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Crews finally free mysterious yacht from the beach

REDINGTON BEACH — It looked as if the yacht would never move.

But after a day and a half, Charlie Rice had an idea.

Using a truck tire strapped to a Bobcat, he sidled up to the 48-foot luxury boat that had been sitting on the beach since noon Wednesday.

As his father used a tugboat to put tension on the boat from a few hundred feet out in the gulf, Rice used the Bobcat and tire contraption to push against the vessel.

Progress was slow, but after about 30 minutes of work, the yacht started to move.

Just before midnight, as the tide rose and thunderstorms moved in, Rice and his crew finally freed the boat from shore.

"It was a nice challenge," Rice said. "But we accomplished it."

Rice works for a company called Oak Environmental out of Seminole. The company was called in to help Joe's Towing and Recovery, a Largo salvage company called to remove the boat, which mysteriously ran Wednesday afternoon on auto-pilot and with no one aboard.

For more than a day, authorities tried to solve the mystery of how the boat, called Makin Waves, came to be on the beach. Its owner, a man from Mexico, said Thursday that the yacht was stolen from a Cancun marina over the weekend.

Crews tried all day Thursday to remove the boat, but ran into problems and couldn't free it during that afternoon's high tide. It sat stuck in wet sand for another 10 hours.

As they prepared once again Thursday night — just in time for high tide expected early Friday morning — nearby residents gathered to watch.

"You have to give them credit," said Colleen Moore of nearby Redington Shores. "They just keep trying."

Rice said the stormy weather actually helped the crews free the boat. With storms moving in, the tide started to rise and the wind picked up.

"The weather was in our favor tonight," he said. "When a wave comes up, it pushes the boat up. There's a suction underneath. We just rocked the boat back and forth until it worked."

After crews got the boat moving, they planned to tow it to John's Pass. From there, it will be handed over to U.S. Customs until the owner can retrieve it, Rice said.

As the boat slowly floated off the shore, the small crowd that had gathered broke out into applause and cheers.

No one was happier than Gene Borg, who first spotted the boat Wednesday as he ate breakfast and watched it come aground in his back yard. That was 36 hours ago.

"I'm glad to see it gone," he said.

Crews finally free mysterious yacht from the beach 08/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 1:55pm]
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