'It came loose': Pieces of barge drifting in Joes Bayou, raising safety concerns

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Destin resident Gordon West points to a piece of WaterWorld Destin that drifted away from the anchored barge in Joe's Bayou.

Destin resident Linda West said that what she feared most has begun to happen to the floating barge anchored in Joe’s Bayou. Pieces of the deck that surrounded the barge have begun to break off and float towards her home.

“It came loose and it also looks like some other things are posing a problem that could sink a boat…that could kill somebody,” she said.

The barge, Crab Island business Water World Destin, was towed into the bayou for safe-keeping in late October and has raised alarm with the West’s and many of their neighbors. In the past, vessels left in the bayou have broken free and damaged personal property so now concerned residents worry that the same fate might be true for this barge.

Monday, the first piece of Water World Destin’s deck broke off and was brought in by the West’s neighbor and tied to a personal dock. On Wednesday, another piece broke loose so the West’s called authorities to look into the safety issue.

“Another piece of the tiki hut came loose and who knows where it’s going to go,” Linda told The Log. “I called the Florida Fish and Wildlife and they told me to call the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard said they had the owner’s number but they weren’t concerned unless it was posing an imminent danger.”

Petty Officer Daniel Ponikvar of Coast Guard Station Destin said that in the case of Joe’s Bayou, the waters are state governed but if the barge poses a danger they will act.

“We do go on patrols and we’ve seen it over there, it used to be on Crab Island,” Ponikvar said of the barge. “We can only regulate if it is hazardous to navigation, if we get a call that something drifted into the navigational channel we will go put our eyes on it and make sure it won’t cause any harm.”

Ponikvar added that the owner of the barge has been notified that pieces of his vessel are drifting but the matter is really governed by the state.

“As far as where it is now, the Coast Guard itself cannot make him move it anywhere as long as it is not in a navigational channel,” he said. “It’s more of a state or local thing. If the residents want it moved it will have to be through some sort of local action to get it removed.”

FWC Public Information Coordinator Rebekah Nelson said that in this particular situation with the floating barge there are many variables at play which is why both the FWC and the Coast Guard are involved.

“It is different because it is a floating structure which is different from a vessel,” she said. “I went ahead and talked to a lieutenant and we will be dispatching an officer to assess the situation. If it is broken free we will assess it and determine where we will go from there.”

Owner of Water World Destin, Stan Shipp was contacted Wednesday about the floating debris and left his home in Texas to assess the situation in Florida.

“We got it retrieved,” Shipp said Thursday afternoon. “It was tied up to a friend of mine’s dock and now it is secured back on barge.”

In regards to the floating deck pieces, Shipp said he does not see how they could have come loose and suspects foul play.

“There is no way it could have come undone, there’s just no way the way we had it strapped down, it’s just impossible,” he said. “I had it ratchet strapped real secure and somebody untwined that strap. It had to have been done manually. I really tried to get it out of the way. I got it in the best place possible to keep it our of everybody’s way and keep it out of the line of sight.”

As for Linda, she says she is just trying to keep an eye on the situation and keep her home and property safe on the bayou.

“We are just trying to do what’s right,” she said.