It sat just offshore, rocking in the surf that hit Beverly Beach — a motor boat, 30-feet long and, at one point, white, though it was streaked with green algae from its time in the water.
Its official classification: a derelict vessel.
Though abandoned, the boat was not empty. From the moment it hit the shores of Flagler County Sunday evening, the boat surrendered countless bricks of marijuana to the waves that struck it, carrying pound after pound of the drug to shore.
At least 150 pounds of mariuana washed ashore, but estimates spiked hourly as more emerged, until finally Lt. Steve Zuwosky, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reached a verdict: “Enough to put you away for a long time.”
Zuwosky kept guard over the boat Monday afternoon as the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Coast Guard decided who would remove the vessel from the shore and take control of investigations.
Nearby sat seven bricks of marijuana collected by Zuwosky, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies and beachgoers. Those were only what had come ashore in the last hour, Zuwosky said.
Investigators are still in communication to determine whether the vessel was first contacted off the shore of Jacksonville or Fort Lauderdale. What is clear is that on Sept. 2, whichever Coast Guard officials found it capsized stamped a red “OK” on either side of the boat to signify that it was verified as abandoned and issued a warning to mariners that there was a capsized vessel in the water.
Then, per policy, they waited until it hit shore.
“Nobody knows what kind of trouble led (the boat’s passengers) to abandon it,” Zuwosky said. “They might have hit rough weather, come into contact with pirates or military or law enforcement. It’s still under investigation.”
The boat had no markings or registration.
Gerry McComas, a part-time resident of Beverly Beach who also has a home in Kentucky, helped officials by retrieving six bricks of the drug from the surf Monday morning and into the afternoon, fishing and keeping watch for more of the drug to wash ashore.
“Maybe I’ll catch a brick on my fishing pole,” he said, laughing. “But what I’m really looking for is a wad of cash.”
In the 20 years McComas has spent time in Beverly Beach, he’s never seen anything like this, except for about 15 years ago, when he found and turned in a single brick of the marijuana he found in the surf.
So he, like Zuwosky, spent Monday afternoon watching the boat, scanning the water for more drugs to turn up and explaining to passersby what happened.
“Have you ever seen anything like it?” McComas said, pointing to the tufts of loose marijuana leaves that littered the wet sand like sea shells and laughing once more. “One guy had a whole handful of it before the cops made him put it down.”
As of Tuesday morning, the boat had been taken ashore and was being inspected by Flagler County Sheriff's Office officials and FWC environmental investigators.