Coconut Grove

Three sailboats flung into yard by Irma go back in the water — but the biggest one remains

Sailboats wrecked on mansion lawn are removed months after Hurricane Irma

Homeowner David Ivler talks about the process of having sailboats removed from his Coconut Grove mansion's lawn months after Hurricane Irma's storm surge washed them ashore.
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Homeowner David Ivler talks about the process of having sailboats removed from his Coconut Grove mansion's lawn months after Hurricane Irma's storm surge washed them ashore.

For four months, David Ivler’s bayfront view has been blocked by four sailboats that floated into his Coconut Grove backyard during Hurricane Irma and remained stranded there after the storm surge receded.

Three of the four boats — unwelcome guests who overstayed their welcome — were finally placed back in the water Thursday by an ingenious landscaper who used the same crane he uses to right trees. But the fourth, a 48-foot, 80,000-pound black behemoth named the Coup d’Amour, remains wedged in the grass, too big to budge. It looks like a landlocked pirate ship, resting on its port side. Ivler may have no choice but to cut it into pieces.

“I’m partially relieved but what’s still left here is so monstrous we may have to dismantle it,” Ivler said. “These boats have cost us money, time and stress and brought pain to the entire neighborhood.”

A month after Ivler hosted a family wedding on the beautiful lawn that sweeps down to the water, Irma struck. The uninsured boat owners didn’t have the money to remove them, and Ivler got the government bureaucratic runaround when he tried to have them removed.

“You’d think the boat owners would be responsible but they are mostly indigent,” he said. “You’d think the state, city or Coast Guard would step up with a solution but they left me high and dry. Everybody passes the buck and it lands in the lap of the property owner.”

David Bryan, owner of Tropical Falls landscaping service, has planted, relocated and propped up thousands of trees during his career, including a 175,000-pound oak tree in north Miami-Dade County. He was righting a ficus tree in Ivler’s Camp Biscayne neighborhood when a resident asked him to help her remove a boat that was stuck on her pool deck — one of hundreds of boats flung onshore by Irma on Sept. 10.

Bryan, subsequently hired by Ivler, performed a task Thursday that required muscle, perfect balance and a delicate touch from the cockpit of his Skyjack Telehandler. Each boat, ranging in size from 32 to 35 feet and from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds, was lifted off the ground and put in the Camp Biscayne basin.

“It’s tricky,” Bryan said. “These boats are full of fluids and water. You don’t want to crack the hull or bump the keel.”

All three need extensive repairs but appeared to be seaworthy late Thursday afternoon.

Ivler has waited for the owners to rescue their boats with a growing sense of frustration. The ordeal brought together a diverse cast of characters. Cezary “Chris” Krupa was living aboard the Sava for free in the Dinner Key anchorage, working odd jobs in Coconut Grove when Irma approached. He was planning to row ashore but his cat hid on the boat and he decided to ride out the storm. His three anchor lines broke and he was carried across the bay into Ivler’s yard, waving to a stunned Ivler from the bow as the gusts drove him toward Ivler’s swimming pool.

On Thursday, Krupa, who has been living in his Camaro, did not bring Bryan the $2,500 he promised so Ivler floated Krupa a loan. Krupa, who was to be towed back out to the anchorage by a motorboat, was glad to have his home back. His cat was seen leaping off it when it was raised into the air.

“It’s been a nightmare and we survived but what a mess we made,” he said. “The boat needs a lot of work, but at least I’ll have a place to stay. I patched it up and it won’t leak. I hope.”

Another of the owners, a local shrimper who lived on his sailboat, Sailing on the Wings of Desire, took a look at the damage, handed over the title to Ivler and his wife Jessica and moved to North Carolina. Ivler isn’t quite sure what to do with the Desire, still filled with the owner’s clothes, dishes and empty Fig Newton boxes, but does not want to keep it.

“I never want to see another sailboat in my life,” he said. He paid $2,500 to Bryan to move it to his dock.

The owner of the Coup d’Amour told Ivler he was working somewhere in the Caribbean, had friends remove his belongings, wasted $4,000 on an unscrupulous contractor who didn’t do the job and has since changed his phone number and gone AWOL, Ivler said.

Sergi Cochs, the owner of the Moin, is a musician who lives in Barcelona. He sold his house and sailed from Spain to Miami in 2017 as part of his plan to stop drinking and create an album with local musicians along the journey. He had left his boat in the city of Miami’s Dinner Key mooring field, where the mooring balls were supposed to withstand 125 mph winds. But 80 percent of the boats in the field were swept away when the lines broke during the storm, when winds of 85-90 mph raked the bay.

“I wanted to change my life by surrounding myself with water and music,” Cochs said from Barcelona. He wrote two blogs about his rejuvenating travels.

“Then the hurricane really changed my life.”

Cochs also attempted to remove it from Ivler’s yard but was ripped off by the same contractor. He paid Bryan $2,500 but needs more money to fix the boat — gallons of water were pumped out and his mold-covered mainsail was yanked out of the cabin Thursday — and sail it back to Spain.

“After the storm, I thought the boat was lost forever,” he said.

It’s almost like Ivler’s yard provided safe harbor for the wayward quartet. Stacked together for four months, three are finally free. Except the Coup d’Amour.

“I don’t know how you stop runaway boats in a hurricane,” Ivler said. “The sanctity of our residence was broken, and I am left with a very big problem.”