News

Murky future for abandoned boat

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

A boat abandoned by Pottahawk partygoers still sits in Lake Erie five days after the event. Contributed Photo/Facebook

A boat abandoned by Pottahawk partygoers still sits in Lake Erie five days after the event. Contributed Photo/Facebook

SIMCOE - 

An abandoned boat currently floating in the Inner Bay is being called a “disaster in the making.”

George Summers of Old Cut Marina Ltd. in Long Point was notified of the derelict vessel in the wake of Sunday's boat party near the Pottahawk sandbar, which sits about eight kilometres from Turkey Point.

A male tenant of Old Cut rescued a handful of the boat's passengers about 2-3 miles (3-6 km) west of the small island following the annual bash and brought them to shore. The man placed a buoy on the boat – believed to be a 15-foot GREW SS 150 built in the 1970s - to ensure it would be easier to see. Summers says he and the tenant alerted the Canadian Coast Guard of the vessel, which in the coming days was dragged to a safer location just west of Pottahawk by another Old Cut tenant.

Later in the week, Summers also alerted Norfolk OPP of the situation, but as of Friday the status of the boat remains the same. A strong wind, Summers points out, could easily push the sinking ship back into deeper waters.

The Canadian Coast Guard office located in St. Williams declined to comment while Norfolk OPP media relations officer Const. Ed Sanchuk said the ultimate responsibility of the boat lies with the owner. “Any further information needs to go through the Coast Guard. The OPP is responsible for getting people off the water safely, but if people are concerned about a navigational hazard, that's where the Coast Guard comes in.”

A solution isn't as simple as dragging the boat back to shore, Summers said.

“At the end of the day, it's like every other boat out here that's sunk – nobody wants to touch it,” Summers explained.

“I can go out and salvage that thing, drag it back to the marina and pick it up with a backhoe, but what am I going to do with it? If I'm pulling it in and say the gas tank ruptures, I'll be into an environmental spill ... As far as I'm concerned somebody in government services should be stepping up to the plate here and getting this thing off the bay, especially if nobody is going to own up to it.”

The Canadian Coast Guard website says failure to report a wreck can carry a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment or both.

Trying to track down the boat's owner has been problematic. Summers said that calls to the number associated with its registration have gone unanswered, and that's not the only issue.

“We have a really crappy registration system here,” Summers said. “People buy boats and never bother to get them re-registered into their name so you never know whose boat is whose out there.”

“Guaranteed there's no insurance on it because in this country and this province you're supposed to have insurance on boats but it's never enforced.”

Summers has been posting pictures of the boat on the Old Cut Marina Facebook page in an attempt to both find the owner and alert others to its location.

“Even sitting where it is right now it's a nautical hazard,” Summers said. “If it gets back into the bay again and some poor son of a gun gets out there at night time, it's a disaster in the making for anybody that's not aware of what's out there.”

Old Cut Marina offers jet ski rentals but at this point, Summers is leery of sending folks into the bay on one until the issue is resolved. He's urging other residents to get involved as well.

“I would say boaters should be getting together and talking to somebody with a little more authority with regards to what's going on down here,” he said.

“It's a nautical hazard any way you look at it.”

jrobinson@postmedia.com