New owner from Pennsylvania: "I can see what the final product is going to be, so I'm just really excited about how this is going to transform.
PANAMA CITY — More than a month after it was finally freed from the beach, the Phantom of the Aqua is receiving some much-needed TLC.
Patty Baird, a Pennsylvania woman who saw the Phantom’s story on social media and decided to buy the sailboat after it was removed from the beach in South Walton County, flew to Panama City for the first time last weekend to check it out in person and begin its renovations.
“I knew it was not going to be pretty down inside, so I wasn’t expecting much,” Baird said in a telephone interview from Pittsburgh on Wednesday. “But I can see through all that mess, I really can. I can see what the final product is going to be, so I’m just really excited about how this is going to transform.”
The 45-foot Phantom washed up on the beach near the Royal Palm Grille in Miramar Beach in October 2017 after Hurricane Nate. After a four-month saga that included the boat switching hands several times and pleas from local officials to get it off the beach before spring break, the boat was finally removed by a company Feb. 18 and towed to a marina in Panama City.
The boat sustained some damage to its stern during its extrication from the beach, but is otherwise in good condition.
Inside its cabin, the Phantom has two bathrooms, two sleeping berths and a common area with a kitchen.
Baird said she hired Mark Brooks, one of the contractors who helped remove the boat from the beach, to fix up the boat and get it in working condition again.
“We’re taking an old boat and going to make a modern boat out of it,” she said. “It’ll be light and bright, and I sort of have a vision for the inside. I want to lighten it up in there.”
She said she doesn’t yet have a timeline for the project, but once it’s finished she plans to take people on tours out of the Destin Harbor and possibly out of Key West in the winter.
“It’s just a really positive vibe,” Baird said. “Everybody involved with this boat is feeling these positive vibes from it. The guys are really enjoying working on it and everybody is excited.”