An abandoned yacht on a landing stage triggers a lawsuit brought by Count Hennepin

The county says the 58-foot “Seanote” was left on county-owned access to Lake Minnetonka, and alleges the boat poses a hazard to the lake and residents.

SPRING PARK, Minn. — It may be the dead of winter, but an issue involving the storage of a large boat is heating up in the Hennepin County legal system.

The county has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a 58-foot yacht called Seanote, alleging they created a dangerous situation for people and Lake Minnetonka by illegally leaving it on land owned by the county.

Court documents allege boat owners Paul Berquist and Benjamin Fields Wilson removed the yacht, previously used as a charter boat, from Lake Minnetonka on Dec. 15, 2021. Hennepin County says the facility that previously stored the Seanote would not did not or could not store the boat, so the owners placed it on a flatbed trailer unsuitable for transporting or storing the watercraft and moved it to a county-owned lake access in Spring Park. There, the county says the yacht was parked in a way that “significantly blocked” access to the lake by other residents.

The county says that on December 23, the boat, which weighs an estimated 45 tons, was moved to another location on the access where it is currently located. Prosecutors say the flatbed trailer is parked on a slope and maintain the yacht’s supports show signs of failure, posing a hazard to residents in the event of a fall. Not only that, they say the boat currently contains 200 gallons of fuel, and if it were to tip over, that fuel could spill into Lake Minnetonka.

Crews put up concrete barriers around the Seanote in an attempt to keep people away until a resolution was found. County officials are asking a judge to:

  • Immediately order the removal of the boat from the landing at Spring Park.
  • Permanently prevent owners from launching the Seanote on Lake Minnetonka using any access in Hennepin County.
  • Order them to pay access damages, storage fees amounting to what they would pay at area marinas, and cover court costs and attorney fees.

Berquist told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal that it is working on resolving the issue and accused Hennepin County of “taking an enforcement notice rather than a solution notice.”

On Thursday morning, a hearing was held and Hennepin County Judge James A. Moore ordered mediation for both parties.

“As soon as possible, but no later than February 18, 2022, the parties will engage in mediation and attempt to agree on a means to quickly, safely and legally move the yacht and trailer to a location where it can legally be stored.”

If the two sides fail to agree on a solution, they will return to court by February 22.

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