Watching from the shores and hiding under a black hood, in a black raincoat, with black gloves and black gumboots, wasn’t enough to hide his unmistakable white beard.
“We have a million-dollar seat today,” said John Roe, the saint of derelict boat removals, sitting on a beached log near Hibbens Close. Roe watched as Salish Sea Industrial crane operators partnered with a crew of Cold Water Divers and pulled five boats from the beach and tidal waters of Cadboro Bay on Monday morning.
The current removal is for about 10 boats in and around Cadboro Bay with two off Ten Mile Point. Another was believed to have sunk in the live-aboard area between Cadboro Bay-Gyro Park and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, but they couldn’t find easily find it Monday, Roe said.
It’s part of a $520,000 grant from Transport Canada, an “early Christmas present” from federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, that will run out around January, Roe said.
And it’s only the latest Cadboro Bay cleanup. Roe has spearheaded the removal of about 80 sunken, washed-up, or otherwise abandoned boats from Sooke to Ladysmith to Galiano in the past three years. He’s been leading derelict boat removals from Cadboro Bay since the mid-1990s when they pulled about four dozen boats out then did it again, on a smaller scale, around 1998.
Back then Roe headed the Veins of Life Watershed Society. Now it’s the Dead Boats Disposal Society. The last major clean-up of derelicts on Caddy Bay beach was in 2017 though many more have been pulled off since.
It’s a cyclical process that Roe would like to see end with the type of preventative measures used in neighbouring states of Washington and Oregon.
“I’ve seen boats arrive here from there that should never have, there are too many holes in the system,” Roe said. “Boats come here because they can’t be there.”
Adam Coolidge and a team of four from Cold Water Divers, including two wearing dry suits, rigged the sunken and washed-up boats with straps for the crane on Monday.
“You have to watch out, some of them break apart, you end up with 500 pieces,” Coolidge said.
And with that, one of the boats was left on the beach for another day.
“That’s it for today, tide is going out too fast,” Roe said.