Makeshift vessel the first of its kind to turn up on European shores
By Alan Finn
A boat found washed up on a County Sligo beach is believed to have been used by Cuban refugees.
The makeshift raft was discovered on Cliffoney beach in January by Gordon Fallis, who sought information on social media from anyone who could identify its origins.
“I went onto a [Facebook] page called Lost at Sea which tracks debris and container spills which wind up on beaches around the country,” he said.
Among the responses to his post was a man from the United States, who advised Gordon to check the bottles used for buoyancy as the key to identifying where the boat originally came from.
Gordon prompty returned to the boat and put the theory into practice to find that the bottles were indeed key to solving the mystery.
“At first I didn’t know what it was. It was a strange thing to find and I had never seen anything like it. It looked like an improvised, homemade boat and the refugee thing never really sprung to mind at first. A guy in Florida contacted me and seemed to think it was a refugee boat and the water bottles on it had Cuba printed on them so we are fairly certain now about where it came from.”
He believes it was used by Cuban refugees trying to reach Florida.
The improvised boat, named a Cuban chug after the car engine used to power it, is the first of its kind to wash ashore in Europe and the number of barnacles which coat the exterior suggests that it has been drifting along the Atlantic Ocean for quite a long time.
It is currently unknown what happened to those who were on board.
Since going viral, news of this boat landing on Irish shores has opened many eyes to the treachorous plight faced by many Cubans every year who seek a new life in the United States.
“I never really knew a lot about the refugee situation for the Cubans, when I put it up originally one of the first mentions was that it was a refugee boat and my immediate thought was that it was from the Mediterranean, but with the way the currents work you would never find something flowing up here from the Mediterranean so I thought then it surely had to be from Cuba since the gulf stream flows here directly.”
At the time of going to press the vessel is still lying on Cliffoney beach, although it is hoped that action will be taken to preserve it.