A vessel on the north end is giving Longbeach Village residents a sinking feeling. That’s because the sailboat has been tipped on its side for at least two months but still hasn’t been removed.
According to Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming, officers tagged the boat, which is in town waters, effectively giving the owner five days to remove it. As of Tuesday, April 9, the boat had been tagged, and it should be gone by the end of the week — one way or another.
That’s because if the owner doesn’t remove it after five days, the town will call the Cortez-based Sea Tow to remove it, and the removal costs will become attached as a fine to the owner’s registration.
“The clock has started now,” Cumming said.
Typically, police will monitor a disabled vessel and attempt to locate the owner.
Cumming wasn’t sure in this instance if police had difficulty locating the owner, although it’s a problem police frequently encounter with derelict boats. If police can’t locate the owner, they tag the boat, and the five-day clock starts.
Alan Lai Hipp, Manatee County marine resources coordinator, said the county also tags derelict vessels if possible when they’re located in county waters.
Then, the county sends a certified letter to the registered owner. The clock starts ticking when someone signs for the letter. But it gets complicated, because the registered owner will often say he or she sold the boat. In many cases, especially involving older boats, people don’t bother transferring the title.
“Most of the time, you end up getting the runaround. They ask for more and more time,” Lai Hipp said.
If the county does remove and dispose of the boat, it typically costs between $1,500 and $2,000.
“I’ve heard every story you could imagine,” Lai Hipp said. “At the heart of it is, you’re talking about wanting to make sure you’re not incurring any liability from taking a person’s property and destroying it.”
The city of Sarasota has also wrestled with a derelict-boat problem near Marina Jack restaurant, which now has a mooring field the city operates. Many of the boats in the past haven’t had current registrations, and the city has been forced to pay for the removal of derelict vessels. In the past 10 years, more than 180 derelict vessels have been removed from the area.