Skip to content

Derelict boats accumulate along Saanich's border

Cadboro Bay residents want vessels in Oak Bay waters removed
A “derelict city” of sunken and beached fibreglass sailboats sit on the Oak Bay border of Cadboro Bay beach

A “derelict city” of sailboats along the Oak Bay border of Cadboro Bay beach have become more than an eyesore.

Over recent years the District of Saanich has removed washed-up, abandoned and derelict boats from its portion of Cadboro Bay as rapidly as the federal and provincial system will let them.

That included another $6,000 bill (shared with the province) for a boat pulled off by crane on Nov. 29 that was leftover from last year’s spike in abandoned boats, which had already cost Saanich taxpayers $50,000.

In 2014, Oak Bay joined forces with Transport Canada, the RCMP Marine Section and Oak Bay Police to remove four non-compliant moorage buoys and two derelict boats from Oak Bay waters. But anyone who looks to the Oak Bay end of Caddy Bay beach can see three boats washed ashore, plus a sunken wash-up closer to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

“It’s a derelict city between Saanich and the yacht club,” said Eric Dahli, president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association. “RVYC cleaned up their act, Saanich cleaned up their act, and sitting in the middle is the Oak Bay derelict boat yard.”

Within 10 metres of the Oak Bay side of the Hibbens Close border with Saanich are the three washed-up fibreglass sailboats, which Dahli contends would likely not be there if they were on the Saanich side. Between them, the fibreglass bow of a fourth boat pokes from the sand, said to be completely buried. A little farther down the beach and into Uplands territory is the metal hull of an abandoned houseboat that went up in flames in 2013.

Because the brown and rusty houseboat hull blends into the landscape and the sailboats are tangled amongst the shoreline branches of large trees, Dahli wonders if it’s a question of out of sight, out of mind.

“Who knows what is seeping out of those wrecks? Out of sight or not, the same damage is done to the environment.”

The CBRA is in discussion with the Oak Bay Residents Association to see if the two can get Oak Bay on a plan to do the same thing as Saanich, and clean up that strip of Cadboro Bay beach.

“It’s not up to RVYC to remove abandoned wash-ups, which has been forthcoming and was praised for its environmental efforts by the Georgia Straight Alliance in August,” Dahil said, while praising RVYC’s $50,000 contained area to clean the hulls of boats.

“It used to be you blasted the old paint off with a power wash and it would wash out at high tide,” Dahli said.

In Oak Bay, the new Oak Bay Maritime Community Association said it also plans to promote a better response in dealing with derelict boats. The group includes about 40 area residents, mostly boat owners, working for maritime preservation.

However, the immediate focus is not Cadboro Bay, though the long-term plan does include it, said spokesperson Robert Hall.

“I’ve talked to a couple of people from the yacht club, they’re concerned with the same thing,” Hall said. “We’re focused on Oak Bay [and] Oak Bay Marina. There’s about 30-odd boats that are moored there and two of them are unattended and look to be abandoned.”

Looking forward, all eyes are on a movement to make it easier to deal with derelicts. Much of that hinges on Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson’s private member’s bill to designate the Coast Guard as the Receiver of Wrecks for the purposes of the Canada Shipping Act, allowing them to take action without being directed to by a ministry. For now, neither municipalities nor Transport Canada have the authority to remove a boat. A removal can be expedited if it poses a potential or immediate hazard to navigation.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, when someone finds and takes possession of a wreck, the Receiver of Wrecks will try to locate the owner. The Receiver of Wrecks can authorize its disposal or destruction by a salvager when the owner is unknown 90 days after a wreck has been reported.

- This story was updated to remove an incorrect reference to Oak Bay Marina from the original version.