"Get that yacht moved."
That is the pithy final line in a recent court order from Judge James A. Moore, in which (without mincing words) he directs the owners of the Seanote to move the teetering, stranded yacht from a county-owned boat launch lot by the end of the month.
"The parties agree that the goal now is to get the yacht off the public land and away from the lake without dropping it on some innocent bystander or spilling fuel into lake," Moore wrote in the March 21 order. "The question is, how do we accomplish that?"
The judge's solution? Give the owners 10 days to move the 58-foot, 40-ton boat to a lot a few blocks away, in effect overruling transportation concerns raised by the county, in the name of public safety.
"The potential harm here is immense," Moore continued, "but it seems to have somehow been lost in the bickering about who knows more about moving big boats on and off Lake Minnetonka."
Moore's order is the latest turn of events in the closely watched saga of the Seanote, which is owned by Paul Berquist, Benjamin Field Wilson and Superior Dreams LLC. The boat remained on Lake Minnetonka well into December, after the marina where it previously overwintered said it would no longer service that large of a vessel.
Its owners dragged the yacht out of the water on Dec. 23, 2021, stationing it on a homemade trailer in a boat launch parking lot owned by Hennepin County.
Then left it there.
This sparked a lawsuit from Hennepin County, which alleged Bergquist, Wilson and Superior Dreams:
- Didn't have permission to store the boat there
- Refused repeated requests to move it
- Are endangering both the public (as the yacht isn't secured and could easily tip, crushing someone) and the lake (since 200 gallons of fuel remain in the boat's tank)
What followed was a legal back-and-forth between the county and the Seanote's owners, where each side argued about the weight of the yacht, how to best transport it, and who was responsible for the ongoing predicament. On March 4, the Seanote team filed a counterclaim, alleging the county is essentially a victim of its own stubbornness. Any damages the county suffered, the counterclaim argues, are a result of decisions not made by Seanote's owners.
In Moore's order (buzzing with "I've had it up to here with both of you" energy), he admonishes the county and yacht owners for failing to find a solution during mediation, and dresses down both sides for their inaction.
He describes each party's position as "petulant and uncompromising"; paints the county's arguments about how to best move the Seanote as "misplaced" and "incongruous"; agrees that the Seanote, where it currently rests, presents a danger to the public; and, in a footnote, dismisses an argument about the weight of the yacht (45 tons according to the county, 29 by the owners' count) as irrelevant to whether it's a hazard.
Moore, ultimately, seems to lay the blame at the feet of Berquist, Wilson and Superior Dreams, writing any harm they've suffered "is entirely of their own making," as they never intended to push the yacht back into the water come ice out. Moore later writes:
"Defendants had a yacht on Lake Minnetonka that they knew was old, that needed care, and, predictably, a safe place to winter. On the record before the court, they failed to take reasonable and necessary steps to address any of these predictable issues. Instead, when the predictable happened they jury-rigged a way to pull the yacht from the lake with no apparent plan on what would happen next. Now, they claim to be experts in such matters, but the history of this case belies their assertion."
The Seanote will be moved to a lot owned by Berquist, located at 4444 Shoreline Drive in Spring Park. The move, according to the plan submitted by the Seanote side, will be done at night and at slow speeds. Moore gave them permission to move the safety barriers Hennepin County put up around the yacht.
Still, he expects further disagreements from both sides about how to follow his order.
"The yacht is out of the lake and is headed somewhere else. How it gets to its ultimate destination is not today's concern," Moore wrote. "The only concern is getting it to a place where it can be safely stored."