A Captain’s “captain” on a mission
John Adams has been trolling Florida waters as a boat captain for 25 years and his devotion to the boating community has placed him at the center of a nasty waterfront battle.
Grumblings on the docks at Sailfish Marina Resort in Palm Beach Shores first caught Adams’ attention two years ago. Fellow boat captains and fishermen were angry because the marina was securing a state permit to demolish its north dock, with plans to replace 32 smaller boat slips with 12 mega yacht slips. Adams was infuriated, “I hope the boating community realizes that it’s an attack on all of us. It’s basically the fact that we’re losing slips, we’re losing access. Before you know it, you won’t be able to put your boat in the water anymore.”
Intimately familiar with shoreline currents, Adams and other longtime sport fishermen insist the north dock expansion would create a navigational hazard in the waters between Sailfish Marina and neighboring Buccaneer Marina. They also take umbrage with how the expansion will infringe on public access to the waterfront by turning out smaller boats in favor of yachts. In 2006, Palm Beach County paid Sailfish Marina $15 million dollars in taxpayer money to ensure public access to the north dock and surrounding waters. “People don’t realize this is more than just a rebuilding of Sailfish Marina, this is taking away what we paid for…it is taking away the public’s access.”
Adams grew up playing on the quiet streets of Palm Beach Shores where his grandmother lived and his father kept a boat at Sailfish Marina. The veteran boat captain resents that an out-of-state insurance conglomerate which owns Sailfish Marina could change the character of the town he loves. “The community of Palm Beach Shores has no idea what kind of affect this is going have on them, bigger boats, more traffic.”
Determined to stop Sailfish Marina, Adams alerted managers at Buccaneer Marina, who challenged the DEP permit. Months later in the spring of 2016, amidst public outcry over the plans, Sailfish withdrew its permit application. However, victory came at a cost to Adams, who had gone public with his concerns. This summer, Adams’ employer received an email from Sailfish Marina about docking his boat at Sailfish Marina next season. “The email said Sailfish Marina was reluctant to give my employer a slip because his captain had been counterproductive to their dock plans. They said they would welcome him back with a different captain.” Adams is being blackballed by the marina where he has worked as a boat captain for the last five years.
Sailfish Marina is not giving up. Earlier this year, owners applied for a DEP permit for a similar expansion plan for its north dock. Buccaneer Marina has filed a lawsuit and is again challenging a DEP permit. Boat captain John Adams is again speaking out. Given his reputation among fellow boaters who describe him as “a captain’s Captain and a straight shooter of the highest degree,” there is little doubt, the boating community is listening.
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