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Missing Florida boater’s body found tied to his vessel in Cuba

A missing boater expected to arrive in Key West two weeks ago after traveling from Fort Myers was found dead tethered to his sailing vessel on a rocky Cuban beach earlier this week.

Cuban authorities found Jay Wesley Rydberg’s body alongside his 39-foot trimaran boat, the 3/4 Time, on Tuesday on shore about 44 miles east of Havana, said George Toms, Rydberg’s friend and Key West neighbor.

The Cubans called the U.S. Coast Guard, which contacted Rydberg’s sister Jill Lesseig in Fairbanks, Alaska. “She notified me,” Toms, 54, said.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer John Paul Rios confirmed a body and the boat were found in Cuba, but referred all other questions surrounding the death to the U.S. Department of State.

A State Department official said that "on May 27, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana was notified that Cuban authorities had recovered a U.S.-registered watercraft that had been reported missing on May 14. We can confirm that one set of human remains were found with the vessel; pending formal identification of the remains, we have no further comment.".

Rydberg, 40, was reported missing May 13 while he was en route to Key West. Lesseig told the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office that her brother moved to Florida from Alaska to be closer to his 11-year-old son, who lives in Southwest Florida.

Rydberg lived on his boat in the Garrison Bight Marina in Key West. Earlier this month, he sailed to Fort Myers. He called his sister on the morning of May 13 to tell her he was returning to Key West. Lesseig told deputies that her brother seemed calm and relaxed and that he said he would be in Key West by May 14 or 15.

But at 4:13 a.m. May 14, the Coast Guard detected his Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, known as an EPIRB, and initiated a search. The EPIRB was found 33 miles north of Key West but they found no signs of Rydberg or his vessel.

The Coast Guard suspended its search for Rydberg after four days, Rios said.

At the time the beacon went off, the wind was blowing 20 knots and there were 3-foot seas. There were no reported storms in the area, according to the Coast Guard.

Lesseig told deputies Rydberg had manual labor jobs but she is not sure for whom he worked. One of his Key West neighbors, Tony Webb, said Rydberg taught Sunday school but was not sure for which church.

It was not clear at press time whether the Cuban government had returned Rydberg’s body back to his family.