I Thought Sailboat Owners Were Better Than This

I have occasionally mentioned in the past that I like to sail. I even own my own sailboat. That is why I find this article to be appalling. Times are tough for people who own boats:

Some of those disposing of their boats are in the same bind as overstretched homeowners: they face steep payments on an asset that is diminishing in value and decide not to continue. They either default on the debt or take bolder measures.
Marina and maritime officials around the country say they believe, however, that most of the abandoned vessels cluttering their waters are fully paid for. They are expensive-to-maintain toys that have lost their appeal.
The owners cannot sell them, because the secondhand market is overwhelmed. They cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars a month mooring and maintaining them. And they do not have the thousands of dollars required to properly dispose of them.

So they end up like this:


01boat.600.jpgA very sad sight
I appreciate the desperate straights some of you may be in, but stop it. There is no excuse for doing this kind of thing to a perfectly wonderful sailboat (I also realize power boaters are doing it as well, and they should stop it too, but I am speaking to the real sailors). There has got to be a better way than just cutting the lines and letting your boat drift away. Especially since someone has to come behind you and clean up:

Florida officials say they are moving more aggressively to track down owners and are also starting to unclog the local inlets, harbors, swamps and rivers. The state appropriated funds to remove 118 derelicts this summer, up from only a handful last year.
In South Carolina, four government investigators started canvassing the state’s waterways in January. They quickly identified 150 likely derelicts.
“There are a lot more than we thought there would be,” said Lt. Robert McCullough of the state Department of Natural Resources. “There were a few boats that have always been there, and now all of a sudden they’ve added up and added up.”

Sigh….

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17 Responses

  1. The silver lining in this is that this is a good boat market for any sailor who is ready to chuck it all and go sailing. I suspect most of the derelicts are boats that are either upside-down with respect to liens, or upside-down with respect to needed maintenance.

  2. They should give them to charity boat-sellers who sell them on Ebay for a few bucks. That would be ethical. I don’t know where I’d put several sailboats, much less recover them from Florida.

  3. As an archaeologist, I applaud any tendencies in society that lead to more boats ending up as well-preserved wrecks. (-;

  4. What made you think “sailboat owners are better than this”?

  5. You need to get the physics bloggers on this. I’ll bet they can find some bosons to take care of these boats….

  6. It is possible to salvage a derelict sailboat and end up with a real prize. But it isn’t cheap.
    Also a lot depends on what the she is made of. Wood or porous foam cored fiberglass rots from the inside out and it doesn’t take too much neglect before repairs are more expensive, even doing the work yourself, than buying even a new boat. Old style solid fiberglass hulls can sometimes be gutted and rebuilt economically several times before they are used up.
    A problem with boats is; where do you keep them? Until recently the property tax system in Florida prices property by the value of the surrounding property. The result was that back in the 60s there were a lot of inexpensive marinas and a couple could live aboard. But as son as a condo set up near those marinas the property tax was levied based upon the value of the condo. End result was condos and high-rises marching their way up the coast and mom-n-pop run marinas closing or having to jack their prices sky high to pay the taxes.
    The result was the middle class and retirees were locked out of cruising or living aboard simply because they couldn’t afford to keep the boat at a dock. Anchoring off is an option but it isn’t simple commuting by dinghy, it doesn’t really drop the prices much and most localities have taken steps to discourage anchoring off. The localities are fine if you have a great gleaming yacht and are willing to part with princely sums to keep it docked. Less so if your a live aboard living a more modest lifestyle.
    Recent changes in the property tax system may slow the destruction of marinas. But with the economy sliding boats, and their associated costs, can be luxuries if your not flush with cash. After a time left fallow many boats become economically unsalvageable. You see this a lot after major storms where the owners see their joy smashed and half-sunk and they just walk away. A few promising candidates with unique histories or particularly durable hulls may be rebuilt most will be hauled ashore, stripped of all usable hardware and chainsawed into pieces.
    On the up side derelict sailboats are fine homes for raccoons, snakes, and rats and as long as their fuel tanks are empty and the batteries removed they aren’t much of an environmental threat.

  7. My son has a little pontoon boat he uses on a local lake. He describes a boat as “a device which pulls money out of your pocket.”

  8. I heard it said best: “a boat is a hole in the water you throw your money into.”

  9. of course, there’s the other old saw: The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are when they buy the boat.. and when they sell it.
    No joy in these times for day two!

  10. Not every abandoned boat was abandoned on purpose, though. Sometimes they escape from their mooring because owners don’t have the wherewithal to attend to them as often as they’d like, since that’s expensive too. Storms have a way of loosening those tethers sometimes and the boats wander off. Without a pilot aboard, they beach themselves eventually. If the owner can’t afford to go and check on the boat, who’s to discover the loss?

  11. You need to get the physics bloggers on this. I’ll bet they can find some bosons to take care of these boats….

    Posted by: Ian
    Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.
    (with a nod to Fred Allen)

  12. As an archaeologist, I say leave ‘em on the shoreline to rot into interesting remains.
    Then again, as a scuba diver I say sink ‘em! Artificial reefs are great for little fishes to start families in, and wrecks are fun to dive.

  13. Except some of these are being deliberately sunk in navigation channels – posing a navigation hazard…

  14. Yesterday we had a boat fire at one of the local marinas, I responded as part of the volunteer fire department. At the officers’ meeting a little later in the day it was mentioned that boat fires may be increasing in these economic times. That old Chinese curse may be coming true, we do live in interesting times.

  15. This article is very sad. I grew up on and around sailboats. It makes perfect sense to me that people who own (and therefore, love,) sailboats are “better than this.” They are, after all, real sailors–the ones who have to actually know something about what they’re doing. Anybody can turn a key and drive a power boat, but sailors have to know things–like how to watch for wind when you’re becalmed, like what happens if you try to steer the boat in the direction the wind is coming from, like what happens if the wind is on your stern and you let the boat slip so the wind is now on what was your lee. Sailors need a better grasp of the rules of the road, too. (“What,” I heard a powerboat owner once comment, “there’s a road on the water? And rules?” The man honestly didn’t know any better.)
    I’ve held a tiller in my hands and felt the perfect balance of sails and boat and wind and waves. I’ve raced against other sailors and know what it feels like to make a perfect downwind jibe (I know what it’s like to completely flub it, too)and a perfect spinnaker retrieval. There is nothing–absolutely nothing–in powerboating that can match it (and 20 years ago I married a powerboater so I know what I’m talking about.)
    All my experience on the water tells me that sailboats are special. All the ones I’ve sailed on–whether the 5′ dingy, the 470, the Cal 24, the Sunfish, the Columbia 50, or the wooden staysail schooner with no winches–made me stronger and more alive.
    So to see any of them abandoned (even understanding why it happens) is sad, so very sad…………

  16. I read Chas’ comment about what a boat is and it make me think of this Stan Rogers song
    Man With Blue Dolphin

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