‘Cuki’ case just got kookier

The 45-foot sailboat that broke free from its Key West mooring during Hurricane Irma and ended up near Spessard Holland Beach Park was in an unusual spotlight last Thursday. In what appears to be either a pure coincidence or a factor of the tides, a bundle of cocaine turned up on the same beach as the derelict boat named The Cuki.

“It weighed in the neighborhood of 50 pounds,” said Tod Goodyear, a spokesman for Brevard County sheriff’s office, about the cocaine. “I have no information that it is related to the abandoned vessel.”

Needless to say, the process by which law enforcement hauled the illicit drugs off the beach was much faster than the red tape involved in removing the sailboat. But, according to officials, The Cuki’s days as a beachfront attraction are numbered. In the next week, a team from the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will visit the abandoned sailboat just below Spessard Holland South Beach Park to develop a disposal plan.

“The team wants to figure out the best way to remove the boat with no effect to the environment,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon. “Their removal is not as fast as some would like.”

As of Nov. 7, the coalition of agencies and, in some cases, owners has removed 1,643 Irma-impacted boats throughout Florida. The Cuki was low on the priority list. Vessels that are actively polluting the environment got first dibs, followed by those that posed potential hazards to navigation.

“Once the crews conduct the assessments, a decision will be made on how to move forward with this particular vessel,” Bordelon said. “The removal process is both time-consuming and intensive, requiring safety measures, procedures and the mitigation of hazards.”

Turtle hatchlings still in the area may also slow the boat’s removal.

Listing to its side, the boat has drawn the curiosity of people like Hannah Anthony of Indian Harbour Beach.

“I have such a quiet life, so this is exciting,” she said as she paraded around The Cuki. “I’ll bet if this boat could talk it would tell you some story.”

Once the Coast Guard team removes abandoned boats, owners are often given 30 days to take possession. In the case of The Cuki, that might pose a problem as the owner, Jeffrey Ray Sundwall, remains in Stock Island Detention Center in Monroe County on various charges.

“If a notice is mailed to him at the jail, or otherwise delivered there, we will work with him on the issue if he needs to respond,” said Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Becky Herrin.

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