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Owner sought of second ‘derelict’ sailboat in lagoon


A second partially sunken boat in the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach – this one, between the city’s two bridges – has been declared a “derelict vessel” by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was still trying to locate the owner last weekend.

Another larger boat that caught fire and foundered south of the 17th Street Bridge under somewhat mysterious circumstances was declared derelict in May.

Lt. Dustin Lightsey, who oversees FWC patrols of the waters in Indian River and southern Brevard counties, said the second sailboat has been placed in the agency’s database and that a “diligent investigation” was ongoing.

Lightsey said the owner, once located, will be issued a citation for abandoning a derelict vessel – under Florida law, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

“After that’s accomplished,” Lightsey said, “the vessel will be posted with a sticker and the 45-day count to removal will begin.”

The due process protections under federal law require that the owner, after being notified by authorities, be given 45 days to remove the boat and pay any civil claims before the vessel can be seized by the state.

Lightsey said he could not identify the boat’s owner or provide further details because the owner hadn’t yet been cited and the case was still under investigation.

However, multiple local boaters said the sailboat has been abandoned in the lagoon – approximately 250 yards south of the Barber Bridge and less than 15 yards west of the Intracoastal Waterway channel – since early April.

The boat remains visible from the south side of the Barber Bridge.

Boaters said the sailboat had been anchored near Memorial Island before breaking free and drifting across the lagoon and getting stuck in a sandbar.

A 35-foot catamaran, which was abandoned in the lagoon south of the 17th Street Bridge after being damaged by fire on the morning of April 10, remained half-submerged offshore from the Fairlane Harbor neighborhood’s seawall last weekend.

The FWC cited the catamaran’s owner, Douglas Robert Silvera of the Bahamas, with abandoning a derelict vessel. However, the boat’s local caretaker blamed a U.S. Coast Guard crew for the mishap.

Vero Isles resident Doug Sweet said the catamaran was anchored “safely and securely” 1,000 yards south of the bridge and 250 yards outside the channel for three days. Then the Coast Guard showed up.

Sweet, who planned to do some restoration and maintenance work on the catamaran, said the crew moved the boat too close to the power lines near the bridge and didn’t properly anchor the vessel.

“So, when the winds shifted and the current shifted,” he explained, “the boat must’ve come loose and swung around, and it got pushed into the power lines.”

The fire is believed to have started when the boat’s mast struck the power lines.

The FWC, which has police jurisdiction over Florida waters, stated in its report that the Coast Guard had “boarded the vessel the night before the fire” in response to a call claiming the boat was moored in the channel.

The Coast Guard has not responded to a voice message left by Vero Beach 32963 seeking information regarding the decision to move the catamaran.