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Calm seas, holiday weekend lure boaters to Keys

Boaters flock to the oceanside ramp at Monroe County’s Harry Harris Park in Tavernier, a Monday scene repeated throughout the Florida Keys during the long Memorial Day weekend near ideal conditions.
Boaters flock to the oceanside ramp at Monroe County’s Harry Harris Park in Tavernier, a Monday scene repeated throughout the Florida Keys during the long Memorial Day weekend near ideal conditions. Keynoter

Light winds, clear skies and a three-day holiday combined to create an exceptionally hectic Memorial Day weekend on the water in the Florida Keys.

“Nobody died so we’re chalking it up as a successful holiday weekend,” said Officer Bobby Dube, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Keys.

“It was very, very difficult to navigate through Whale Harbor Channel due to the number of boats in the water” at the popular Sandbar anchoring spot near Islamorada, said Anna Perroncello, owner of Sea Tow Islamorada/Marathon.

“We did 15 jobs out there,” Perroncello said. “I’d estimate there had to be close to 1,000 boats at the Sandbar.”

FWC and Coast Guard patrol vessels blanketed the area, looking for inebriated operators and reckless boating.

Overall, FWC officers booked 13 boaters on alcohol counts, Dube said.

By contrast, four motorists were arrested for driving under the influence throughout Monroe County from Saturday through Monday.

Many boaters at the Sandbar were caught by surprise when they found their boats stranded by low tide, Perroncello said. “They were partying and didn’t pay attention.”

With the end-of-season Hospitality Expo (originally known as Bartenders Week) no longer occurring in Islamorada, said Perroncello, “Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are our busiest times.”

A Broward County man, Timothy D. Clinton, 55, was arrested Sunday on a felony count of “throwing a deadly missile into an occupied vessel” during a 5 p.m. Sandbar fracas, Deputy Patricia O’Keefe of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Clinton was charged with throwing a Corona beer bottle in a bottle hugger that shattered against the wind screen of a 36-foot Luhrs boat owned by Adrian De La Rosa of Miami. Five adults and “several children” were aboard the Luhrs but no injuries were reported.

De La Rosa said a boat ran over his anchor line and caused his Luhrs to start drifting. Due to the mass of boats, he did not start his engines, De La Rosa told deputies. The Luhrs drifted into anchor lines of boats rafted together, and the anchor line of a 28-foot Hydra-Sport with Clinton aboard got tangled in the Luhrs propeller.

Shouting ensued and at one point Clinton threw the bottle, witnesses told deputies. A Coast Guard petty officer confirmed the account, O’Keefe reported. Clinton was released from county jail Monday morning pending court action.

“There were a couple of minor boating accidents” countywide, including a boat that ran into mangroves along Grouper Creek off Key Largo’s Tarpon Basin, Dube said. No major injuries were reported.

On Sunday at Fiesta Key near mile marker 70, a Miami man was arrested on multiple lobster violations. The FWC charged Aramis Barcelo, 36, with possession of 12 wrung lobster tails on the water, all undersized and out of season. Barcelo faces 36 misdemeanor counts.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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