Abandoned boats along Sarasota Bay from Tropical Storm Debby

8:19 AM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida - Tropical Storm Debby washed ashore more than seaweed and sand along Sarasota's bay front; It beached several boats, now left abandoned. 

Residents say the boats are an eyesore but also a potential hazard.

City officials estimate there are 48 boats anchored off City Island, about 10 are lived on, the others are being stored there for free by their owners, and others are simply abandoned. 

The city removed 14 abandoned boats last year at a cost of about $14,000. 

And while these abandoned boats can be a burden to taxpayers, when a storm comes through, the boats can also do a lot of damage.

"This is my season they are not coming in," says George Romano. When potential customers stop by Enticer Water Sports at Sarasota's bay front, Romano says they ask, "'Are you open for business?' [I respond,] 'Yeah.'  'Well it looks pretty shabby around here.'"

A shoreline scattered with torn up boats has been Romano's view for nearly three weeks since Tropical Storm Debby. "You have a boat out here; be responsible," says a frustrated Romano.

Romano says a blue and white sailboat broke its mooring during the storm and slammed into his dock, destroying it and boats in its path. The damage caused totaled  more than $20,000.

"Plowed into the boat, cut a hole in it about a foot-and-a-half to two feet wide," describes Romano. 

As Romano waits for his insurance and FEMA to come through with assistance, he's forced to look at the beached vessels. "Every day!" says Romano. He adds, "The city actually gave them time to remove them, but they're still there."

Captain Wade McVay with Sarasota Police Department's Marine Unity says, "We try to make all efforts to work with the people, help them remove the vessel and get them out of the way,"  and if they do not comply, a red tag goes on their vessel saying they have five days to comply, or the property will be destroyed at their expense.

The Marine Unit with Sarasota Police posted a red tag on The Forever Sunrise on Wednesday. The clock is ticking and if the boat owner doesn't pay to remove it, the tax payer will, at about a thousand dollars a boat. 

A group of artists painting on Sarasota Bay Thursday afternoon say they would rather spend their money on art supplies. Genevieve Perkins says, "I never like it coming out of my pocket, but I probably won't even know it."

Boaters won't be able to anchor their boats in Sarasota Bay for free for much longer. 

On July 20, construction begins on phase one of a four-phase project to build a mooring field for 35 boats. The project should be finished in September. 

City officials say phase two begins directly after for another 35 boats, and that phase should be completed in December.

On Monday, Sarasota City Commissioners will vote on an ordinance allowing the city to regulate boats outside mooring fields. 

Sarasota is one of five cities and counties, including St. Petersburg, taking part in this pilot program with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

The program runs through July 2014. FWC will write up a report on each city/county participating and present it to the legislature.

Sarasota's regulations would put in place, time and distance restrictions on anchoring and mooring outside of the mooring field to be constructed. 

Anchoring or mooring a boat would not be allowed for more than 90 consecutive days. 

Vessels would need to be at least 150 feet from the mooring field or any waterfront property, and anchoring or mooring a vessel to city property would be allowed during loading and unloading only. 

Dinghies will also be allowed to anchor, moor or tie-off for periods of 12 hours or less.

Isabel Mascarenas

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