Schooner beached in Cuba faces uncertain fate

Cuba
Canadian Press via Facebook
Grosse-Ile beached on Jan. 27 off Maria La Gorda, Cuba, and remained there at press time in mid-March. Vessel owner Didier Epars has battled with his insurer and Cuban authorities over the fate of the schooner.

The last remaining St. Lawrence River schooner faces an uncertain future after beaching in Cuba in late January. Since then, insurance woes and diplomatic challenges prevented the ship, Grosse-Ile, and one of its owners from leaving.

According to Canadian press accounts, vessel owner Didier Epars and his son, Vincent, beached the ship Jan. 27 near Maria la Gorda, Cuba, during a powerful storm. The two men swam to shore, and that’s when the real nightmare started.

Epars has spent more than a month in custody at a resort run by the Cuban military. He told the Canadian press the army wants to barter his freedom in exchange for the ship, which has been looted and damaged by thieves. Vincent Epars was allowed to return home.

Another issue with the ship’s insurer has reportedly prevented it from getting towed to a repair yard. Those challenges include trying to find a non-Cuban salvor and the $140,000 deductible, the newspaper reported.

The Canadian government built the 91-foot vessel in 1951. Epars acquired the ship in 1992 and spent the next 25 years completely rebuilding it. As of March 2018, Grosse-Ile was based in George Town, Cayman Islands, where Epars reportedly planned to run nightly sunset cruises.

Epars responded to social media messages sent by Ocean Navigator but declined to comment on the ongoing situation in Cuba, citing his limited Internet access.