Sailboat stranded under Matlacha bridge until tides get higher

Kaitlin Greenockle
| Fort Myers News-Press

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Man loses live-aboard sailboat when it slams into Matlacha Bridge

Christian Monzon, of Homosassa, was attempting to help a friend when winds from Hurricane Eta dragged his live-aboard sailboat under the Matlacha Bridge.

It seems like every time Christian Monzon gets close to starting his own eco touring business a storm comes through and sets him back.

On Wednesday, Monzon faced another setback as Tropical Storm Eta took his pride and joy, a sailboat he has been restoring since 2017.

Tropical Storm Eta dragged his live-aboard sailboat under the Matlacha Bridge. As of Friday, the boat remains stuck.

More: Raw Video: SWFL gets swiped by Hurricane Eta

Monzon is working with local marine salvage company owner Kenny Farmer to get the boat out, which is sitting on rocks under the bridge.

Their hope was to get the boat out Friday, but the tide was not high enough to remove it, Monzon said.

“It’s going to take another day with a higher tide,” he said.

Monzon has been checking the tide for the next few days and he said there might not be a chance to remove the boat for possibly another week.

Farmer told Monzon that this could be a $7,000 to $10,000 job, but he is working with Monzon on the cost. Monzon said he gave him what he could and will also do some work for Farmer to offset the cost.

More: Tropical Storm Eta: Homosassa man loses live-aboard sailboat when it slams into Matlacha Bridge

Read: Southwest Florida recovers fast from Tropical Storm Eta coastal surge

The sailboat was also where Monzon would live while in Matlacha. He and his wife Valerie Monzon have property in Homosassa, but he kept his boat in Matlacha to work on.

A friend of his and fellow boater in Matlacha has been letting him stay on his boat while he sorts everything out.

The day Eta struck Matlacha and took his sailboat under the bridge, Lee County Sheriff’s Office was on scene. Monzon said he was originally told he could face a felony charge and up to a $40,000 fine.

Since then, deputies told him that as long as he stays in town to get the boat removed he won’t be charged. 

According to Lee County Sheriff’s Office, it is the owner’s responsibility to make the arrangements to have the boat removed. 

The Marine Unit was monitoring the process on Thursday and documenting for the vessel crash reports, Public Information Officer Kaitlyn Pearson

“There is no crime if the boat becomes untethered during severe weather. If you do not properly anchor your boat prior to the storm, you can receive a fine,” Pearson said.

Right now, Monzon has been issued a ticket for $88, which is essentially a parking ticket, he said.

A few years ago the Monzons decided he would try to start his own eco tour business and he was in the process of getting and restoring boats. The hurricane Irma came through and destroyed the business, Valerie Monzon said. 

“We have a lot of things working against us, we were making progress and getting close then this happened,” She said about Tropical Storm Eta.

The pandemic also set them back with the business, since the tourism industry took a hit, Valerie Monzon said.

The sailboat can be fixed, but Monzon doesn’t think it is worth fixing. Farmer will take care of the boat at the salvage yard once they get it out.

The dinghy Monzon escaped on also sunk with all his tools on board. 


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