Cuban migrant raft finds its way onto Miami Beach. How did it get there from Florida Keys?

·2 min read

A Cuban migrant raft found its way ashore this week on Miami Beach — sparking viral social media interest on how it “mysteriously” arrived. Its journey involved repatriated Cuban migrants, convenient positioning and a six-day 100 mile voyage.

The U.S. Coast Guard believes the boat discovered Tuesday is one of four stopped over the span of a week with 59 total Cuban migrants onboard across them. This particular vessel, wrapped in blue tarps and powered by a gas propeller, was intercepted on June 9 with 16 migrants aboard 27 miles south of Long Key.

After taking the migrants aboard, the Coast Guard marked the boat with “CG OK” and let it go — a common practice done when migrant boats or vessels are safe enough to not be destroyed.

A rustic boat used by Cuban migrants to try to reach South Florida floats in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, 27 miles south of Long Key on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. A law enforcement team from the cutter interdicted 16 Cuban migrants from the craft.
A rustic boat used by Cuban migrants to try to reach South Florida floats in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, 27 miles south of Long Key on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. A law enforcement team from the cutter interdicted 16 Cuban migrants from the craft.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Robert Garcia says the boat may have been left on the Florida Current or Gulf Stream Current, which both involve ocean currents flowing from the Straits of Florida up the East Coast.

While there have been several storms coming down on South Florida over the last week, Garcia believes they have been too short-lived to have any meaningful effect on the boat’s travels.

The boat traveled 100 miles over the next six days, but on Tuesday it ended up in Miami Beach. It isn’t clear if the raft had washed ashore or someone had pulled it in.

Albertico Ortega posted several videos on Instagram of his discovery of the boat near 79th Street and Collins Avenue. Walking around the vessel, the Coast Guard’s “OK” markings can be seen and gasoline canisters were found inside.

In the video, Ortega remarked in Spanish that people who’d used the raft had to be engineers and that it was impressive. He also mentioned they were taken back to Cuba, which he found sad.

Only in Dade also posted his video, which garnered over 100,000 views, where many were praising the boat’s construction and the people who had braved the journey to America from Cuba.

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One comment read, “Cuban engineering is undefeated.” Another user wrote, “If you’re crafty enough to make a seaworthy vessel out of tarp and brave enough to traverse 150+ nautical miles in it, you deserve to live in America.”

The Obama administration ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy in early 2017. But in the past several months, the U.S. Coast Guard has seen an increase in people trying to make it to the U.S.

With five months still left in fiscal year 2021, that number has spiked to 465 people, according to the Coast Guard. Last fiscal year, the Coast Guard stopped only 49 people.

While the 16 migrants never made it to America’s shore, somehow their boat did. Where the blue-tarp-topped raft is now is unknown.