Houseboat "Pirate" Threatens Cops, Cites High Seas Law, Is Finally Arrested At Liquor Store

When Robert McGary's houseboat washed up on a sandbar in a Florida channel a few months back, he liked the scenery so much that he refused to move. After police insisted he get back on the water, McGary went all Blackbeard, equating his dilapidated wreck to the Queen Anne's Revenge, citing "high seas law" and threatening to "repel" cops with "lethal force."

Fortunately, no swashbuckling attacks were needed. McGary was arrested downing beers in a nearby dive bar. "We've never dealt with pirates up here before," Mark Barker, the Holly Hill police chief, tells Riptide.

McGary floated into the Intercoastal Waterway near Holly Hill in the Panhandle around September, Barker says. A huge storm blew through in October, tearing up McGary's anchor and plopping his boat onto a city-owned spit of sand near the shore.

That's when the trouble started.

"He's a pretty eccentric guy and he kept proposing all these outlandish ideas," Barker says. "He wanted to get a pressure washer to carve out a new channel for his boat, which is against all kinds of environmental rules."

Finally, on Dec. 2, Barker slapped a code violation on the boat, ordering McGary off and threatening to seize the vessel. That's when McGary's Captain Cook instincts kicked in.

"He started calling every official in the state, Rick Scott, Pam Bondi, the FDLE," Barker says. "He told them under maritime law he had the right as sole captain to repel any boarders. He sounded like a pirate."

The last straw came when McGrady was speaking to a Bondi representative in Tallahassee and told her -- twice -- that he was "prepared to use lethal force" against Barker's men if they tried to evict him.

That's when the lawmen decided to act. Barker was readying his away team in a skivvy when ... no, actually, he just took a cruiser down to the local Townline Lounge and Liquors. They found McGrady at the bar, and arrested him without incident.

"No maritime boarding was necessary," Barker says.

McGrady faces a felony count of corrupting public officials with threats. His boat remains grounded on a sandbar until a judge orders its removal.

(h/t to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.)

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink