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Remember that derelict boat off the Howard Frankland? Now it has anti-Trump graffiti.

The eyesore has now become a become a political statement. A Hillsborough County official says it will be weeks before it is removed.
A derelict boat that's been abandoned for months near the Tampa side of the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge was recently spray-painted with the phrase "Trump = Evil." [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
A derelict boat that's been abandoned for months near the Tampa side of the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge was recently spray-painted with the phrase "Trump = Evil." [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Aug. 19, 2019
Updated Aug. 19, 2019

TAMPA ― Even the commute across the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge has become politicized.

Drivers entering Tampa are now being greeted with this political message: “Trump=Evil.”

The words were painted in bright red along the side of a derelict boat that was abandoned in the shallow waters off the bridge about nine months ago. It is the latest indignity for the Moonraker II, a white fishing boat that has been left to deteriorate behind the docks and backyards of the homes off Mariner Street.

“Once people start using it for political stuff, that’s really low,” said Arnold Hubbard, 61, who has long complained about the boat because it poses an environmental hazard and because it obscures the view from his private dock on Mariner Street.

A derelict boat stuck on a sandbar just off the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge has been sitting there for several months, obscuring the waterfront views of residents of Mariner Street in Tampa. This photo was taken in June. The boat has since been spray-painted with anti-Trump graffiti. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

In recent months, vandals have boarded the vessel, kicked in the windows and stolen the bilge system and batteries. Algae climbed up the side of the boat as water seeped onto the deck.

Neighbors have been complaining about the ugly boat mucking up their waterfront views since November. It was left there by Joey Sirmans, a local tree trimmer, who says he was trying to move the boat when it ran into problems.

The state took Sirmans to court to get him to remove it, but he couldn’t afford the cost. In May, that responsibility was passed to Hillsborough County.

RELATED STORY: Remember that derelict boat off the Howard Frankland Bridge? It’s still there.

Months passed and the Moonraker II continued to languish as the wheels of bureaucracy slowly turned. The county had to compare costs from different salvage companies and request a grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help cover the cost of removal, estimated to be about $10,000.

It’s unclear who spray-painted the boat, but officials said it’s removal is just around the corner ― sort of. The county expects the state to approve the grant any day now. The county will then have it removed in the coming weeks.

“As soon as we are able to do it, we will move forward,” said Hillsborough County manager of safety and special enforcement Robin Caton.

The county also plans to remove another, less infamous derelict boat southwest of Shell Point in Ruskin.

In the meantime, Mariner Street residents said they may take matters into their own hands.

"That’s gonna get painted, I’ll solve that problem,” said Hubbard.

Paint balloons, he said, might do the trick.

Elaine Prevatt, left, and Arnold Hubbard, are neighbors on Mariner Street. They're also tired of seeing a derelict boat stuck on a sandbar that sits in the backyards of their waterfront property just off the Tampa side of the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge. This photo was taken in June, and now the boat has been spray-painted by anti-Trump graffiti. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

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