Under the cover of darkness a team of mariners assembled by the Dead Boat Disposal Society floated three wrecked boats off the beach of Cadboro Bay in the early hours of Friday morning.
The boats now lie, in tatters, under the sun in the Point Hope industrial shipyard where they are being sampled for chemicals and will then be torn apart and properly recycled and disposed of.
“It takes about two weeks to test them and then they’ll go to Dead Boat Heaven,” said John Roe, leader of the Dead Boat Disposal Society and who’s organized the disinterment of dozens of boats from their shallow watery graves. “The reason we were out at midnight (Thursday night, Friday morning) was to take advantage of the tide. We had divers in there for two of the boats, one which was submerged 20 feet.”
Removed by the light of the moon. Big Red: Then, and Now. Photo credit to me, left, in Feb 2018, right, Dead Boat Disposal Society, from today. Red overstayed its welcome on Caddy Bay beach and now its being tested for chemicals then recycled. Good riddance, locals say. pic.twitter.com/pAQu1ClzGr
— travisApaterson (@TravisAPaterson) January 25, 2019
One of the submerged boats was too rotten to follow the original plan of floating it – with air bags – to Point Hope. Instead it was taken out at Cattle Point. Another sailboat still remains on the beach near the playground of Cadboro-Gyro Park. It’s believed the owner is paying for removal which should be done shortly, though it’s been spray-painted and burgled.
The midnight mission marked the latest return of Roe, and his Dead Boat Disposal Society, which puts a new name on and old game. Roe has done more to restore the Gorge Waterway and remove wrecks from the shores of the South Island than anyone. In the 1990s Roe founded the Veins of Life Watershed Society that restored the heavily polluted Gorge to a swim-able status and sparked the $150 million restoration of Rock Bay.
Roe was part of the October, 2017 community clean up that removed about a dozen boats from both the Oak Bay and Saanich foreshores of Cadboro Bay.
Funding came from the federal government through it’s new Oceans Protection Plan. After submitting a detailed plan of removal for the boats, the OPP funded $30,000 for Thursday’s removal and the Capital Regional District funded about $10,000.
“The paperwork involved is just staggering,” Roe said. “It’d be far easier if people just donated them to us, turn them over before giving up on them.”
Roe started the paperwork for this removal on Jan. 21, 2018. It took a one year and three days to get it approved. But he also believes the approval process will be sped up substantively as he was working through a brand new program.
And that’s important, as the Dead Boat Disposal Society has a mandate to remove every sunken or abandoned boat from provincial shores.
“We’ve started here on the South Island but we’re moving out across the rest of B.C.,” Roe said.
Roe has 34 boats already targeted for removal. He is scheduled to survey boats in the waters of Sechelt and Ladysmith in coming weeks. They’ve identified boats in North Saanich, Brentwood, Tsehum Harbour, Sooke Basin, Galiano, and plenty of other locations and also plan to use sonar to identify sunken boats that are unseen.
“Now that we have the program in place, I understand the process of it,” Roe said. “I put it about 30 hours a week, I’m retired now, I didn’t want to sit around and whine, I’ve done this in the past, I know how to do it.
“We are gung-ho to go, there’s more to come.”