The remaining hull of the Pacific Sun King that washed up square in the middle of the beach at Gyro Park will be soon removed.
Since Dec. 5 the Sun King and a yellow sailboat have sat on the Saanich shoreline of Cadboro Bay, with the concrete-hulled Sun King stirring a lot of debate about who is ultimately responsible for washed-up boats.
The estimated cost of removal is $12,700 plus GST, which council approved on Monday. An additional $1,700 is expected to cover disposal fees at Hartland.
“It’s a jurisdictional nightmare, but the buck has to stop, so it stops here,” said Mayor Richard Atwell. “But we shouldn’t be dealing with every washed-up boat at council on a boat-by-boat basis.”
Saanich had contacted the Coast Guard in an attempt to share the duty of cleanup only to be told no.
“One of the Coast Guard’s issues is they’re [too] underfunded to deal with these,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “Gone are the days when the Coast Guard can deal with abandoned boats.”
The owner of the Pacific Sun King, Cyril Manuel, stated from the beginning that it was unlikely he’d have the funds to recover the boat. Manuel was in the process of bringing the boat into the Oak Bay end of Cadboro Bay when a storm pushed him to shore. He had previously lived on it for six years near Esquimalt harbour.
He’s since stripped it clean, and was obliging in helping the Coast Guard seal a minor fuel leak and also remove a secondary fuel tank. At this point what’s left of the Sun King has sunk so deep into the sand it will have to be dug out.
The owner of the yellow sailboat farther down the beach has not been contacted but is believed to have walked away from any responsibility at this point.
CAO Paul Thorkelsson suggested in a report Monday that Saanich consider a $50,000 payment in the upcoming budget to prepare for such a calamity, knowing it will likely happen again.
But Saanich council spoke against the idea of such a budget item.
“We do need to be strong,” Brownoff said. “I don’t want people who take possession of vessels because they’re cheap accommodation, to be able to let them drift into Saanich. I’m a taxpayer, you’re a taxpayer, we cannot afford it.”
Coun. Colin Plant said he’s afraid a budget item for abandoned boats could send a message that tells people “our waters are open for them to dump their boats in, whether it’s a one-dollar or million-dollar boat.”
A Dec. 17 letter by former CAO Andy Laidlaw went unanswered by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, while the Coast Guard responded but only to say they were unable to participate due to budget constraints.
In 2015, Saanich removed two wrecked vessels for a cost of approximately $25,000, work that had not been contemplated in the 2015 budget, Thorkelsson noted.
Brownoff hopes that a joint movement from the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities to create a program that deals with derelict and wrecked vessels will move to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities.