The party's over for this derelict pleasure boat Schooner is DNR's latest quarry

December 01, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A metal, clam-shell shovel crashed through the rotting deck of the derelict schooner, closed and pulled away the rotting debris.

Splinter by splinter, the 60-foot boat, which had sunk in Anne Arundel's Rock Creek a year ago, was dismantled yesterday. Its final voyage to the Millersville landfill is slated for later this week.

Bob Orem, an official with the state Department of Natural Resources who supervised the demolition, cringed a little every time the heavy shovel tore into the custom-built, handcrafted hull.

"It's too bad, because someone went to a lot of trouble building that boat," Mr. Orem said, watching the wrecking crew work from a pier at the mouth of Tar Cove.

But it's not unusual, particularly in Anne Arundel County. The county accounts for 65 percent of the 200 derelict boats removed from state waters every year, said Bob Maddox, chief of marine services and grants for the DNR. Baltimore County accounts for another 25 percent.

Anne Arundel -- which has 432 miles of shoreline, more than any other county -- is home to more registered boats than other jurisdictions, Mr. Maddox said.

Ironically, while the Chesapeake Bay struggles to produce aquatic grasses, oysters and blue crabs, a new crop of abandoned vessels flourishes every winter, Mr. Maddox said.

Under the state's Abandoned Boat Act, watercraft are considered derelict if they have been left without permission at a municipal dock or boat ramp for 30 days or more, Mr. Maddox said, or on private property for six months or more.

Those boats pose an environmental as well as navigational hazard, Mr. Maddox said. Almost all boats, even sailing vessels, have generators that can spill fuel, oil and other chemicals into the water.

In a sweep of Curtis Bay, Stony Creek and Rock Creek two years ago, the DNR and an Army Reserve unit used a "monster floating crane" to pull 80 derelicts from the water in "one fell swoop," Mr. Maddox said.

"Unfortunately, it's a replenishing asset," he said. "Some of the creeks and isolated back waters seem to generate these things."

Almost all boats being taken from the water are 1950s- and 1960s-vintage cabin cruisers and pleasure boats, whose maintenance costs now exceed their value, Mr. Maddox said. "The owners a lot of times just walk away from it with a catch-me-if-you-can attitude," he said.

If the state does catch them, they could face up to six months in jail and fines. The state also can bill them for the cost of removing the vessel.

But the state does have trouble identifying some boats' owners. The boats often have been stripped of registration and model numbers along with any valuables by the owners or vandals. When that happens, the cleanup is financed through boat registration fees. "The same people who create the problem are paying to remove it," Mr. Maddox said.

Michael Kinsley, general manager of White Rocks Yachting Center, told DNR officials the schooner in Tar Cove had been stripped and abandoned at the end of the marina's pier last November. When White Rocks officials found it was sinking, they moved it to a shallow area of Tar Cove.

State records show William Glen Wooten Jr. of Aberdeen received probation before judgment on July 14 for abandoning the schooner. District Judge Michael Loney also ordered him to serve one year of unsupervised probation and pay a $500 fine plus court costs. He suspended $300 of the fine. Yesterday's demolition cost about $2,500. Mr. Maddox said the state would order Mr. Wooten to repay that amount.

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