Derelict boats removed from harbor, Joe's Bayou

Savannah Vasquez
Derelict boats removed from Joe's Bayou and the Destin harbor have been moved to Destin's public safety maintenance yard for demolition.

Five boats that were creating safety hazards and eyesores in Destin waters have been removed as the city has begun the process of removing derelict vessels from the harbor and bayou over the past few weeks.

“The city is working with the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) very closely to move this process along as soon as possible because we have several seemingly derelict boats in the harbor and Joe’s Bayou,” said City Public Information Manager Doug Rainer. “It’s a process that involves the court system and working diligently to see if owners can be found. We have been successful in the last few months we have removed several boats from the harbor and Joe’s Bayou.”

The process of removing derelict vessels has long been a subject of interest at city council meetings, but only moved to the forefront of the dais this past November, when Councilman Tuffy Dixon asked the city if there was anything that could be done to expedite the process.

“I’ve lived in Destin my entire life, and I see how the harbor and the bayous have basically been used as a junkyard for awhile,” Dixon said of his push to get the boat removal process moving. “I think they are buying boats for cheap and they get disinterested in them and we end up having to deal with them. They sit there and sink they are navigational hazards and eyesores and it’s just not fair that people can leave them up on our shores for us to deal with.”

In December the city council sat down with FWC representatives to see what could be done differently with the derelict vessels to expedite the process and an agreement was made.

“What we agreed to do was, if any of the derelict boat owners would transfer their titles to the city, the city would remove it, that is really what expedited the process,” said Rainer. “It was a council initiative, a push to expedite the process and have the city manager work diligently with FWC and that is what has taken place.”

“It’s basically an effort to clean up our waterways and make it so people are proud of where they live and they don’t have to look at these eyesores,” added Dixon.

The removal and demolition process for derelict vessels can be long and tedious, as due process must me taken to insure owners have time to claim their property. In the case of the first five boats removed, some of the vessels were deemed derelict and surrendered to the city for demolition, while a few vessels were reclaimed and removed by the owners themselves.

To date, four boats have been identified as derelict in the Destin harbor and three in Joe’s Bayou. Of those, three have been removed from the harbor and two from the Bayou.