more abandoned makeshift boats -- also apparently vessels used by Cuban
refugees -- washed ashore on Hatteras Island between the villages
of Avon and Salvo on Saturday morning.
makes three apparent refuge vessels to make it to the shores of the
Cape Hatteras National Seashore in not quite two weeks. All have
been without passengers, but have provided good evidence about where
first Cuban refugee vessel landed on the Avon beach off Greenwood
Place on Sept. 27. It had been reported by charter boat captains
and commercial fishermen who had seen it floating around in the Gulf
Stream for a few days before it washed up.
morning's first boat was spotted by National Park Service law
enforcement staff off Ramp 32 just north of Avon, and a second
vessel washed ashore just five minutes later near ramp 27, according to
Hatteras Island District Ranger Joe Darling.
Service surveyed the scene and called in Jarvis Williams of Jarvis'
Towing, who took the vessels on a trailer to his impound lot in Buxton
They will remain there until they are inspected by the U.S. Coast
Guard, which was contacted this morning and plans to send personnel to
investigate the boats later today.
of the vessels was marked with orange spray paint that read “9/11/16”
and “OK,” which is an indication that the boat was intercepted by the
U.S. Coast Guard at some point during its journey, and the people
onboard were rescued. This vessel was heavily damaged and looked to
have been tossed around in the ocean for a long time before finally
was built like a pallet, and then on each side of it was about 2 feet.
or so of Styrofoam, but not much else, so we can’t tell which way was
upside down or right side up,” said Williams. “There were also four
straps on each side, like the kinds of straps that you would hold on
Williams estimated that the heavily damaged marked vessel was roughly 12-by 6-feet.
second vessel, which was not marked by the Coast Guard, was in much
better shape and had an engine, containers of extra diesel fuel, a
rudder, and an air-cooled motor. This vessel was built with a makeshift
floatation system of Styrofoam and inner tubes, with a tarp that was
wrapped around the entire boat.
number of leftover items were still onboard the vessel, including
several tools, packages of hot dogs, a pair of sunglasses, ball caps,
and giant bags of crackers. The food on board was made in Cuba,
indicating the vessel's origin. Williams estimates that this boat was
about 15-by-6 feet.
the boats were found together at the same time and in roughly the same
spot, there’s no way to tell if they were at all connected.
“The marked one, there is nothing to it – it’s almost like they were floating behind [the intact] one,” said Williams.
hard to tell [if there’s a correlation],” said Darling. “The boat at
ramp 27 had no motor and was just a skeleton – it looked like it had
been washed pretty hard in the ocean for a while. The other boat was in
great shape – there was a bent exhaust pipe that looked like it may
have taken a wave, but it didn’t roll over.”
abandoned boats have washed ashore on Hatteras Island before, three
refugee vessels finding their way to the local beaches is
unprecedented, according to both Williams and Darling. “I don’t think
it’s ever happened before, as far as I know,” said Darling.
Darling also theorizes that the boats’ arrival is due to recent tropical storms, and most likely Hurricane Matthew.
“It’s very likely, especially considering that this storm is coming straight from Cuba,” said Darling.
Outer Banks Group Superintendent Dave Hallac spent many years working
as the lead biologist for Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks
and several months as the acting park manager at Dry Tortugas.
He forwarded photos of the boats that washed up on Hatteras to a colleague who is now the park manager at Dry Tortugas.
Hallac said, "I was interested in his opinion on whether or not they
were likely Cuban 'chugs,' or homemade boats that are
typically used by Cubans who are coming to the Florida Keys or Dry
Tortugas National Park.
He said it is very common to have Cuban refugees come to the park because, like Key West, it is only about 90 miles from Cuba.
Hallac added, "there was speculation that the waters between the park
and Cuba were less patrolled than those between Key West and
Cuba. One year that I worked there, we had over 800 Cubans arrive
at the park."
Hallac's colleague at Dry Tortugas said the boats were very likely Cuban chugs.
as the ocean continues to churn over the next few days, and debris of
all sizes washes ashore, Darling advises visitors to use caution when
exploring the beaches.
had two military flares – marine marking flares – wash up in the past
two weeks,” said Darling. “So if the public is out there looking for
treasure, be aware that there are other things washing ashore, and use
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