Cuban Boat People Boats.

Cuban Boat People Boats

Field review by the editors.

Stock Island, Florida

Inspired by the Vietnam "boat people" refugees of the 1970s, Cubans desperate to come to America began building rickety watercraft "chugs" to cross the 90-mile open water channel between Cuba and the Florida Keys. Around a dozen of them are displayed here, an odd decorative addition to the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.

Cuban Boat People Boats.

Each boat is identified by a small sign. Their age ranges from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. All of them are rotting in the subtropical climate, although some were in bad shape even when new. That said, these are the most seaworthy examples, since many of these overloaded vessels never made it across the shark infested Straits of Florida. Some of these dinghies are nothing more than plastic sheeting wrapped around styrofoam. One, according to its sign, has a "unique wheel system" in its hull, which suggests that it was secretly built in someone's home, then rolled down a street and into the sea.

Cuban Boat People Boats.

Cuban Boat People Boats.

Cuban Boat People Boats

Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden

Address:
5210 College Rd, Stock Island, FL
Directions:
Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. From US-1 turn west at the stoplight, just north of the bridge to Key West, onto College Rd. Turn right at the Tropical Forest and Garden sign. The boats are displayed just to right of the entrance; parking is on the left.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Prison Animal FarmPrison Animal Farm, Stock Island, FL - < 1 mi.
Big ManateeBig Manatee, Key West, FL - < 1 mi.
Evil Doll: Inspiration for ChuckyEvil Doll: Inspiration for Chucky, Key West, FL - 1 mi.
In the region:
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West, FL - 4 mi.

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