Covered in graffiti, with shattered wine glasses still hanging in racks behind the weather-beaten bar, the Aqua, a luxury yacht once intended as a floating bar for Stingray City sits abandoned, loosely tied up in the mangroves near Crystal Harbour.
The ambitious business venture never got off the ground amid public protests.
Now the boat, a shell of its former self, is courting controversy once again. Residents in Crystal Harbour say it is a marine hazard and an environmental risk and warn it could cause damage to properties if it breaks loose during a storm.
It is one of several abandoned boats in Crystal Harbour that is causing concern.
NCB, which manages the development on behalf of the homeowners’ association, last month wrote to the Port Authority, the police and the Department of Environmental Health to highlight the issue.
In a letter to the Department of Environmental Health, seen by the Cayman Compass, the management company asks for someone to step up and deal with the issue.
“The question needs to be asked; Where does the responsibility lie? Should private individuals have to pay to protect their property from something that another careless individual has opted to abandon?” the letter says.
It highlights instances in which abandoned boats, tied to the mangroves, have come loose and caused damage to other vessels. On one occasion, it says, a floating piece of concrete dock, tied to the yacht was removed at the expense of the strata after breaking loose and grating against a seawall.
The letter warns, “The chance of potential damage, injury, or even death is a real one, even when the seas are calm. In the event of a hurricane, the danger posed could prove to be catastrophic, turning these objects into oversized missiles.”
After some initial confusion about who would take responsibility for the problem and under what legal authority, the Port Authority, in consultation with the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands and the Department of Environment, said it is advising owners of abandoned vessels which have sunk or are derelict and in danger of sinking that the vessels are now considered a “statutory public nuisance” under the Public Health Law.
“Several of these vessel owners have been identified and will be served with an abatement notice to execute and complete the works necessary for that purpose, within a defined time frame,” the Port Authority said in a statement.
The notices will be issued by the Chief Environmental Health Officer. Owners who fail to comply could face prosecution and the prospect of financial penalties.
“In light of the derelict vessels already being scuttled, the public is reminded that disposing of a vessel by intentionally sinking it offshore requires a permit from [the Department of Environment] to ensure that toxic substances are removed and the location is approved,” the statement added.
Bernie Bush, who was associated with the floating bar venture in 2010, did not return phone calls on the issue.
Mr. Bush took the media on a tour of the boat in July 2010, when it was first brought to the island. At the time, he said the three-deck, 115-foot yacht would cater to up to 350 people with five-star dining and dancing. He anticipated it would cater to weddings, office parties and other functions.
The long-term plan was to serve customers at Stingray City, Mr. Bush said at the time.
Around five boats, in various states of disrepair, were tied up to the mangroves opposite the Crystal Harbour estate when the Compass visited recently. Some appeared to have virtually sunk.
The Aqua, by far the largest of the boats, was floating, but appeared to be in a state of disrepair, its shattered windows exposing the interior to the elements.