For more than two months, beachgoers have been mesmerized by an unlikely and unplanned tourist attraction.
In late October, a large boat stranded just off the shore of Miramar Beach and it's been causing a stir ever since. The 45-foot boat, named Phantom of the Aqua, belonged to a South Florida man, who told officials and the Daily News that he'd been riding out Hurricane Nate when he ditched the boat to save his own life. He said he fully expected that the boat would never make it to shore, except in small pieces.
The boat has since been signed over to locals, and while they figure out what to do with it, it continues to captivate beachgoers.
It might seem strange that in this land of many boats, one would cause such a stir. But derelict vessels have long been the stuff of legend.
If you've lived here long enough, you've heard about the anchored boat that sank quietly in shallow water in the Santa Rosa Sound just off Navarre Beach during a hurricane. The water was so shallow that the boat remained partially visible and countless photos were shot by people who swam or waded out to the boat and posed in the underwater cabin.
The boat was eventually removed after state officials took its owner to court.
But almost everyone who visited the area during that time knew about that boat. The watery ghost boat eclipsed tourist attractions with huge marketing budgets.
In a strange way, the Phantom of the Aqua has also been good for tourism during a quiet shoulder season.
But there's no question that stranded boats are not good for the environment. Officials are eager to see the boat float away under its own power, or be towed to a more appropriate resting place.
And of course, the clock is ticking. In about a month, spring breakers will fill up local beaches and it's pretty easy to imagine what they will think of having such an exotic playground just off shore. The phrase "party boat" will almost certainly acquire new meaning.