October 5, 2016

UPDATE: Curious 'refugee' boat released
after USCG investigation


After an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard, an abandoned vessel that washed up on the beach in Avon on Sept. 27 and was thought to have once held refugees, will be on display in the Hatteras community again.

According to Hatteras Island District Ranger Joe Darling, the Coast Guard asked the National Park Service to respond to the call last Tuesday afternoon when the vessel was found on the beach. The Avon Volunteer Fire Department also responded.

After photographing and measuring it and noting other details of the obviously very cleverly homemade vessel, the Park Service talked several times with Coast Guard Sector North Carolina in Wilmington.  Darling said that, at the time, the Coast Guard didn't seem interested in the boat.

Darling and ranger Peter Malionek removed some diesel fuel, a hazardous material from the boat, and the vessel was towed off the beach by Jarvis Williams of Jarvis’ Towing in Buxton.

Williams took the boat on a trailer to Cape Hatteras Secondary School for several days, so students could see the boat and learn more about refugees who flee their country. From canned sardines found in the boat, this one is thought to have originated in Cuba.

After much publicity about the "shipwreck" of the curious "refugee" vessel, personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard came to Buxton on Friday, Sept. 30, to examine the boat.

“I think they were treating it as a criminal investigation because of the people missing,” said Williams. “They weren’t as worried about the boat as they were about the people who disappeared. They did a thorough investigation, looking at the boat, taking measurements, taking pictures, and making phone calls back and forth.”

At the request of the Coast Guard, Williams locked up the vessel in his impound lot while the investigation was ongoing.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 4, the case has been suspended, according to Joshua Canup, Petty Officer 3rd Class for the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Right now, the Coast Guard is done looking into it,” said Canup. “If any further details arise we’ll look into it further, but as it stands, we don’t have any searches or investigations related to it.”

As a result, the vessel will soon be moved out of the impound lot and will be back on display in front of William’s gas station, Cape Point Exxon, in the heart of Buxton.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum has also voiced an interest in obtaining the boat to display it some point in the future.

“[A representative from] the museum came by and measured it today, so they are definitely interested in it,” said Williams. “And in the meantime, I’ll put it back out on display again until they make up their mind. I’ve had several calls from people wanting to see it.”

Clara Scarborough of the Graveyard of the Atlantic confirms that the vessel, which has held a fascination for the community as well as students, fits in well with the maritime museum's mission.  

“It helps to tell our story of the Graveyard of the Atlantic and this maritime landscape that we find ourselves living in,” says Scarborough. “…It’s also very mysterious, and we’ve all been speculating about what happened to the inhabitants in the vessel, but maybe [having it at the museum] will help us connect the dots a little bit.

“We are interested if we have a place here, but we don’t know yet when that would happen,” she adds. “We would have to determine where it would go, and how it would be stored in the meantime, so there are still some determining factors.”

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