By Delaney Brown
A 24-foot $10,000 sailboat crashed into the jetty of Lassing Park last Saturday. Driven by a waterfront patron, the engine lost engine power and drifted into the sharp rocks.
Receiving the distress call around 2 p.m., waterfront staff rushed to the rescue the disabled vessel.
Lassing Park, about 1.5 miles from campus, is one of the few open waterfront neighborhood parks in the city. It has a natural shoreline and a large sandbar that juts out into the Tampa Bay.
Students Robert Fields, a sophomore biology major, and two additional staff members, were part of the rescue effort.
“I showed up at work and there was a lot going on, so I asked our boss what had happened. She said one of our patrons had beached the J/24 on the rocks and that (another waterfront employee) had a massive swell sweep him onto the rocks” said Fields.
The team’s effort was hindered by the choppy conditions of the bay. Two powerboats operated by waterfront staff were also stranded on the rocks while attempting to help.
“A swell just hit me when I was trying to force the J/24 off the rocks and threw (my boat) on the rocks as well,” said Fields. “We’ve done J/24 rescues before, but not in winds or breakers this intense.”
Members of the Coast Guard were eventually able to retrieve the two power boats. The J/24, which lost its keel and suffered extensive damage to the port hull, remains on the rocks.
The waterfront houses two J/24’s, both of which were donated. The 24-foot boats cost around $10,000 used.
Patrons who wish to rent one of the school’s keelboats must complete two hours of training at the waterfront before being allowed to take out the vessel on their own.
Waterfront staff said they are looking into how to better prepare students and members for challenging emergency situations on the water.
Pictured Above: The USFSP J24 fleet is down one boat after a waterfront member lost control of the vessel and drifted into the submerged rocks off Lassing Park. Courtesy of Allison Jolly