Tropical Storm Eta dismantled what was left of Mark Sternal's sailboat.
The sailboat that washed ashore on the Gulf of Mexico side of Longboat Key is gone.
Tropical Storm Eta destroyed the boat that had been washed ashore since the end of September on the beach near 4239 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“It was no match for the storm,” Longboat Key police officer Chris Skinner said.
After Eta passed through the area, some of the debris from Mark Sternal’s sailboat was found between a quarter-mile and a half-mile north of where it had last been intact.
Sternal was cited for failure to remove a derelict vessel, a first-degree misdemeanor. The highest criminal penalty is up to one year in a county jail, one year of probation and a fine up to $1,000.
On Thursday afternoon, crews from Sea Tow Boat Towing Service brought a Kubota skid steer on the beach to dismantle and remove the boat debris from the shore.
West Coast Inland Navigation District executive director Justin McBride put out bids to have the remnants of Sternal's sailboat removed. McBride said it cost WCIND $3,800 to hire Sea Tow for the job.
Longboat Key Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino said beachgoers should be safer after Sea Tow removed the sailboat debris.
“It’s usually a very lengthy process to get a derelict vessel removed,” said Longboat Key Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino. “As far as that process goes, this was a rather quick one.
“I’m sure it wasn’t quick to the residents that are out there, and the citizens that are walking the beach, especially when it got torn apart by the storm, it was a little more unsightly. And, we were concerned that anybody was going to step on the debris that may have been buried.”
Kamila Nowak, whose company Coastal Properties and Management manages La Playa Rental Condominiums at 4425 Gulf of Mexico Drive, said she had concern for the guests who stay at the property.
“We have a lot of transit rentals. We have the guests here, so we were afraid that they might hurt themselves or kids, whoever, especially at night, Nowak said. “That’s why we put the caution tape around.”
Nowak said she was not surprised the boat’s wreckage wound up in front of La Playa around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 as Tropical Storm Eta was passing through the Gulf of Mexico.
“That morning, one of our owners here, who’s been living here for 40 years, she calls me early in the morning and said, ‘Kamila, you will see that boat is going to end up on our beach,’” Nowak said.
Rubino said every tropical storm and hurricane he’s seen in his career has been different.
“The fact that we had high tide, and the fact that we had the winds right at the same time, I’m sure was a contributing factor to where it was spread around the beach, but all in all we were pretty lucky with that storm,” Rubino said.
It’s unclear where specifically a good portion of the boat’s hull wound up because only about half of it was stacked up on the beach in front of La Playa Rental Condominiums.
Rubino said beachgoers are advised to remain cautious for any kind of debris that may have blown into the water after the tropical storm. He also mentioned how areas throughout Sarasota County have had several derelict vessels since Eta passed through.
Nowak said she is relieved the town and WCIND had Sea Tow dismantle and remove the sailboat debris. She said she’ll remember how people liked to take photos of it.
“It was the most popular item photographed on Longboat Key,” Nowak said. “It was incredible. People were coming every day taking pictures.”