Deep six those derelict boats

Published 6:13 am Sunday, June 10, 2007

By Staff
A week ago, a derelict sailboat — one that’s well-known to many area boaters who visit Washington — somehow made its way up the Pamlico River toward the U.S. Highway 17 bridge, making itself a hazard to boating traffic on the river and posing a danger of damage to the bridge.
With the likelihood of more and more boats traveling or anchoring in the waters off Washington’s waterfront, the recent voyage of the derelict sailboat is proof the city should pursue establishing mooring fields in those waters to prevent similar occurrences. The city also should consider adopting an ordinance that would allow it to remove abandoned vessels from the river so they don’t pose hazards to boaters and structures along the waterfront.
Any boat that’s unattended or not under command, for whatever reason, shouldn’t be allowed to float on the river where it can collide with moving vessels, anchored vessels or docked vessels. Boaters who travel to and fro along Washington’s waterfront deserve some assurance their boats won’t be damaged or destroyed by vessels that are not properly anchored, boats drifting because their anchor chains are broken or vessels that have not been properly tied up at the docks.
As boating and boaters become more and more prevalent along the waterfront and part of the city’s economy, it would behoove the city to make sure Washington is considered a place where boaters’ vessels are protected instead of being subjected to being targets of drifting derelicts.
In April, the Planning Board decided to establish a subcommittee to explore strategies for placing mooring fields in the Pamlico River off the city’s waterfront. In light of the recent voyage of the derelict sailboat, perhaps that subcommittee should look at developing an ordinance that would address derelict vessels and forward it to the City Council for its consideration and, hopefully, adoption.
The Planning Board also determined that if the city chooses to install mooring fields in the river, a harbor commission should be in charge of the mooring fields. The existing Recreation Advisory Board could serve in the capacity, board members said.
The Planning Board is right. It’s showing it recognizes that boating is becoming more and more important to the city. The board wants to get a handle on any potential boating-related problems before the boating-related problems get a hold of the city.
The Planning Board wants to act instead of react. That’s good for the city and boaters.
Bill Sykes, a boater who keeps his catamaran anchored in the river and a city property owner, said a mooring field would give the city more control over boats moored in the river than boats riding at anchor. Federal law allows boats to anchor anywhere in water except in navigational channels. Boats using city-owned mooring fields would be regulated by the city, Sykes noted.
During storms, moorings are much safer than fixed docks, other mooring-field proponents said. Some proponents recommended a private-public mix of mooring fields.
Sounds like excellent advice for the city to consider and act upon.