising on a home-made raft in a Florida's Lake Monroe near his home. His oar locks broke on his first run during his five-hour, 3.5-mile (5.4km) trial journey.
"I ended up using a shoelace to tie one up and that got me a little further down the road," he said. "That shoelace broke and I wasn't going to waste my other shoelace so I ended up having to paddle with one paddle."
The test run followed a warning from the US Coast Guard against the trip from Cuba which stated Johnson's journey would in a best case scenario, result in a search for him. "Worst case, his trip may result in grave consequences," reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Johnson says his plans were inspired by Pittsburgh Steelers' linebacker James Harrison who recently posted his impressions on Instagram when his cruise ship encountered a rickety raft full of migrants.
Besides understanding the refugee experience better, the 30-year-old mayor says he hopes the trip will offer some insight into whether or not to open up the border to more migration.
Cuban migrants' journeys are "largely unreported and there is very little information on exactly what these men, women and children go through to get here", Johnson said on his website.
Johnson's planned trip is earning praise for bravery and derision by some who see his action as turning a battle for freedom into an attention-seeking stunt.
In the last three months of 2015, more than 1,500 Cubans attempted to cross to the US on rafts. Most of them were intercepted by the US Coast Guard and eventually sent back.
Rafts have long been the makeshift solution for exiting Cuba. It is illegal for Cubans to build or board a boat without permission from the government.