NewsPinellas County


For some boat owners, Tropical Storm Eta not only beached their boat, but also their home

Beached boat in Gulfport following TS Eta
Posted at 10:40 PM, Nov 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-14 23:43:37-05

GULFPORT, Fla. -- Three days after Tropical Storm Eta tore through the Tampa Bay area, the city of Gulfport and local boat owners are working to move wrecked boats off the shore.

For some, not only did they lose their boats due to damage from the storm, but they lost their homes, too, as many of them lived out on the water.

Some even came to the realization this weekend that paying to move their boat, and then paying for repairs to it, outweigh what the boat is actually worth, forcing them to face the decision of whether or not to turn their title over to the city and wash their hands of it.

“She has a soul, she’s my girl, and now she’s gone,” said Monica Taggart, whose boat crashed ashore during the storm.

Mo Taggart has called the SV Laure Lin home for two years.

“Living on a boat seems like the way. It’s like, being on the moor and ball, it’s so much cheaper, boats aren’t cheap, but it’s fulfilling,” said Taggart,

She's a college student, and she's always looking for the next adventure. But a tropical storm was definitely not what she had in mind. Fearing for her own safety, she moored her boat and got off the water, hopeful that the SV Laure Lin could survive the wind and the waves.

“All of the sailors out here have a group chat on Facebook and I was told that the boat was loose,” said Taggart.

Taggart's boat ended up ashore, and attempts by her and a group of sailors to anchor the boat down were unsuccessful.

“She was just crashing against the seawall,” said Taggart.

Her boat is one of more than half a dozen dotting the shoreline off Boca Ciega Bay. She decided the cost of the damage to her boat is far more than her boat is worth, and this weekend, Taggart made the difficult decision to hand her title over to the city.

“I give the title to my boat, that’s my whole house, and I don’t have to pay for the repercussions of the damage I did, but now, I just signed away everything I have,” said Taggart.

Nick Calitri, another boat owner who calls the Gulf home, made the decision to ride out the storm.

“I never sailed a sailboat until the last five months but when the storm hit, I was out here,” said Calitri.

Lucky for him and his parrot Yoshi, his boat stayed afloat.

Both Nick and Mo are happy with the different decision they made that night. But Nick says he wouldn't have wanted to ride out a stronger storm.

“If it was a stronger one, I would’ve figured out a way to get to shore, 100 percent,” said Calitri.

And Taggart, unsure of whether she could have saved her boat had she been on it, is content with her decision to not risk her life.

“I think I made the right decision. It will come together,” said Taggart.

But like any true sailor, Taggart can't wait to get back on the water.

“I’m getting a new boat,” said Taggart.

The city of Gulfport follows FWC guidelines for abandoned property, which gives boat owners five days following the storm to tow their boats. A boat owner can also hand over their title to wash their hands of it.

Come Monday, the city will be out with cranes to remove some of the boats from the beach.