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Water-Related News

Derelict vessels are often a nuisance in Sarasota and Manatee waters

Police have a year-old old tool in which owners of decaying boats in peril can sign them over for rapid removal.

In a region associated with tropical weather and the boating lifestyle, dilapidated and wrecked vessels on Florida’s waterways often become part of the seascape when the two Sunshine State staples come together.

For owners, removing swamped and sunken craft can be a financial burden beyond reach.

For others on the water, there are dangers of collision or hazardous leaks.

And for law enforcement, the hours involved in tracking ownership and ultimately removing smelly, barnacle-encrusted hulls can add up to months or more. And yes, there can be legal consequences.

“Just a few weeks back, I sent a law enforcement officer up in Pennsylvania to an address ...” said Officer Michael Skinner of the Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol, explaining a recent attempt to track the owner of decaying sailboat in city waters. “So we kind of go above and beyond (for a) misdemeanor investigation… At the end of the day, we want to do our due diligence to find that owner and make contact.”

How you can track derelict vessels

A map published online by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows hundreds of vessels reported to be derelict statewide, mostly along the coast but some on inland lakes and rivers. Among the four dozen or so marked from Port Manatee to near Englewood are a collection of power and sail craft, some listed since not long after Hurricane Ian passed through in September 2022.