ABOARD THE ISLAND PRINCESS
The winning bid was just shy of a million dollars for a 3.5-acre portion of a small island in the St. Lucie Inlet across from Sailfish Point that was sold at auction Thursday afternoon.
Craig O’Callaghan, 40, a New York real estate investor who lives on Rocky Point, made the winning $965,000 bid, putting an end to a 30-minute, tooth-and-nail bidding joust against a Stuart woman. O’Callaghan will pay a 10 percent buyer’s fee in addition to the bid.
“Women are always tough,” O’Callaghan joked. “She was a worthy opponent.”
The worthy opponent was Debra Shah, representing Mangrove Island Restoration LLC, a group of local residents who she says intended to donate the property to the state or county after restoring it.
Although O’Callaghan hinted that his plans for the island also are environmentally related, he did not offer any concrete plans.
“I want to use it for children. I want to use it for nonprofit. I want it to be a beacon for the world,” O’Callaghan said. “It’s the first thing when you come in the inlet, so we want to be true to the environment.”
Prospective bidders boarded the Island Princess at 4 p.m. at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Resort. The auction took place on the boat’s upper deck as it cruised around the island. Auctioneer Karlin Daniel, whose company ran the auction, started the bidding at $300,000. With no takers, the amount dropped to $100,000, then $50,000, until an opening bid finally came in at $10,000.
By the time bids climbed above $400,000, most bidders dropped out, leaving only Shah, O’Callaghan and John Hage of Jensen Beach. If he’d won, Hage said he would have installed bathrooms on the island and let the public use it for recreation.
The bidding fight that ensued between O’Callaghan and Shah was as much sport as real estate transaction. Walsh described it as “a fight between kids.”
“This is my first auction, so I was like, ‘Come on!'” Shah said. “Eventually, though, I went over the amount we’d set aside, so the higher we went, the more I was worrying about how much we’d have to raise.”
For each $5,000 increment Shah quietly bid, O’Callaghan, sipping a beer in shorts and a hat, would call out increments that ranged from 50 cents to $15,000.
“Seven twenty… four!” O’Callaghan shouted at one point. “How long is she gonna keep on going? What are we doing to ourselves?”
When he finally won the auction, O’Callaghan jumped up with a shout, hugging several other participants.
“This probably turned out to be a good day for the seller and a good day for the buyer,” Daniel said.
The portion of Simpson Island — as it is popularly known — had been owned by the Shingledecker family for more than 40 years. Paul Shingledecker, who lives in Ocala, said the family sold the land because it can no longer afford to live in the area and is moving to Tennessee.