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Derelict sailboat finally being moved from beach

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of April 2, 2015)

A 30-foot sailboat that ran aground just north of John’s Island in February was scheduled to be removed from the beach this week by a work crew from the Indian River County Road and Bridge Division.

“The boat actually came ashore in the Town of Indian River Shores, but they didn’t have any means to remove it, so it fell on the county because we have the resources to do it,” County Public Works Director Chris Mora said Monday. “We should have it off the beach before the end of the week.”

The only potential delay would be the discovery of new sea turtle nests in that section of the beach. Mora said the area where the boat hit the shore – and where the county crew would be working – has been inspected and no nests were found.

“So unless we see turtles coming ashore between now and when we get out there, there won’t be a problem,” Mora said. “We’re not going to disturb any nests. If we do find any, we’ll mark them and work around them. Or, if necessary, we’ll reschedule the removal.”

Mora said the wave action of the surf has “started taking the boat apart” and that the county would have removed it sooner, but no action could be taken until the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission declared it a derelict vessel.

The FWC finally made that ruling two weeks ago, giving the boat’s owner five days to have it removed. The owner, however, has not been located.

“He walked out of the hospital,” Indian River Shores Public Safety Lt. Mark Shaw said, “and seems to have high-tailed it.”

According to the police reports, Charles Jeff Clements, 53, purchased the “Enchantress” in early February and was living on the boat when, at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 16, a John’s Island security officer noticed the vessel circling about 50 yards offshore.

Indian River Shores police responded and, not seeing anyone on board, notified the U.S. Coast Guard, which dispatched a helicopter to investigate. As the boat moved closer to the shoreline, police saw a man behind the steering wheel.

When the boat finally ran aground and Clements was helped to shore, he “appeared to be unresponsive” and was “disoriented and confused,” a police report said.

Indian River Shores police officer Trevor Seegot wrote in his report that he “smelled a strong odor of alcohol” emanating from Clements, who, as a precautionary measure, was taken to the Indian River Medical Center for examination. Clements was released from the hospital the next day and told FWC officers he would try to have the boat towed off the beach.

FWC spokesman Lenny Salberg said Monday that Clements has not been charged criminally but the agency is still investigating the incident.

Clements could not be reached for comment.

“We have declared his boat a derelict vessel, so the county and town can take him to court to recover the cost of removing it from the beach,” Salberg said. “But that’s up to them.”

Mora said he could not provide a cost estimate for removing the boat, but he expects Indian River Shores to help cover the cost. He said the county would keep the craft’s remains in storage and try to auction off its useable parts.

“The mast, rigging and sail are probably worth some money,” Mora said. “We’ll salvage what we can, auction it off and try to recover as much of our expenses as we can.”