Boats used by Cubans to cross the Florida Straits make a final journey

The end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cuban migrants who made it to U.S. soil to stay in the country, also means the end of another phenomenon in the Florida Keys: refugee boats that were abandoned on remote islands.

The Marquesas, a group of islands about 20 miles west of Key West, had dozens of those boats sunk or grounded among the mangroves and mud flats. Recently, a team of marine salvors removed them.

The small, open boats, referred to as “chugs” in the Keys, were often made out of whatever material was at hand.

“They’re made out of expandable foam, tarps, just aluminum pieces. Pieces of housing. Just any kind of industrial thing that folks can fashion into floating objects,” said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys. “It is a testament to the desire people have to seek a different, better life.”

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