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Boat owner, commission dicker over dock, pilings

Published Oct. 4, 2005

It wasn't exactly love at first sight.

The first time Nick Guido saw the Morgan 41 sailboat that a friend wanted to sell, Guido wouldn't even take it out.

They bargained for awhile.

But eventually the friend offered Guido such a good deal, he bought the Miss Fitt in 1982 and sailed it up the Intracoastal to his home at 444 18th Ave., Indian Rocks Beach.

That's when Guido's problems began. And the end is nowhere in sight: The city refuses to allow him to place two pilings he says are needed to keep the boat stable during storms.

Problem 1: The water at the end of Guido's dock is too shallow for the Miss Fitt, which draws 54 inches.

Solution 1: Anchor the boat in the inlet away from the dock. Tie it to pilings on the side of the boat nearest the dock.

Problem 2: No way to get to the Miss Fitt except to swim.

Solution 2: Build a catwalk connecting the dock to the boat.

But when Guido built the catwalk 13 years ago, he failed to get the necessary city permit.

Problem 3: The no-name storm hit on March 13, 1993. Because Guido's sailboat wasn't tied to pilings on all sides, the storm slammed the boat into the dock, severely damaging its side.

Solution 3: Sink two pilings on the far side of the sailboat to better secure it.

Now comes Problem 4, which so far has no solution.

The Indian Rocks Beach City Commission won't allow Guido to put the pilings in the water.

At two recent meetings, all members of the commission except Mayor Bob DiNicola voted no even though the city's Board of Adjustments and Appeals had recommended approval. Commissioners are annoyed at Guido for failing to get a permit to add the catwalk in 1982.

And, they say, his extended dock reaches too far into the inlet. The requested pilings, which would be even farther into the waterway, would be a navigational hazard, according to the commission.

"Some people would say, "You have to be human about this,' " said Commissioner Austin Campbell. "But we cannot base these things on whims."

Campbell said some of Guido's supporters, including all his neighbors, have said there are "docks all over Indian Rocks Beach that don't meet the code. As far as I'm concerned, we could act on all of" those that don't meet the code, Campbell said.

At a commission meeting this week, Guido's neighbors said their only concern is that the boat be securely tied down.

"Asking for two pilings seems reasonable," John Kepler said. "I don't think you should be deciding if he can put it in but how quickly."

Neighbors fear the 35,000-pound boat could become untethered in a storm, run aground and run into their homes.

Guido, a teacher at the Pinellas Vocational Education Center near Largo, said that's what happened to a much smaller boat across the inlet during the no-name storm.

"It was headed for my Florida room," Guido said. "I went out and held it off myself until a neighbor came to help."

Guido maintains that the two requested pilings would make the inlet safer for navigation than the four underwater anchors he currently must use to help hold his boat in place.

The anchors are unpredictable in a severe storm, Guido said in an appeal to commissioners.

"Whenever severe weather is predicted, I routinely get into my dinghy and set two large Danforth anchors in the middle of the cove for additional holding power. . . . I recently set two Danforths at midnight for a predicted storm."

At 62, "I'm getting too old for this. I desperately need a better system," he said.

At this point, Guido's alternatives are to sue the city or to wait six months and apply again, hoping for a change of heart. Having spent 10 years refurbishing the boat, Guido doesn't want to sell it.

Campbell has little sympathy.

"He created the problem himself" by buying a boat too big for the dock, Campbell said. "People with boats should have rights, but they all should be treated equally."