People are abandoning their poorly cared-for boats in the Puget Sound and nearby lakes — and getting them out is difficult and expensive, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
On Jan. 13, KCSO’s Marine Rescue Dive Unit responded to a 36-foot Chris-Craft boat built in 1962 that had sunk into the waters of Kirkland’s Marina Park following the windy conditions of the mid-January windstorm.
Sgt. Rich Barton said the sheriff’s department responds to incidents of abandoned and derelict vessels about 20 times a year. Many boat owners realize the cost of owning a boat — and leave their vessel unattended and uncared for.
He said demographically, individuals that abandon their vessels are often people who cannot afford boats, or perhaps purchased a cheap used boat without realizing the cost of maintenance, fuel and moorage.
Barton said taking these vessels out of the water can be very expensive and time consuming, as the 36-foot boat left at Marina Park took 10 days to recover at a cost of more than $20,000.
One of the largest boats KCSO has helped recover was a 150-foot trawler, according to Barton.
“The problem is ongoing and will never stop,” Barton said. “We just want people to take responsibility.”
Vessels abandoned by negligent owners and left to the elements can also be an environmental hazard because boats often contain fuel, oil and human waste.
According to Barton, the 36-foot boat that sunk in Marina Park leaked roughly 16 quarts of oil into the water, an unhealthy amount for the marine environment.
Barton said the Department of Ecology and the Department of Natural Resources get involved with the safe clean-up and containment of hazardous chemicals when abandoned boats sink into the waterways.
KCSO Media Relations Officer Sgt. Tim Meyer said abandoned vessels remain a “regional challenge” for law enforcement and regulatory agencies.