With a location 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is no stranger to “Cuban landings,” where ramshackle boats carrying Cuban refugees arrive on the shorelines of the island (and surrounding Florida Keys). The “wet-foot, dry-foot policy” initiated in 1995 allows Cuban migrants who arrive on U.S. soil to stay and pursue residency. They are processed through immigration, and may also be eligible for cash and medical assistance.

Despite the dangers of the crossing, the Keys have recently seen a surge in the number of refugees because relations with Cuba are changing. Check out this recent (April 2016) video filmed by Cubans arriving in the Marquesas Keys.

Each of the boats are unique and are brilliant works of engineering, including the 1951 Chevy pickup truck on floats, home-built sailboats, and “traditional” motorboats that utilize engines from old cars. So, what happens to this little pieces of history?

The bow of "Sharknado," the boat that carried 23 migrants

The bow of “Sharknado,” the boat that carried 23 migrants

Some are sunk by the Coast Guard while others are removed by tow companies. From there, many restaurants use them as flower gardens or just to add to nautical decor. In reality, most of them are destroyed at the dump.

By chance, Zappa and I were riding our bike one morning outside of our usual route and found a 20-foot refugee boat in front of the tow company’s shop – just as the owner came out to tell us the history of the boat. Earlier that week, 23 Cubans safely arrived at Smathers Beach and the boat was headed for the dump if a home couldn’t be found for it.


What on Earth are we going to do with this?

So, we now own a Cuban refugee boat (which we have dubbed Sharknado due to the drawing on the bow) and have no idea what to do with it. For now, history is protected and we might try and save a few more while we can. A big welcome to the new member of our fleet, although this one isn’t for sleeping on! Stay tuned for more information on what becomes of Sharknado.

Until next post!

Dream, Drift, Discover.

-Amber and Zappa