The owner of the 55-foot boat that washed ashore in the middle of Cadboro Bay beach early on Dec. 5 is offended the District of Saanich and media have referred to it as derelict.
Cyril Manuel was living on the vessel, the Pacific Sun King, for six years until last Friday’s violent storm forced the 40-tonne boat to drag anchor from a spot midpoint in the bay. Prior to last week, Manuel lived in Esquimalt waters near the navy base.
“I just paid $600 to get towed here, it took me two attempts,” said Manuel, who was at the boat salvaging tools and personal belongings Monday night. “I take offence to the term ‘derelict,’ I’ve been a boater for 15 years.”
Manuel was there with his girlfriend long past nightfall Monday as they took advantage of low tide. He interacted with sympathetic beachgoers and also posted a sign on shore asking for patience and understanding from local residents and beach visitors while he tried to recover from the situation.
“Esquimalt was squeezing me out,” Manuel said. “I was threatened by the harbourmaster, the RCMP was going to visit me. So I wasted all my money getting here and now I’m broke.”
Manuel said he is willing to do anything he can to recover the boat, and is considering giving it away.
“Take it, use it, or if anyone can help me recover it, please.”
His arrival on shore is an intense story that includes a daring escape from the Pacific Sun King. Manuel said the waves were so big, it took five minutes to get into the skiff. He then “literally surfed” the skiff to shore, with his girlfriend aboard, guiding it with a paddle through a series of huge waves.
“People try to make it look like I’m the bad one, like live-aboards are the bad ones, but I’m the one who lost a home here,” Manuel said.
Manuel said he was lucky to survive as he and his girlfriend endured the hours-long storm with waves higher than the boat. Manuel described rollers that reminded him of the Perfect Storm, but had faith his ship, built of concrete and rebar, would endure.
“As a live-aboard anchor boater, it’s not that I was planning to leave my boat and run off. Now I’m left with no home, I’m left feeling like I’m some outcast,” he said. “I’m hearing that I’ve done terrible things to the environment, and I appreciate that. I’m a skim boarder, I should be skim boarding right now. I love the coast, I don’t want this to happen.”
Manuel said he’s put $40,000 into the boat over the past six years, outfitting it with a durable sheet metal roof. It also has a generator and a wood stove, common features for the local anchor boater community.
“I gambled and I lost,” Manuel said.
As of Monday, Saanich workers staked the beach area around the boat with ribbon. Another boat, a sailboat about 20 feet long, also washed ashore last week. It lies near Hibbins Close on the east end of Cadboro Bay.
Saanich is still assessing whether that boat is seaworthy and trying to find the owner, said outgoing Saanich CAO Andy Laidlaw.
Last month a trio of boats showed up in a similar storm. One sailboat was towed away by its owner. A second boat was towed back into the bay by Saanich and moored. The third was deemed a hazard for polluting the beach with hypodermic needles, which expedited the removal process through the federal government’s receiver of wrecks, Laidlaw said.
However, as far as the Pacific Sun King is concerned, Manuel is to be held responsible for its removal, at least for now.
“Saanich is not in a position legally to deal with the removal of the boat,” said Laidlaw.
If Manuel can’t afford to remove the boat, seaworthy or not, it will have to go through a minimum 30-day process application to the receiver of wrecks, pending his approval.
Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes says a better system is needed for dealing with grounded vessels.
“One of the problems here is it’s multi-jurisdictional – federal, provincial and municipal – and we need a way someone can adequately monitor the situation so that when a boat gets in trouble, it’s dealt with in an appropriate way,” Haynes said. “That said, there’s a romance to living on a boat, and a lifestyle, maybe it offers opportunities for people who feel it’s tough to settle in more conventional housing. The question is how suitable are they for the health of the individual.”
In the end it’s a balance of rights, Haynes added, between boaters and those homeowners who live in waterfront neighbourhoods.
For Manuel, live-aboard boating was his chance to have affordable housing.
“I consider us a community, look at all the boats [in Cadboro Bay], yet the media has formed a standpoint that we’re all derelict vessels and trouble makers,” Manuel said. “That’s not true, some of us become rough from living [this way], and having everyone hate us. I believe regardless of money or financial situation, we should all be afforded the same rights to live in this country and have affordable housing.”