Boatbreakers are the undertakers of the marine industry. We usually get the call once a boat has reached her end of life from the owner. Sometimes it will be the call will come from a marina/boatyard who have had an owner stop paying the bills. But the worst case scenario is when a boat is dumped on a beach or just left on a river/mooring/on a pontoon.
This article is to try and highlight the signs that a boat might be close to or recently abandoned. There are some telltale signs of a boat that is about to be abandoned. We thought it would be helpful to share our experience on what to look out for.
The first major red flag would be the boat being stripped down. For example an outboard or inboard engine removed. Another item that may suddenly disappear would be winches or deck fittings. Basically anything that can be unscrewed and re-sold is likely to go. Sails are often stored at peoples homes on lower value boats so don’t be too concerned with no sails.
Next the other most obvious sign of an abandoned boat is it being open. Especially on a yacht with washboards, if they are gone the boat is wide open for intruders. It also means the boat is wide open to the elements. You would be surprised at the amount of rain water or sea water a boat can take on if it’s not secure.
Mouldy decks or a general green tinge to the fibreglass is an obvious sign of an owner’s lack of interest. A boat that has had regular use may still be dirty from the owners walking on her. But green growth shows the boat hasn’t been cleaned or had salt water on her for a while. Most boatyards or marinas will have a certain corner where the greener boats are hidden away. See if you can spot them the next time you’re visiting somewhere with boat storage.
In addition to greenery another obvious sign of abandonment is the boat being full of water. This is a clear indicator that the owner hasn’t been around for months if not years. We have scrapped many boats over the years that haven’t been visited in years. The boats out on the mooring also often have huge amounts of growth and wildlife attached to the hull. If the boat has sunk she’ll be completely full of water and if the owner hasn’t tried to have it raised within a week the chance are it will stay there.
For most boat owners making sure your boat is secured to something is a major concern. Whether it’s a mooring, a pontoon or to the canal towpath. A sign that someone has just left their boat is it being tied loosely with a single line or not at all. This shows that the boat owner no longer cares what happens to the vessel. These loose vessels can cause significant damage to other boats in the vicinity.
Another fairly obvious sign is out of date licence stickers. They may be harbour authority or inland waterways. For example, on the south coast Chichester Harbour issues a coloured sticker each year that boat owners have to display. As the colour changes each year it is easy for the Harbour team to see at a glance if a boat is out of date.
For marinas and boat yards telltale signs of an abandoned boat are usually missed payments and no communication from the owner. Likewise some unscrupulous sorts will bring a boat to a marina on a visitor mooring with a false name, tie the boat up, head off and never appear again. Although most yards are wise to this.
Similarly boats out of the water that are being worked on can often be a risk. Project boats with slow or no progress often lead to owners calling time on their interest. Many project boats end up in gardens and as the years pass by the trailers under them erode away. This mean they will usually never see the water again.
Above all the biggest issue with abandoned boats is who pay for them to be scrapped. Recycling a boat can be a costly process and this will ultimate fall to whoever’s land the boat is left on. If this is on public land it will be a cost shared amongst tax payers. We think that it’s a shame that council tax money is having to be spent on cleaning up some peoples mess. If public money is to be spent it should come from central government to tackle the issue front on.