At least 18 derelict boats are sitting on the Kitsap shoreline of Puget Sound, according to a recent count by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
Some have occupants, and others are close to sinking to the bottom of the sea, potentially bringing with them environmentally damaging waste.
The county has fielded numerous calls and complaints about the vessels — which dot the shoreline as far south as Yukon Harbor in South Kitsap to as far north as Apple Tree Cove in Kington.
The county’s list of derelict vessels observed on the shoreline of Puget Sound as of Nov. 26 include:
- A 28-foot sailboat tied to a mooring bay in Sinclair Inlet in front of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard;
- A similar-sized vessel that’s run aground along Tracyton Boulevard;
- A pleasure craft floating south of Jackson Park in Ostrich Bay;
- A blue and white sailboat beached at Silverdale Waterfront Park
- A 27-foot sailboat moored in Dyes Inlet in Silverdale
- A 36-foot motor vessel with a liveaboard that’s run aground in Dyes Inlet in Silverdale
- A blue and white sailboat anchored in Dyes Inlet in Silverdale
- A 34-foot motor vessel run aground at Dyes Inlet in Silverdale that’s accessible from land on Bayshore Drive
- A 20-foot motor vessel sunk in the 1800 block of Jacobson Boulevard in Bremerton
- A 26-foot Chris Craft sunk near the Navy’s Keyport installation.
- A 65-foot tugboat moored in Apple Tree Cove.
- A 32-foot motor vessel aground in Apple Tree Cove.
- A 36-foot sailboat moored off Manchester that endured a recent fire on board.
- A 28-foot vessel that’s run aground in Yukon Harbor.
- A 34-foot motor vessel that’s run aground in Colvoe Passage south of Command Point Road.
Those who call Kitsap 1, a phone number for county services and questions, to report a vessel rotting or run aground are sent to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Troy Wood, DNR derelict vessel program manager, met with Kitsap County commissioners earlier this month, presenting information about DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program, which has removed over 900 vessels from waterways since it was created in 2002.
But the program is only able to respond to those vessels that present the most urgent environmental or safety concerns, Wood said.
Boats needing removal are prioritized into categories: emergency, non-emergency threats, vessels impacting habitat, minor navigation or economic impact or other — such as sunken or floating boats or those trespassing — and abandoned in a boatyard.
That leaves Kitsap County responsible for addressing the boats, unless they’ve run aground in the jurisdiction of a local port or city.
Because the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is the only county department with a boat, it’s been involved with many of the vessels and complaints, the county says.
Though public entities that remove vessels may qualify for removal cost reimbursement through DNR, Kitsap County doesn’t have a revenue stream to do much about the boats, Gelder said.
When DNR does get involved, Wood said there are occasionally people living on the boats who refuse to listen when asked to move the boat or get off the boat and turn it into DNR. Abandonment or dereliction are considered misdemeanors, with the first infraction being a $500 ticket, Wood said.
But criminal penalty is only used as a last resort, he said, and it hasn’t been enforced much. He said there’s a duty to inform owners before taking their property, and there’s a 30-day process before DNR has the right to touch or move it, and another 30 days for the owner to appeal the custody process.
During the meeting, Gelder asked how much is being accomplished through enforcement versus moving the problem around.
“We play whack-a-mole a lot with these vessels,” Wood said. “We have no ability to enforce some things, the Coast Guard does.”
Washington state law defines an abandoned vessel as a vessel that has been left, moored, or anchored in the same area without the express consent of the owner of the aquatic lands below or on which the vessel is located for either a period of more than 30 consecutive days or for more than a total of 90 days in any 365 period. The vessel’s owner is not known, cannot be located or is known but not willing to take control of the vessel.
According to Wood, vessels that sink cost three times more to remove. As of Oct 25, 2021, DNR’s list of vessels of concern contained 281 vessels.
“There’s an awful lot of those vessels out there and not a lot of money to deal with them,” he said.
Prevention is always cheaper than dealing with a derelict vessel after the fact, Wood said, adding that he encourages vessel owners to use the vessel turn-in program where they can turn boats in for free disposal.
DNR has a tool on its website that can report vessels and upload geotagged photos through www.dnr.wa.gov/vessel-reporting.
Boat owner fined for 2019 spill
A boat owner is being fined $13,800 for a spill in December 2019 at the Brownsville Marina that dumped an estimated 38 gallons of diesel and motor oil mix into the Puget Sound, according to an announcement on Dec. 14 by the state Department of Ecology.
The boat was sinking, pulling down docks at the marina, according to a press release. The owner was identified and does not live in-state, and lack of care contributed to the boat’s sinking.
The vessel remained sunk until April 11, 2020, when a company was hired to remove the boat.
“His vessel continued to release fuel oil for weeks while no effort was made to raise the vessel and stop the pollution to state waters,” said Rob Walls, Northwest Region Response Unit Supervisor in Ecology’s Spills Program.
Diesel oil can coat wildlife, impair fish, birds and other creatures and contains carcinogenic compounds that are acutely toxic and can persist in the environment, according to Ecology.