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Pasco County to sue over boat abandoned in Gulf Harbors canal

An abandoned boat lies half sunken in a Gulf Harbors canal behind a house in foreclosure. Who owns the boat isn’t clear.

Courtesy of Pasco County Attorney’s Office

An abandoned boat lies half sunken in a Gulf Harbors canal behind a house in foreclosure. Who owns the boat isn’t clear.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners moved ahead with a lawsuit Tuesday against the former owner of a waterfront home where a broken-down yacht was left behind in the canal.

County attorneys recommended commissioners file suit against Maureen Mowry to get her to remove the 38-foot boat called My Way.

The boat is tied to a dilapidated dock behind Mowry's former Gulf Harbors home, which is now in foreclosure.

But Gulf Harbors residents, who've been complaining about the eyesore — and potential danger to other boaters — for more than a year, should not expect the vessel to disappear any time soon.

Pasco would have to prove Mowry — or someone else — is responsible; find the upfront money to get the boat removed and possibly file a claim against the property, then jump in line behind other lien holders.

Commissioners would have to authorize such an expenditure. Moving a derelict vessel can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand said a boat captain who read about the sunken vessel in the St. Petersburg Times told her he could do it for $3,000. But the county has no authority at this point to take him up on the offer.

Back in March, Mowry pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of leaving a derelict vessel in public waters.

Her lawyer said her deceased husband had owned the boat, not her, and that she was not responsible for its removal.

Mowry was fined $250 in court costs, but a judge did not make her move the boat.

Initially, attorneys had told Hildebrand, a Gulf Harbors resident who brought up the matter at a meeting last month, that their chances of getting the boat removed were not good unless they could serve the boat's owner.

Senior assistant county attorney Kristi Wooden told commissioners in a memo that the lawsuit itself could illuminate the mystery of ownership.

Information obtained through discovery would allow Pasco to figure out when the boat was moored to the dock and who might be responsible for its removal.

Mowry, 69, has managed so far to avoid officials: The Pasco Sheriff's Office never could track her down for its criminal case against her, and the process server in her foreclosure case finally gave up trying to find her.

One of her sons, Clark Mowry, told sheriff's deputies that his father had owned the boat. Another son, Mitchel, drove a truck bearing a decal of a boat emblazoned with the words "MY WAY" but denied any connection to the vessel.

He told the Times last month that he knew nothing about the boat and that his mother would not be available for questions about it.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco County to sue over boat abandoned in Gulf Harbors canal 12/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:27pm]
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