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Cuki the Melbourne Ghost Ship | Photo © 2018 Bullet

Cuki the Melbourne ‘Ghost Ship’

Location Class:
Built: 1974 | Abandoned: ~2000s
Status: Demolished
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Cuki the Melbourne Ghost Ship | Photo © 2018 Bullet
Signs were placed around the boat warning people to stay off the boat

Following Hurricane Irma, a morning jogger reported a sailboat named Cuki stranded on a beach in Melbourne. It had come from Key West when Irma’s waves and wind gusts tore the sailboat from its anchor, and the boat drifted up the East coast of Florida where it ran aground at Spessard Holland South Beach Park.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the ship was last registered in 2004 to Jeffrey Ray Sundwall of Key West. Sundwall got the boat from Janusz Machnica, who owned a sailing school off of the Long Island Sound in New Rochelle until the business went bankrupt about five years ago. Jeremy Kass, a head instructor/manager at New Rochelle’s current sailing school, said Machnica moved to Florida and used the boat for sailing lessons before it changed hands. Before him, it was owned by Decaphun Inc. when it was first built in 1974.

In March 2017, Sundwall was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping-false imprisonment, and sexual assault. At the time, Sundwall lived on a 34-foot cabin trawler named Today, which doubled as a water taxi to and from Christmas Tree Island. He invited a woman onto his boat where he proceeded to choke her unconscious using a neck restraint device. According to investigators, she was tortured and raped for several hours. She managed to finally escape by jumping into the water as they headed to the mainland.

In June 2018, Sundwall took a plea deal and was given a 15-year sentence for sexual battery and a 15-year sentence for 20 counts of possessing child pornography which investigators found after looking through his computers. He also received five more years for possession of cocaine and another five for tampering with physical evidence.

Now vandalized and half-buried in the sand, Brevard County officials have posted “Safety Hazard Keep Off The Boat” signs around the boat. Just in front of it is a yellow do-not-disturb sign indicating that a sea turtle nest is located there. Cuki will be towed back out to sea, but not until sea turtle nesting season ended on October 31st. The boat has since been demolished.


David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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