Last July, Sail-World Cruising published an bizarre story about the megayacht Legacy, marooned four miles off Florida's Key West since she was deposited there by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.
Owner Peter Halmos and the crew were onboard during the hurricane, and Halmos and his Captain have, incredibly, stayed on board or close in a houseboat ever since, trying to free the 160ft, $30 million yacht from the ocean wildlife refuge in which she found herself after the hurricane.
There were times when they almost gave up, even discussing the possibility of taking her apart, piece by piece, to solve the problem.
'Peter Halmos plans to stay there until Legacy is salvaged,' Halmos's PR man Robert Siegfried says of the man who made his fortune in the 1970s after founding SafeCard Services. 'That's his most immediate goal. This has grown into a way of life for him.'
However, it's somewhat difficult to find out what's happening now. Because government officials and others involved with the recovery of the megayacht have not been forthcoming with her progress, Capt Tom Serio flew over Legacy in late November to find out her status, and here is his report:
She is still in the marine sanctuary just north of Key West, where she was deposited by Hurricane Wilma two years ago, a few dozen yards from Bluefish Channel.
Aerial view of the salvage attempts - photo by Tom Serio of the Triton - .. .
The latest recovery process of pulling her out the way she went in has freed her from the bottom and continues. Originally speculated in early September to take three weeks, pulling Legacy to deep water has so far taken three months, with probably several more to go.
This current recovery process (others have been tried but failed) includes creating a channel in front of Legacy by removing the sandy bottom using an auger and pump. The sand is then relocated aft as the yacht moves forward. A series of cables connected to her hull run along the initial path of entry cut in the sea grass (almost a mile long), out to a utility boat, the Helen B. Legacy is pulled several feet at a time by the utility vessel.
Miami-based Byrd Commercial Diving is the marine salvage contractor on site. The flotilla of houseboats rafted nearby allows Legacy’s owner and crew to remain close by and keep watch over the recovery.
So instead of official reports on what is happening, we have photos, which indeed speak a thousand words. [To see more, visit www.the-triton.com.] Although Legacy appeared to have moved about 1,200 feet by late November, there appears to be at least that much farther still to go. As she inches closer to the edge of the flats, hopefully the water will get deeper and aid in her refloating.
Line of houseboats where Halmos oversees the attempts to free his superyacht - .. .
The sand deposits pumped from in front of Legacy appear to be well scattered in the area aft, appearing to create a sandy island. With the concerns of the impact on the local ecosystem, this process appears to be disturbing a large area. Due to sustained wind and/or current conditions, there is a large sand plume leaching out of the yellow containment boom.
It was good to see Legacy headed toward freedom, but there will be many questions as to the process and long-term effect on the area. Let’s hope the marine sanctuary as well as Legacy will one day be restored to pre-Wilma condition.