Signs at Dinner Key marina (left) and Watson Island (right) on July 10
Signs at Dinner Key marina (left) and Watson Island (right) on July 10
Photos by Meg O'Connor

Miami Installs and Quickly Removes Confusing, Misspelled Anti-Jet Ski Signs

Yanina Corbea first noticed the new signs at Dinner Key Marina on Sunday, when she and her husband went to take their son for a ride on their Jet Skis. "NO JET SKI'S ALLOWED STRCTLY ENFORCED TOW AWAY ZONE," the incorrectly spelled sign read. It wasn't there last week, and the sign had no explanation or ordinance number to back up its ban.

Corbea asked the security guard standing nearby what they could do. "He was very adamant that we had to get out of there," she said. "We asked what our option was, and they had no idea where we could go to unload the Jet Skis."

She drove to Watson Island, looking for another spot to ride with her family, but found a new anti-Jet Ski sign there too. Corbea thought maybe the signs were fake (it wouldn't be the first time fake signs have appeared around Miami) and tried to double-check with the city. "We tried to get ahold of the City of Miami, we left voicemails at Dinner Key, but nobody can tell us what the reason is," said Corbea.

Turns out, the signs — egregious typos and all — were indeed put up by the city, but they weren't meant for privately owned Jet Skis. The Miami Parking Authority erected the signs to stop companies trying to rent out Jet Skis near city boat ramps, said Stephanie Severino, Miami's deputy director of communications.

"They were trying to make these people do their business in other areas, not on the city ramps, because they are not allowed. So what the signs need to say, and what the MPA is working on with our department, is perhaps that no commercial business is allowed," Severino said.

On Wednesday — one day after New Times asked about the signs — they were abruptly taken down, but not because of the spelling problems. The city realized the signs weren't clear about the rule applying only to commercial Jet Ski companies, Severino said, which aren't allowed without a permit.

"There have been fatal incidents [with Jet Skis in the past], and that's what we're trying to avoid," said Severino.

Just a few yards from where the Dinner Key Marina sign was posted, Miami Water Sports charges tourists a few hundred dollars to go Jet Skiing, parasailing, and kayaking.  On Tuesday, one employee fueled up a Jet Ski resting on a boat while another dealt with the flood of tourists signing liability waivers. One of several South Florida businesses owned by Jacques Lebaz, the firm is officially registered under the name Coconut Grove Kayak Inc. and has at least eight Jet Skis available.

One employee said they do not use the boat ramps for their Jet Skis, and they do have a permit to run a commercial business at the Dinner Key Marina. When contacted by phone, business owner Jacques Lebaz said his English was not good and asked to receive the questions in writing. Shortly after New Times sent an email, another man responded on Mr. Lebaz's behalf.

"You can see I have a permit for a floating dock to keep the Jet Skis. We have nothing to do with the boat ramp. I have all the permits that are required; my boats are all inspected," said the man, who refused to give his name. "We do have a permit because we're based at Dinner Key Marina."

A representative of Dinner Key Marina confirmed that Miami Water Sports has a permit to run their business there. All of which makes the sudden appearance of the sign and the presence of a security guard incorrectly forbidding residents from using the ramp even more confusing.

For now, the signs will stay down until the city can clarify its message — whatever it might be.

"That's awesome!" Corbea said when told the signs had been removed and were not aimed at personal-use Jet Skis. "I'm relieved."

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