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El Nino at Sunset marina. Sat.  Jan. 26,2013In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of boats, large and small, abandoned to Howe Sound. When a boat owner is tired of paying for moorage and the boat isn’t worth anything for sale or scrap value, they feel okay about abandoning the vessel, making it someone else’s problem.

It’s really not okay. Abandoning a boat is like dropping a tonne of litter all at once. It’s a pollutant, a potential shipping hazard, and it’s a drain on tax dollars when it is finally noticed and cleaned up. It’s also illegal.

In 2013, the Queen of Saanich—a BC Ferry that once traveled the Tsawwassen-Schwartz Bay route—was discovered behind Anvil Island, just out of sight of the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The boat was retired and the BC Ferry Corporation had sold it to a company who planned to scrap it. But once the company had taken what they wanted, they effectively abandoned the ferry to Howe Sound.

Another vessel tied at the south end of Anvil partially sank and eventually broke free. It drifted across Howe Sound and eventually landed near Sunset Beach.

The problem seems to be there are overlapping jurisdictions when it comes to the regulation of derelict or polluting vessels. The Ministry of the Environment, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard all have different roles to play, depending on whether the boat is causing pollution or is a hazard to shipping or navigation.

The Future of Howe Sound Society is working with coalition partner Marine Life Sanctuaries and good Samaritan John Buchanan to build an inventory of derelict boats around Howe Sound.  The Islands Trust Derelict Vessel Advocacy is active under their  marine stewardship program. Together, we plan to find a solution.

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Categories: Derelict Ships

3 Responses so far.

  1. Taylor says:

    The solution is to stop NIMBYism and allow for more water leases. The wait lists at local marinas are 5+ years.

    Of course, something as large as a decomissioned BC Ferry would not be able to park at a marina, but a lot of the other boats people are complaining about would be probably far from derelict if they were connected to a marina with road access, shore power, and water.

    While it is understandable that local residents may be concerned about the pollution generated by having a large number of boats moored, proper dock observation by staff and POI (proof of insurance) would mitigate the majority of problems.

    It is almost tragic that we have so many beautiful waterways but boat owners, regardless of how much money they have to spend, have nowhere to park their boats in a safe, sheltered situation. This results in vessels getting swamped, coming free of their anchor holdings, getting beached, and potentially leaking fuel and oil as desperate boat owners try to find any sheltered spot to place their boats.

    We cannot advertise how great the south coast is with it’s oceans and beaches, increasing our population without making allowances for the fact that to enjoy a lot of these natural wonders you will need to have your own vessel.

    It would cost me $16,000 to moor my boat in downtown Vancouver. Richmond, the Fraser River, Port Moody, they are less expensive but still in the $500 a month range – to tie up to a floating piece of wood – and the wait lists are measured in years, not weeks or months.

    The problem is not for lack of marina operators, because the business is a guaranteed profit. If 100 slips became available at a reasonable price it would fill up in a matter of days. The problem is one of a lack of water lease granting by provincial and federal governments due to NIMBY residents.

    It’s really quite sad that people look out the window on the ferry and say “Oh look at the pretty sailboat” but if that same sailboat was to moor and “obstruct their view” they get up in arms. These people should maybe just ask the boat owner if they would take them sailing; then maybe they would understand how much time, money, effort, and dedication these people have and how much they love the pristine environment as much as they do.

    I had my boat moored at an abandoned fish farm, and casually asked a local resident about garbage facilities. I got a 20 minute earful about everything from the potential for excrement in the water to how it was impeding “their beach” (it was actually adjacent to a public park) and when I interjected that the reason I came to that area was because I love the environment and would never hurt it – I’m druidic and the forest is my spirituality – and explained how even if my boat sank all my fuel tanks are sealed and there would be zero spillage. All of this transpired because I was trying to responsibly dispose of garbage into a proper receptacle.

    If people want to deal with the “derelict vessel” problem, they should be lobbying for more water leases for marinas, not just trying to push the problem somewhere else. While there are most definitely people who buy boats and neglect them to the point of dereliction, there are also happy boat owners who just simply can’t afford safe moorage or can’t obtain it, putting their boats at risk. A boat is a large investment (B.O.A.T. means ‘break out another thousand’) , and forcing people to choose between properly maintaining their boat or paying through the nose for moorage is perpetuating the very problem they are complaining about.

    Imagine if you bought a BMW, left it on the side of the road in the elements, and couldn’t get to it for weeks and months of the year, because parking the thing would cost you $500-$1200 a month anywhere else where you could go and check on it and drive it. Well that is what these NIMBYs are doing to boat owners. Do they feel like going for a rowboat ride in the dead of winter? Do they feel like they want to go on the water in the blowing storm, cold, and snow? Probably not. Boat ownership is a huge responsibility. Everyone wants to climb aboard in the summer but the boat owner is checking on their boat on a bi-weekly basis even when the weather is terrible, and paying through the nose for routine maintenance.

    Not all boat owners are rich, and nobody wants their boat to sink.

    NIMBYs, give your head a shake. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t protest water leases then complain that boats are left in sketchy situations and protest people for parking the boats (mooring) in odd places because they “obstruct your view”.

    The resident I spoke to, when I explained the situation, grasped my approach. I told her if she wanted the vessels gone, lobby for more water leases so these boats had a place to go rather than be homeless.

  2. Gerald Madden says:

    Find the owners and prosecute them. Force BC Ferries to reclaim and mitigate their sunken ship.

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