Letter: City determined to destroy salvageable sailboat

Gena Suzanne Gaston
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News readers:

I’m writing about an abandoned, derelict vessel that my boyfriend and I recovered recently. The City of St Augustine allowed the vessel to sit abandoned in the Salt Run marsh for over nine months.

During the most recent King Tide, the sailboat loosened from the marsh.  When we initially got to the boat, it was resting in a 4-foot radius of leaking oil that was wrecking the ecosystem.  We found that it had almost broken free and posed a threat.

We were able to safely get it to the city-owned boat ramp at the Lighthouse, where we tied it off, researched the laws on derelict and abandoned vessels, and began the process of making a proper claim to have it titled to us.  Our plan is to restore the sailboat on private property using our own funds.

Despite the neglect, the boat’s hull is almost all fiberglass.  We found no rotting wood.  The boat is buoyant and after two days of being tied up to the ramp, it had taken on no water.  Following the process outlined in Florida Statutes, we first notified law enforcement, then posted a “No Trespassing” sign on the vessel, and finally marked it as a boat going through the claim and title transfer process.  We left it safely tied to the boat ramp.

It took two days for someone from the City of St Augustine to contact us.  When they did, we were told that the sailboat was “marked for destruction”.  I went to city hall to explain to Corey Sakryd, Deputy Director of General Services, that this boat should not be destroyed since it was buoyant and salvageable, and we were in the process of making a claim to transfer the title.

Although no reason could be cited from the applicable law, we were simply told that we could not proceed with our claim because the City was staking its own claim to the boat.  The following day, an employee from the City went to the boat ramp and padlocked the sailboat to the pier. 

The City is apparently abusing federal grant money meant to recover and destroy abandoned vessels that pose a risk to boaters and our ecosystem — not to be used to destroy perfectly salvageable boats.  I firmly believe this is an abuse of government funding and a waste of taxpayer money and resources.

The City has stopped returning our calls and refused all further communications with us.  Corey Sakryd, who is responsible for the derelict and abandoned boat program, has apparently refused to change his decision to destroy this perfectly salvageable vessel.

Please help call attention to the fraud, waste, and abuse being taken by the City of St Augustine at the hands of Corey Sakryd.  We should be allowed to salvage this viable sailboat with personal funds, avoiding its destruction.