Boat Battle Goes on Weeks After Hurricane Irma

There’s a tug of war happening between neighbors in Islamorada, over a 40-foot sailboat that got loose and ended up in the backyard of a home after Hurricane Irma.

“This boat certainly does not appear to have been prepared for a storm,” said Dr. Orlando Morejon, defending his decision not to let the boat’s owner come get the vessel on his property.

The sailboat, however, is where Bobby Rodgers’ lives.

“It’s been my home for 15 years. I can’t let it go,” said Rodgers.

When Irma was approaching, Rodgers moored his boat, Mariah, in waters less than a mile from Morejon’s home. He has secured the sailboat there for the past 15 years, even during other big storms. “Went through the last hurricane, Hurricane Wilma, on the mooring there,” said Rodgers.

But Irma wasn’t as friendly.

“Our first thought was there’s a massive sailboat in our yard. It was surreal,” said Morejon.

He says Rodgers failed his duty as a seaman to do a better job of securing it ahead of Irma.

“It was the boat that came on to our property. It wasn’t our property that went out and attacked this guy’s boat,” said Morejon.

The homeowner says he wants to resolve the issue amicably, but says the boat caused $50,000 in damage to his property when it came ashore and into his backyard. Now he says he’s forced to make repairs to his landscaping, plumbing, electrical wiring, and a portion of an irreplaceable coral seawall.

“It all got taken out by the boat,” he said.

Rodgers told NBC 6 Investigator Willard Shepard that he didn’t think it would be such an issue to go get his boat back. He says, after all, this was “an act of God.”

“I just figured I could go over there and get it and put it back in the water. That’s not the way it is,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers boat is one of 1,300 that either sank or was moved by wind, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife. The vast majority aren’t causing this kind of feud.

“We certainly didn’t invite this to happen. We didn’t want this to happen,” Morejon said.

Rodgers says he winces every time he drives by.

“It would be one thing if I lost it and you couldn’t see it, but it’s just hard driving by and seeing it sitting there. I mean you can see the water is right there,” said Rodgers.

Both men have lawyers and are in discussions to reach a solution. Rodger’s hopes to have his boat/home back by Thanksgiving.

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