Galveston couple says marina denied access to boats

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Feb. 14, 2012, 3:23am

GALVESTON – A local couple has filed a suit against the Galveston Yacht Basin Marina and several individuals alleging they were wrongfully denied access to their vessels.

Charles and Rachel Stella filed a lawsuit Feb. 6 in Galveston County District Court against GYB Investors LLC, Galveston Yacht Basin Marina, Galveston locals David Weiss and Stephen Swan and Houston resident John Richmond Sullivan.

According to the suit, the defendants "cleverly concocted a scheme whereby they will take ownership of the plaintiffs' yachts" by preventing the Stellas from going to the Galveston Yacht Basin marina and making necessary storm repairs.

The original petition shows the plaintiffs are owners of a 55-foot boat named Endless Flight, which served as their residence for 17 years at the Galveston Yacht Basin prior to Hurricane Ike. They also owned a 36-foot Pace.

The Category 2 storm tore Endless Flight from its moorings and carried the boat over to Pelican Island, where it came in contact with a jack up rig and sunk.

After a year of civil litigation, the yacht was returned to the marina for repairs paid for on a monthly basis.

The complainants were also allowed to bring the hurricane-damaged Pace in for work and to temporarily live in it.

Meanwhile, GYB Investors purchased the marina from The Sealy-Smith Foundation and hired Weiss to manage the property. According to the suit, his first order of business was the replacement of the existing security force with uniformed guards supplied by a company called Top Gun.

Weiss later reportedly announced that the Galveston Yacht Service would no longer lease the facilities the Stellas were in and ordered them to vacate the area by March 1.

The suit contends the plaintiffs were barred from the property "thus effectively stopping repair progress that would have allowed them to put the sailboat back into the water and remove it from Galveston Yacht Basin marina."

According to the suit, "any property left behind would be considered abandoned and confiscated by the marina and disposed of as the marina saw fit."

The Stellas were allowed to remove their personal belongings under supervision on Feb. 2.

They insist "the defendants have not made known to [them] why they have imposed this rule unless theft and conversion of [their] property is their true intention."

Consequently, the plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages.

Charles B. Stella Jr. is representing himself and Rachel Stella, and Galveston County 10th District Court Judge David Garner is presiding over the case.

Case No. 12-cv-179

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