BRADENTON BEACH – Police have tagged four abandoned boats as part of the increased enforcement efforts taking place in the unmanaged anchorage near the historic Bridge Street Pier.
On Tuesday, May 8, Officer Eric Hill piloted the police boat into the navigable waters that provide anchorage for approximately 40 vessels. Lt. John Cosby then affixed to four vessels the bright orange stickers that serve as official notice that the city intends to have the abandoned vessel removed.
The stickers declare the abandoned vessels to be unlawfully located in city waters and order them removed within five days. The stickers note the boats have been identified by a law enforcement officer as being lost or abandoned property according to state law.
“Otherwise, it will be removed and disposed pursuant to Chapter 705, Florida Statutes,” the notice says.
Two of the tagged boats were sailboats and two were cabin cruisers. Cosby said a third sailboat that was going to be tagged was recently sold and the new owner must be given 30 days to register the vessel.
The stickers inform the boat owners that they have 21 days to appeal the violation or violations to a special master. Cosby said the owners would be given the allotted period to file an appeal before any vessels are removed.
The last known registered owner of each vessel tagged was sent a certified letter informing them of the city’s intentions. One of the vessels tagged was the cabin cruiser that belonged to former liveaboard boater Brandon Nieuwkoop, who drowned in the anchorage waters on March 31.
Cosby said the vessels were deemed abandoned according to previous enforcement efforts and research conducted by Hill. Cosby said there are three conditions that render a vessel derelict: no power, either by motor or sail; no working steering mechanism; and hull intrusion that compromises the integrity of the vessel’s ability to stay afloat.
When derelict and abandoned vessels are removed and destroyed, an outside contractor does the work and the city pays the contractor using grant money provided by the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND). Cosby said on average it costs between $2,500 and $5,000 to have a boat removed, depending on whether it’s already sunk. One of the motorboats tagged has already sunk; its hull is resting on the bottom.
Cosby estimated that three-quarters of the boats out there are in good shape and are compliant with city and state laws and regulations.
“We’ve tried to educate them. All we want you to do is be compliant and you’ll never hear from us,” he said. “We have a lot of boaters out here that are compliant and they do not want these bad boaters out here either.”
The police boat currently must be transported by trailer down to the Coquina boat ramps to be placed in the water. This will change when a new boat lift for the police boat is installed alongside the pier. This is expected to happen later this year using previously approved WCIND grant money.
“We can then drop the boat in the water and make a quick run out,” Cosby said, noting the city has three officers qualified to make marine patrols.