Batten down the hatches! Winter storms are on the way

neglected sailboat
This neglected sailboat broke free from its buoy and ended up beached and destroyed after a winter storm. Photo: DNR

Drenching rain and ferocious winds are forecast for this week. Remember to properly secure vessels so they don’t end up adrift. Double check mooring is secured; remove gas tanks and other chemicals not in use; mark down contact information on the boat, make sure covers are securely fastened.

DNR’s Derelict Vessels program frequently spends the first few days following big storms chasing down boats that broke free from their moorage or sank as rains got into unsecured covers.

Not only is this a problem for boat owners whose craft are now severely damaged, but these storm-damaged vessels also threaten the health of underwater habitat that is vital to so many sensitive species. Boats that break off moorage lines or fill with rainwater can leak oil, gas or other hazardous materials into the waters.

That can lead to stiff fines, in addition to the wrecked boats and recovery costs. The owner of a derelict or abandoned vessel is responsible for reimbursing the authorized public entity for all costs associated with the removal and disposal of that vessel.

Since DNR instituted the derelict vessel program in 2002, more than 580 abandoned or neglected vessels have been removed from Washington waterways.

Our partner agencies, too, are typically busy recovering lost boats after storms. The Washington Department of Ecology mobilizes response teams to clean up spilled chemicals. The U.S. Coast Guard treats every adrift vessel as a search and rescue situation.


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