Avoiding Death in Close Quarters
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer
Shoots It Out on a Sailboat
By Bob Lee
Nestled between the sanddunes of Anastasia Islandand St. Augustine’s Light- Nhouse is Salt Run; a tidal lagoon thatserves as a dedicated anchorage andfree home for sailboaters. Many ofthe boats lying at anchor are known as“live-a-boards”; their hulls are encrustedby barnacles, and their masts are bare.Some of the owners are merely eccentrics,harmless characters who fancythemselves as living out a bit part in aHemingway novel. Others, however,have a darker side.
A Routine DayOn the afternoon of Sunday, October 6,2002, Florida Fish and Wildlife ConservationCommission (FWC) Officer RandyBowlin’s work day started out normally.His patrol area covered the St. Augustinearea, which included theIntracoastal Waterway (ICW) and theAtlantic Ocean.
Although he is a full-time water patrolofficer, Bowlin’s duties are not all lawenforcement related. On this day,Bowlin’s first priority was to release abatch of baby sea turtles—endangeredspecies—that had been rehabilitatedfrom earlierinjuries. He placedthem in his patrolboat, a 25′ Makopowered by twin225 HP Mercury horsepower (HP)outboards, and left from St. Augustine,heading offshore in search of floatingSargasso grass. The grass wouldprovide needed cover so that the youngturtles could escape predators and havea better chance of survival. He found alarge patch of grass 15 miles out andreleased the turtles there.
Bowlin then turned his attention to other matters.