Derelict and unattended vessels raise concern

Savannah Vasquez
These beached sailboats are located near Norriego Point on the harbor side.

Gordon and Linda West have lived on Joe’s Bayou for almost 25 years and say they have had it with derelict and unattended boats being left in the waterway directly behind their house.

“People just drop stuff off and don’t even care if it hurts someone else’s stuff or blocks their view or anything,” said Linda. “It’s really dangerous. It’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

The West’s told The Log that vessels left in the bayou are not uncommon and the danger is imminent for waterside residents and their property.

“What has happened in the past is that someone came through and left a boat moored in the bayou,” Gordon said. “We had a microburst and the moorings snapped. It started making its way around the bayou bumping around and damaging boats and docks.”

“We went out there and pulled the boat in so it wouldn’t wreck the million dollar boat our neighbor owns and it was left in our slip for a few days,” Linda added. “The Coast Guard said ‘You can’t let it go because then you’ll be responsible for it,’ but it was not even our boat.”

The most recent vessel to raise alarm for the West’s is a barge that was towed in from Crab Island. The barge, WaterWorld Destin, belongs to Stan Shipp, a seasonal vendor on Crab Island. Shipp moved his floating barge to the protected waters of Joe’s Bayou a few weeks ago for safe-keeping over the winter but the residents along the bayou are wary that it will pose a safety hazard.

“It has no lights, somebody could really get hurt,” said Linda. “I don’t want anybody to get killed or maimed or anything.”

However, according the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who oversees state waters, WaterWorld Destin has not done anything against the law.

“As long as the vessel is properly registered and secured it is lawful to leave in state waters,” said FWC Public Information Coordinator Rebekah Nelson. “It has to be lit with an all-around white light at night and it cannot fall into a derelict state.”

Nelson added that if residents are concerned about the lighting on the vessel they can reach out to the FWC.

“We could send a officer out there to make sure it has the proper lights on it,” she said. “If the vessel falls into a derelict state we would make attempts to get the owner to remove it.”

As for now, the West’s are just concerned that the past will replay itself if safety precautions are not met with all vessels in the bayou.

“It’s not responsible ownership,” said Gordon. “Why would you leave your business near so many million dollar homes when he could pull it into a dock and pay to store it? He hauled that thing out to Joe’s Bayou but he should be able to afford to dock it somewhere. I think that’s a pretty dirty deal.”

City Councilman Tuffy Dixon has also brought the issue of derelict vessels to light at a recent council meeting.

"I want something to be done with these boats," he said, referring to the Destin harbor and Joe's Bayou. “I noticed how many derelict boats that we have in the harbor. I think it's incredibly ridiculous to have boats sitting there for that amount of time."

During the meeting, Dixon stressed that the situation needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

"I don't care what we need to do. If we need to involve the state... we have got to do something about this,” he said. “Our water areas are turning into boat graveyards. If we don't take action on this soon, we are going to be overloaded. I'm just so tired of it. It's embarrassing."

For more information on the FWC and derelict vessels visit