Owner of sunken 81-foot tug jailed for trespassing

Stephen Freer, owner of the recently sunk 81-foot tugboat Tilly, was arrested Thursday for allegedly trespassing at a construction site in Old Town Key West.

Freer, who said he has no experience boating, bought the 150-gross-ton Tilly for $8,000 off the Internet in January. He was evicted from the Stock Island Village Marina and now the tug is resting on sandy bottom in 35 feet of water about two miles off Key West. The boat sunk around Feb. 23.

The salvage operation (multiple government agencies are still coming up with a plan) is expected to cost taxpayers around $500,000.

Freer was arrested after Arnuad Girard, the owner of under-construction 630 Eaton St., found him sleeping inside. Girard had picked Freer up off the tug before it sank.

Freer wouldn't leave the Eaton Street property when Girard told him to, police say. When they arrived around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, he called them "swine, Nazis [and] pigs," according to a police report.

Trespassing at a marked construction site is a felony. Freer, 66, is being held at the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island without bond, according to Sheriff's Office records.

In a previous interview, Freer said he wanted to take the tug to Cuba to start a "marine cooperative" and escape the "evil empire" of America.

Since Jan. 23, Sheriff's Office deputies have issued three trespass warnings to Freer for county-owned property at the Key West library and Bernstein Park, and from private property at the Sea Lobster Co. on Stock Island.