Kevin Casey watched from his James Island dock as a man with a disabled sailboat tied up to a private dock just down Ellis Creek, then settled in to stay.

"This guy is squatting ... and claims that he has a legal right to do so," Casey posted on the neighborhood forum Nextdoor.

"(The sailor) says that he’s got every right to be there because the pilings he’s attached to aren’t connected to the dock any longer," Casey added. "I told him that he may have found a loophole but that what he’s doing isn’t right, period."

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office sent its marine patrol to contact the man Friday but found no violations, sheriff's spokesman Capt. Roger Antonio said.

"The boat is currently disabled, and the man told deputies that he plans to move the boat to a relative’s dock once he is able to do so," Antonio added. "Our Marine Patrol, which works closely with Charleston Police Department’s Harbor Patrol, will periodically check on this individual."

Leigh Stramm, whose aunt owns the dock, said the sailor has been there for several weeks and the family has asked him to move along, with no success so far.

"I don’t think he’s going to move on until he’s forced to,” she said. "Our concern mainly is what is he doing with his waste. He said he had somebody come do that, but nobody’s proven that he’s done that.”

The boat, named “Soul Rebel,” lacks a mast. Casey said he has watched as the man aboard gets in a dingy a few times a week to head up the creek toward Folly Road, where he disembarks to get food and supplies.

Antonio identified the man on the boat as James Doggette but had no further contact information for him. A search of Charleston County tax records found a Doggette at a lower King Street address who owes $175.45 for three years worth of property taxes on a 1985 Lancer yacht. His King Street address is a bed and breakfast owned by an Illinois couple, county records show.

A James Doggette also was found guilty in the city's Livability Court in December 2018 and in March for mooring or landing a boat along a public dock, city records show. It was unclear which dock or what penalties were levied.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources officers have spoken to Stramm's family and plan to revisit the vessel Wednesday morning to speak with its owner or captain, DNR spokesman David Lucas said.

"The man’s boat is apparently broken down," he added. "He claims to be taking steps to either get it repaired or moved to a marina."

Lucas said the fact that the boat lift is no longer attached to the dock "complicates things, but again, we will continue to look at all aspects of the situation."

Meanwhile, Doggette's presence has become a lively topic among neighbors along Hunley Avenue on the south side of Ellis Creek. 

"Everybody with a home knows about it. Everybody has talked about it, and everybody is up in arms about it," Casey said. "If he can do this, what would keep someone from pulling an RV in your front yard and saying ‘I’m home?’ It’s kind of crazy. None of us have ever seen anything like this.”

Casey said he originally offered the sailor help to get his boat back in shape, "but he shook me off."

ellis creek boat 1.jpg

A sailboat sits tied up to a boat lift on Ellis Creek on Monday, May 6, 2019, on James Island. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The Stramms and their neighbors also have contacted the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Charleston Police Department and the Coast Guard, but only the Sheriff's Office responded.

"It’s like pulling teeth," Casey said. "It’s beyond annoying."

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Phillip Vanderweit said the agency is aware of the boat but the issue falls under the city of Charleston's jurisdiction. City police spokesman Charles Francis said later Tuesday that the boat has been determined to be in the county's jurisdiction, not the city's.

Stramm said the family's dock was damaged in recent storms but that the family plans to rebuild it in the coming weeks and is concerned about a clash if the boat isn't gone by then.

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Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.

Robert Behre works as an editor and reporter. He focuses on the historical landscape, including architecture, archaeology and whatever piques his interest on a particular day.

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