More needs to be done to deal with abandoned vessels

I ask Saanich to commit to dealing with wrecked boats through the Receiver of Wrecks

I saw your recent article referencing removal of the Pacific Sun King and two other boats from Cadboro Bay Beach by Saanich last winter.  The three boats lay there spilling diesel, oil, syringes, styrofoam insulation and other trash for over two months.  The Pacific Sun King’s hull remained intact because it was ferro-cement. The other two boats were fiberglass; one was badly damaged, and the other destroyed, by wave-driven logs.

Over the 26 years I have lived in Cadboro Bay, other beached fiberglass vessels have been pounded to pieces by wave-driven logs. Bits of boat and other trash then spread along the entire beach, to be (mostly) collected up by volunteers.  Combers six feet tall break onto Cadboro Bay Beach during the biggest southeast blows, and a large log propelled by those waves on a king tide is a 4,000-pound battering ram. I am at the beach every day, year round, and the sea there can be ferocious.

In March this year a 27-foot fibreglass vessel named Odin washed up on Cadboro Bay Beach near Gyro Park.  Residents have asked Saanich repeatedly to do something, to no avail.  The Odin is now stripped of its rigging and hardware by scavengers, and it will likely be destroyed in the next big storm.  Then my neighbours and I will be picking up trash for months.  I have requested Saanich to place a dumpster in the parking lot to receive the expected debris.  Saanich did that for us last year when the Pacific Sun King started to come apart.

A beached vessel, or a vessel in distress is defined in the Canada Shipping Act as a “wreck”. The Canada Shipping Act permits a person (including a municipality) to secure or take possession of a wreck, and then claim against the owner the costs of so doing.  If the owner can’t be found, or abandons the boat, the salvor can apply for ownership of the vessel. After various steps are taken, ownership of the boat is transferred to the salvor.

Last winter at least 15 vessels, some good, some junk, washed up on the beach at Cadboro Bay. My observation is that boats that come ashore on Cadboro Bay and are not immediately removed by the owner are derelict.  After weeks or months in the surf such a boat  is trash, and removing trash costs money.  Hence Saanich’s reluctance to get involved.

I say it is the job of some level of government to pick up trash.  When it comes to beached boats, municipal, provincial and federal governments wring their hands and point at each other, but in the end my tax dollars will be expended cleaning up trash related to derelict boats.  I say that the most cost-effective trash-pickup occurs at the municipal level, and when dealing with derelict boats, the sooner it is undertaken, the cheaper.

Saanich, I am told, spent $50,000 removing four boats from Cadboro Bay last year.  The Pacific Sun King dragged anchor for two days before it came ashore; there was no need for it to end up on the beach. I was told it might cost $600 to pull a 25-foot boat off when it is freshly beached. Better yet, if a boat is still floating it can be towed away from the surf line and secured before it even touches the beach; either course of action is perfectly legal under the Canada Shipping Act. The question of legislative jurisdiction, ownership of sea-bottom, ownership of foreshore, simply does not arise.

So, I ask Saanich to commit to dealing with wrecked boats through the Receiver of Wrecks,  and then ask the province for whatever additional funding will be required to do so.  I also ask Saanich to contract with a marine towing firm to secure boats that have broken loose but are not yet on the beach.

Jerry Donaldson

Saanich