Cuban boat abandoned and decaying on Beach Bay

El Arca sits on the shore in Beach Bay, surrounded by debris that washed up on the beach and the belongings of those who traveled from Cuba on the boat.- PHOTOs: CHARLES DUNCAN

El Arca landed at Beach Bay Jan. 31. More than 30 people squeezed aboard the estimated 24-foot wooden sailboat for the journey from Cuba to Honduras, where the refugees could travel north by land to the United States.

For 25 of the migrants, their journey ended in Bodden Town. All told, 64 Cuban migrants between two boats ended their journey in the Cayman Islands that weekend.

The Mercedes engine and gas tank still sit in the boat at Beach Bay.
The Mercedes engine and gas tank still sit in the boat at Beach Bay.

El Arca remains on the beach, waves rocking the wood-plank sailboat against the rocky shore. The belongings of the men and women, and their supplies for the journey, are spread dozens of yards across the beach, seemingly picked through by curious visitors and spread by the waves.

An old Mercedes engine and a gas tank are still in the boat, surrounded by water jugs and containers for fuel. Clothes and shoes litter the beach. A wallet, open and empty, sits next to the boat.

“It’s just a matter of time before it gets broken up,” said Phil Robinson, concerned the chemicals and debris could end up dumped into the waters off Beach Bay.

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Beyond the potential environmental consequences, he said, “Why destroy something like that?” A regular practice for Cuban boats has been to sink them at sea.

“A person or people worked day and night on that boat,” he said, to leave Cuba.

Mr. Robinson’s proposal: “I’d pull it up onto the beach and let people look at it.”

The wood-plank boat has a deep keel and appears to be solid. The mast is made of a thin tree trunk and the sail from plastic sheeting. For more than two weeks the boat has sat in the shallows, run aground into the sand and rocks.

It’s unclear what will happen with the boat. Immigration authorities Wednesday were unavailable to answer questions, busy with housing and feeding the more than 100 Cuban refugees currently in the Immigration Detention Center and in overflow housing in the community centers in Bodden Town and East End.

In an interview earlier this week, assistant chief immigration officer Gary Wong said his officers have been putting in long hours to guard and care for the migrants while maintaining their regular jobs. “It takes up about all of our time,” he said.

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  1. Since it is in Beach Bay, which is Bodden Town, would consideration be given by the Government, that it is brought and displayed at the Heritage Centre on the Harry McCoy Park in Bodden Town, whereby locals, tourist and visitors may have the chance of seeing the handy work.

  2. Is there a reason their belongings were left on the beach to be stolen and destroyed? The story talks about an open wallet … Couldnt the arresting department have taken a few minutes to collect their personal property and bring it to the location where they are being held? We know they are not criminals, we know they’re story, why not treat them with dignity and let them keep what few belongings they would have brought with?