Facebook Twitter

Hemingway’s boat captain dies at 104

SHARE Hemingway’s boat captain dies at 104

COJIMAR, Cuba — Gregorio Fuentes, the former captain of U.S. novelist Ernest Hemingway's boat in Cuba and his inspiration for "The Old Man And The Sea," died Sunday at the age of 104 in the fishing village of Cojimar, friends said.

"He was a symbol of Cuban fishing and of human brotherhood, thanks to all of his years of friendship with Hemingway," a friend, Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, who runs Havana's Hemingway International Nautical Club, told Reuters.

Fuentes, born on July 11, 1897, captained Hemingway's boat "Pilar" in the years the U.S. author lived on the Caribbean island. In recent times, he had become something of a tourist magnet in Cojimar, just east of Havana, where he lived and used to as a debarkation point with Hemingway.

Fuentes died at his home Sunday morning, and was buried at a cemetery in the nearby village of Guanabacoa Sunday afternoon, friends said. Although still mentally lucid, he was suffering various ailments associated with old age.

"He was a humble man of the people, who showed great mastery in the arts of the sea and left a legacy of friendship which is an example to us all," Escrich added.

Hemingway's 1952 masterpiece modeled its central character, and his colossal struggle to bring in the fish of his life, on Fuentes. "The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck," Hemingway wrote in the opening passage.

"The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert."

Last November, the writer's niece, Hilary Hemingway, presented the International Game Fish Association's "Captain" award to Fuentes.

"I'm delighted. It's a very important prize for my people," he said then.