Despite repeated cleanups to remove flotsam, jetsam, abandoned boats and outright sunken wrecks from the shores of Cadboro Bay in recent years, the beach is once again littered with boats.
As of May 25, a powerboat was the fifth vessel to wash ashore near the stairs from Hibbens Close, which bisects the beach’s Saanich and Oak Bay border.
There’s also a sunken boat just offshore, with a mast that’s exposed at low tide, which has now been there for months.
And there are two more wrecks along the east side of the bay, known as the Sea View side.
Cadboro Bay neighbourhood resident Gerald Graham is a regular visitor to the beach. Out of personal concern, he has posted short films of at least 20 boats that have washed ashore on Cadboro Bay beach since 2014, most of them now removed.
His latest clip is of the powerboat that came ashore with the recent winds. With so many poorly anchored boats (Cadboro Bay’s sandy bottom is notoriously hard to anchor in) Graham asked why there isn’t a set of rules for the bay that officials can enforce. Something like a harbour authority, even if Cadboro Bay isn’t a harbour.
“It’s just going to keep happening so long as there’s no control over who moors their boats there, unless someone is carefully monitoring the anchoring,” Graham said.
It’s a problem in Sooke, the Gorge, Esquimalt, Cadboro Bay, Brentwood Bay, Tsehum Harbour, the Gulf Islands, and in harbours all the way up the Island, said John Roe, whose Dead Boat Disposal Society is on pace to remove 100 wrecks from CRD waters in the past two years.
“It’s the wild west,” said Eric Dahli of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association and who has helped coordinate cleanups of the beach. “We want to desperately work with the feds and the province to see if we can’t come up with a long-term solution for the bay.”
The problem always remains a bureaucratic one as the province is in charge of seabed, beach and intertidal zone while the waters atop are federal.
“For example, a moored boat is technically overseen federally, by the Coast Guard, while the line that goes from the boat to the anchor, is also federal, the DFO, but the concrete block it’s attached to at the bottom is the province,” Dahli said.
A few years ago the Dead Boats Disposal Society was formed when Roe and a team of locals came together to pull a dozen wrecks from the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay beach.
Dead Boats Disposal is currently awaiting notices (seeking the owner) it posted on four washed-up vessels along Cadboro Bay beach to hit the 30-day expiry mark so it can begin the process of taking ownership of the vessel, Roe said. It’s only at that point the boats can be removed.
Roe has long been in favour of a management plan that he says is a perfect way to protect Cadboro Bay and all of the CRD bays and harbours that end up as dumping grounds for derelict ships.
“It’s something that needs to happen now,” Roe said. “It’s something the federal and provincial governments and I have talked about going back decades. They’ve indicated to me they’d help pay for it if someone put the plan in place.”
Cadboro Bay doesn’t qualify as a harbour by definition, Roe said, but there are plenty of examples out there of how it could work in Cadboro Bay.
“You look at Australia, they dealt with this problem decades ago, when abandoned debris and vessels were a real problem,” Roe said.
There, the local governments created management plans that limit the number of moorings in a bay and ensure all are built to a certain standard.
“For me it’s about hurting the habitat, boats drag up the eelgrass and the nesting areas of sealife,” Roe said.
For example, the Gorge needs a different approach to Cadboro Bay.
“I would prefer no boats in the Gorge, it needs a conservation plan,” he said.
But Cadboro Bay could follow the example he gave, which is to create a non-profit that manages the area. It would have a limited number of moorings, and to acquire a permit to use one of the moorings, you have to enter a lottery (perhaps every two years).
There’s also a percentage of the moorings dedicated to live-a-boards but with amenities and accountability, he said.
It’s the kind of model that could work in Brentwood Bay, Sooke and the Sooke Basin, the Gulf Islands harbours such as Ganges, Fulford, Port Browning and Montague.
To the District of Oak Bay’s credit, staff hauled out all kinds of marine and residential garbage from the beach in February, while Saanich has spent more than $100,000 in the past five years pulling wrecks off its side of Caddy Bay.
“There are some properly moored boats in Cadboro Bay that we know will never move,” Dahli said. “You can tell by the amount of bottom growth, it will never move. But because it has a legitimate owner and it’s moored, it will stay there.”