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Sailing the Green Mile

Every marina has them — neglected boats covered with green gunge and bottoms so foul that they could be declared their own ecosystems. But what happens when the owners stop paying their moorage? Besides being eyesores, these abandoned boats cost local marinas thousands of dollars — not only in lost revenue but also in labor to keep them afloat, file lien requests and, after months (if not years), sell the boat at auction.

These boats – including the Catalina 30 in the foreground – sold for a song at a recent lien sale auction.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One such auction happened recently at Berkeley Marina, with 10 boats on the block. Harbormaster Ann Rial Hardinger reports that eight of the boats — which owed on average $2,500 each — sold, some for the opening bid of $250. "We never make back what we’re owed," Hardinger said, "but at least we can rent the slip again." Hardinger said most lien sale boats are in the 25-ft range but a Catalina 30 in the latest auction sold for $1,150! Of course, these boats are not for the faint of heart . . . or wallet — they’ve typically been neglected for so long that it’ll cost thousands of hours and dollars to get them back in good shape again. "There’s nothing I like better than to see one of these boats brought back to her original beauty," said Hardinger.

Lien boats go through two auction cycles at Berkeley Marina, then, if no one buys them and no donation program wants them, they’re sent to that big bay in the sky. As part of the Department of Boating & Waterway’s Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Program, San Rafael Yacht Harbor receives dozens of derelict boats to destroy every year, including this line-up from Berekely. "Those had already gone through the process twice and had been here 2-3 years," noted Hardinger.

A line-up of 10 junkers on their way from Berkeley Marina to an appointment with the wrecking ball.

latitude/John A.
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Hardinger recommends that if you find yourself falling behind in your moorage payments, talk with the harbormaster about a payment plan. If you just can’t afford it anymore, try to sell the boat or donate it to one of many charities. "Whatever they do," she said, "act before we have to put a lien on it."

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We had a feeling folks would be eager to join our inaugural Delta Doo Dah — the laid-back rally to the Delta that we announced in the March issue of Latitude 38 and in Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude — but the response has been tremendous!