Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Do Old Boats Go To Heaven?

Today was a bittersweet day for boaters in Miami. The state of Florida has a serious problem with derelict boats abandoned in anchorages, and others in mooring fields and marinas. What to do with them? Who pays the bill for whatever happens? How do we feel on both sides of the issue?

Personally, we don't feel safe anchoring near an obviously abandoned boat, one that lists or has no mast or has open windows. There is always the concern they are abandoned but occupied by squatters or vermin. Will they break loose and drift into us during the night? You have to wonder about the fate of the sailors who own them, is this a temporary "bad time" or not?

The state is adding more mooring fields in many towns, either directly or by grant. That puts "loose" boats on notice, and offers some level of security to all. It also generates needed revenue, helps control water quality issues from illegal dumping and removing the boats removes a hazard to navigation, whether or not the boats sink, which is only a matter of time. The revenue from mooring fees help pay for dingy docks and facilities for boaters like showers, laundry, pump outs, and wi - fi access. Some boaters welcome additional mooring opportunities, but there are times an anchorage is really peaceful and one hates not to have that option.

So where do old, abandoned boats go? When a boat is observed unattended for a long time, notice is posted on the boat and efforts are made to locate the owner through the registration. Then on an 80 degree, cloudless day like today, several boats are towed in to the city marina, and lined up for demolition in the teeth of a giant crane on a barge. Dumpsters line the parking lot of the launching ramp, and one by one, the boats lose their identity in dozens of loud crunches. They fill the row of dumpsters. A single outboard is retrieved; the masts are collected for salvage. The pleas of a sailor who states he just came home from the hospital, saying it was all he had, this pretty blue hull with rebuilt engine and personal possessions, lost to regulations and the missing authority. All gone in a few dozen chomps, a chain saw hack to a stubborn transom. No boat names to recall, no sailors to acknowledge, just a job to be done today.
I remain conflicted but I couldn't take my eyes off the event. Rick was so sad to see any boat meet this fate, he couldn't watch today. Do old boats go to heaven?

This boat couldn't wait for demolition.
She sunk in the waiting line a few weeks ago.

A containment boom traps the pollutants.

The best part of my morning walk,
seeing this little boat again in a new spot.