Derelict sailboat abandoned in lagoon towed off by local resident, taken to landfill

Maybe you’ve noticed: The boat is gone.

Not the partially burned, mostly sunken and totally trashed catamaran that still can be seen in the Indian River Lagoon south of the 17th Street bridge, where, I’m guessing, it will remain until it rots away.

The other one – the abandoned sailboat that somehow was set adrift and became stuck on a sandbar, approximately 250 yards south of the Barber Bridge and less than 15 yards west of the Intracoastal Waterway channel.

That boat, which hadn’t moved since April and was declared a “derelict vessel” by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission two months ago, finally disappeared in July.

“We disposed of it,” Pebble Bay resident and local attorney Kiernan Moylan said.

Actually, he disposed of it – and not for the reason you might suspect.

If Moylan’s name looks familiar, it could be because you’ve seen his campaign signs around town. He’s a candidate for county judge.  And while some cynics might think he saw removing the sailboat from our lagoon as a chance to grab some free publicity, Moylan flatly denied any such intent.

“That’s NOT why I did it,” he said, insisting his motive was pure. “I did it because I love our river. I own boats and I love to be out on the water, especially on our beautiful river.

“I’d drive over the bridge every day and see those disabled boats, and it was upsetting – because they were an ugly sight. I really do fear that, if you leave one derelict boat out there, it gets easier to leave the next one, then the next one, and so on.

“So, I decided to do something.”

His plan was to do something quietly, he maintains, not to draw attention to himself. But as Moylan embarked on his boat-removal project, which required him to discuss the project with people at the FWC, City Hall and the Vero Beach Municipal Marina, word began to spread.

“Once it got out,” he said, “a lot of people started asking me about it.”

He had plenty to tell them.

For weeks after the sailboat became lodged on the sandbar, Moylan watched as the spring rains combined with water seeping through small holes in the cabin caused the vessel to list.

It was in late May that he approached city officials about his willingness to remove the sailboat from the lagoon. Shortly afterward, he learned from the FWC that the boat’s owner, whom he identified as Daniel Dibble of Rochester, N.Y., had died.

As Moylan tells it: Dibble was paying to have the sailboat moored locally, but after he died and the payments were no longer being made, the boat mysteriously was set adrift in the lagoon, where it ran aground on the sandbar.

“Before a government agency can remove a derelict vessel, it must give legal notice to the owner, who has 45 days to remove it,” Moylan said. “But because the owner had died and there was no estate, the FWC couldn’t give notice, so no government agency could remove the boat.

“If I hadn’t acted, it probably would still be there.”

Moylan said the FWC located Dibble’s mother in Rochester, and he tried to call her, leaving messages that weren’t returned. So, he followed up with an email and she finally responded.

“I offered to handle the whole thing, free of charge, in exchange for a release of liability,” Moylan said. “I told her I’d remove the boat from the water and dispose of it.”

She agreed, and he followed through, taking action earlier than he had first planned because the boat’s condition was deteriorating.

On July 4, while cruising the lagoon on one of his boats, Moylan checked on the stranded vessel and noticed it was close to rolling on its side.

“I knew if the boat were to roll, I definitely wouldn’t be able to remove it,” he said. “So, if I was going to do something, I needed to do it soon.”

Four days later, Moylan, accompanied by local anesthesiologist Phil Nye, rode to the grounded vessel in his 15-foot Boston Whaler, sealed two small holes in the sailboat’s cabin and, using a pump borrowed from David Vatland of Vatland Honda Marine, spent 2 ½ hours pumping out water.

Then, after waiting for high tide, Moylan used his 34-foot boat to pull the sailboat off the sandbar and tow it to the municipal marina, where city officials allowed him to moor the vessel until he could arrange to dispose of it.

On July 24 – this time accompanied by his 11-year-old son, Liam – Moylan towed the sailboat to the Sebastian River Marina & Boatyard in Micco, where the mast and keel were removed.

The next day, after the marina crew loaded the boat’s remains onto a trailer borrowed from Boo MacIntyre of Vero Marine Center, Moylan hauled it to its final resting place at the Indian River County landfill.

As for any publicity he might’ve received for doing a good civic and ecological deed, it wasn’t free: Removing the disabled sailboat and disposing of it cost him about $500, not including the time he invested.

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