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Date of Issue: January 27, 2010

Large yacht stuck in Longboat Pass

The Sir Winston out of Miami was stranded in Longboat Pass early Jan. 23. A salvage operation Jan. 24 freed the 128-foot commercial yacht, which was towed to the Tampa port.

The yacht ran into trouble when, according to first reports from the U.S. Coast Guard St. Petersburg, it ran aground at about 1 a.m. in the Gulf south of Bradenton Beach. Some of the ship’s windows broke out and the vessel began taking on water.

The Coast Guard reported that said seven uninjured people were rescued from the vessel after the agency received a distress call from Capt. Winston Knauss, who owns the yacht that was bound for Fort Myers.

A 25-foot vessel from Coast Guard Station Cortez was dispatched to investigate the situation. Thick fog, however, interfered with an early-morning plan to dispatch BoatU.S. to tow the Sir Winston from the pass.

Duke Overstreet of Seatow, who first heard radio calls from the Sir Winston about 2 a.m., responded by radio but was told by Knauss his service wasn’t needed, because the owner was trying to reach BoatU.S. But Overstreet heard another call about 3 a.m. and headed to the scene, where the Coast Guard was assisting Knauss and passengers.

The boat, Overstreet told The Islander, had “water half-way up the first deck” and couldn’t be towed.” He said the owner showed no interest in his boat or investment.

Overstreet said Coast Guard officials had concerns about 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard the ship.

The Coast Guard, however, reported no pollution from the stranding and said salvage would be left to the owner.

On Jan. 24, a private salvage company pumped water from the yacht and towed the vessel to Tampa, a Coast Guard spokesperson said.

The leaning yacht quickly became a tourist attraction Jan. 23, with crowds gathering on the shore at Coquina Beach. The curious showed up with cameras and binoculars and even beach chairs to view the dilemma.

Meanwhile, reports of the incident — some of them wildly inaccurate — crackled on the Island’s coconut telegraph.

“Well, life is slow here,” Peter Halsey, a seasonal resident in Holmes Beach, said as he walked toward the water’s edge to see the Sir Winston, leaning seaward.

The Sir Winston is promoted on a Web site, www.sirwinstonluxuryyacht.com, as a luxury charter vessel that can carry 400 passengers, has five decks, mooring spuds, a shallow draft of 5-10 feet, and was constructed in Palatka. It is advertised with a “price reduction” of $4.9 million.

Knauss is described on the site as the “designer, builder, owner and captain of the most unique charter yachts in the world” who was “a highly successful businessman and entrepreneur” in Indianapolis.

He operated a demolition business, as well as owned and operated the Winston Yacht and Country Club and a number of hotels.

Bonner Joy contributed to this report.

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