Cuban Immigrants or Robinson Crusoe?

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Homemade boat found on Fort Lauderdale beach

On 2nd January, 2015, just at the break of day, Fort Lauderdale photographer Andy Royston was enjoying his everyday morning routine -walking on the beach. He has been doing this for several years now,capturing the beauty of the  dawn as the sunrises over the ocean.

That Friday morning though, it was an unfamiliar sight that greeted him.



Copyright Andy Royston

Yes, a battered and abandoned homemade boat. What could be the story behind this? The one that immediately comes to mind is that the boat was used by Cubans, fleeing the country and hoping to make a new life in the United States.

Wet foot, dry foot policy for  Cubans

This policy, established in 1995, means that if Cuban nationals are found at sea (in other words ‘wet foot’) by the authorities, they will be sent back to their own country. However, if they are discovered on American soil (‘dry foot’) then they are considered to be legally considered for full-time residency after a period of one year.

As Cuba is only about ninety miles south of Florida, the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas are magnets for those fleeing their country.

The homemade boat

As you can see above, the boat has a sail and rudder fashioned from tree trunks. Sheets of plywood forms the crude deck. Old tarpaulin covers the hull and plastic foam adds buoyancy.

There were two straw hats inside the boat.

It was deserted and before long,someone called the police who were investigating the vessel.Who were the occupants? Where were  they now?

Although I think that the above theory- that of Cuban refugees –  is more likely, there’s also the rather romantic notion that a small craft might have been shipwrecked on one of the uninhabited islands in the Bahamas and its occupants had fashioned the homemade escape boat from the wreckage.

What do you think?

More photographs below.

Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston


Copyright Andy Royston

Copyright Andy Royston




Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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  1. What awesome pictures! Andy outdid himself with these today. I’ll go with the Cuban angle, too. Somehow I tend to forget that people still do that (escape from Cuba to the U.S.). Too bad they had to leave the boat behind when they got here. Great article, Jackie!

  2. Wow, it is fascinating to see the boat from its different angles. Someone worked hard on that. Very interesting story. I’m leaning toward the Cuban angle too. Seems like it they were Crusoes, they would be glad to be found and seen. There is probably a book deal in here somewhere! Great read.

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