NOVEMBER 08, 2016
CHANNEL 5 NEWS
A sailboat beached on South Padre Island is drawing a lot of attention. Officials said state law protects where it is located. A storm five days ago, moving into the Gulf, wreaked havoc for a Long Island boater out on the Mo Dang Fun. The turbulent weather left the sailboat sunk on the shores of South Padre Island. The owner had to get off the boat and leave it behind. It’s been an unusual attraction for beachgoers.
“Because of the current conditions out there right now, they have been unable to pull it back into the water and tow it to an appropriate location,” Texas General Land Office Press Secretary Brittany Eck said. Eck said the owner reported the beached vessel and has been working with authorities to figure out how to get it out.
Despite the owner not being onsite to guard his property, Eck said the law protects his property from being stolen. “There is not a law that I am aware of that allows people to claim what they deem to be abandoned property and that might put them at risk for potential legal action as well, because there is a process for identifying something as a derelict structure and they might be at risk of potentially claiming property that is not theirs to claim,” she said.
Billy Kennon, owner of Marine Salvage in Port Isabel, said the process to salvage a stranded or abandoned vessel can be costly and tedious.,“You can’t just go and pull it. It’s not all water out there, it’s sand. So, you have to wash that sand away or jet it away somehow to finally wash that boat through the sand and back out to the deeper water to float,” Kennon said. If the boat was abandoned on water or sinking, he added, the salvage laws change. “Some people think that’s what the law is, that they can just come down and claim it, but you can’t do that, it doesn’t work that way. If you were out in the middle of the Gulf and the boat was about to sink and you got on it and saved it, well that’s a different story, you’re entitled to salvage reward,” he said.
Kennon said it’s been about two years since a boat has been stranded on South Padre Island. He estimated it could cost about $10,000 and several hours of work to recover. Eck added the owner has made arrangements for the boat to be dug out on Tuesday. It’s unlikely he will face any fines. “This person has self-identified the issue and shown a good faith effort to work with local authorities and the towing company to deal with the issue in a timely manner,” she said.
According to state law, boaters have up to 20 days to recover their property. If it takes longer or refuse to remove the vessel, it could mean a daily fine from $100 to $125,000 per day. The beached vessel isn’t considered a threat to people or the environment.