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Longboat Key Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021 9 months ago

Authorities working to remove sailboat grounded for a month on Longboat Key

The boat is stuck outside of the Sands Point Condominiums in New Pass.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Robin Fryzel's third-floor condominium at Sands Point normally affords her lovely views of sunsets, New Pass and a variety of boats sailing past. But for a month or so, one boat in particular has her concerned and asking questions. 

Since mid-August, the vessel has been aground on the sand and rocks along the north side of the pass connecting the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. Though she and condo management have tried to learn more about it and any effort to have it removed, it remains there, stuck, though state officials say the wheels are in motion to have it removed.

“I know there were people that were trying to push it around,” Fryzel said. “There was a group of six men some time.”

Fryzel said the condo’s management spoke to Longboat Key Police and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the boat. The FWC is leading the investigation. Officer Brian Norris, a spokesman for the FWC, said the boat became unintentionally grounded on Aug. 10. State officials identified a man named Dustin Sisk as the party responsible for the craft, though no other information was released. 

“For so many reasons, it’s dangerous,” Fryzel said. “I see people walking around it and everything all the time. What if some kids are out playing?”

Fryzel said she’s seen people navigate around the boat. On a recent visit to the property, waves were breaking over the side of the red hull. An outboard motor bracket was empty, though a mainsail and roller-furled jib remain attached to the single-mast's rigging. The vessel carries a Florida registration number and a red document headlined NOTICE has been affixed to the forward decking by the FWC. 

“They do have a red flag on it, but what good is that going to do?” Fryzel said.

While there is not a specific deadline to remove the boat, the state’s derelict vessel investigation process has a defined 21-day waiting period once the responsible party is notified. 

“In this case, the 21-day waiting period for the owner to request a court hearing or remove the vessel on their own has passed and the FWC removal process has begun,” Norris wrote in an email.

The state's next step is to send a Removal Authorization Letter to the West Coast Inland Navigation District, which handles vessel removals in Sarasota County. The letter authorizes the WCIND to begin its process for removal.

Norris said the owner can still remove the vessel until the time the tow company hooks up to the vessel for removal. The extent of any damage to the boat is unknown. 

Also, Florida law states leaving a vessel in derelict condition in state waters is a first-degree misdemeanor and can carry a penalty of one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000 per conviction.

It’s not the first time Longboat Key has had boats in places they shouldn’t be.

In September 2020, a sailboat washed ashore on the beach in the  4200 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive. In November 2020, the state coordinated with the WCIND to hire a contractor to remove debris from the derelict sailboat. It came after Hurricane Eta broke the boat apart, and crews found the remaining parts about a quarter-mile north in front of La Playa Rental Condominiums at 4425 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“Derelict vessels are an environmental hazard and a safety concern,” Norris wrote in an email. “The FWC makes every effort to remove these boats in a timely fashion to reduce these risks, without violating due process for the owner of the vessel.”

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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