Five sunken boats and big pieces of three others were pulled from the depths around Oak Bay Marina over the weekend — drawing cheers from crowds on the docks and shore as some of the wreckage emerged.
Divers and crews aboard two barges with cranes worked for three days to remove all of the sunken vessels in the large bay, according to the Dead Boats Society. An underwater survey by Oak Bay Marina had identified the wrecks.
Dead Boats Society spokesman Wesley Roe said it was a difficult job, because divers had to place lifting straps under the vessels, many of which were submerged in deep sediment, to securely remove them.
The salvaged vessels included 45- and 50-foot sailboats, including one that had burned a decade ago, a pair of 24-footers and a power boat.
The wreckage was loaded onto barges operated by Salish Sea Industrial Services, a partnership of the Songhees First Nation and Ralmax Group of Companies, and taken to Ralmax’s Point Hope Maritime yard, where it will be dismantled for any salvageable goods and the hulls will be tested for composition and proper disposal.
The same companies picked 10 boats out of the water last winter at nearby Cadboro Bay, some underwater and others partially submerged or on shore.
Roe said sunken and leaking boats can cause significant damage to the environment and sea life, adding incentives are needed to encourage owners with declining boats to pull them out “before we have to pick them out of the water.”
The Songhees Nation has contracts with the provincial government to remove up to 100 derelict boats. Victoria-based Dead Boats Society identifies the vessels under federal contracts, and governments disperse funding to companies like Salish Sea Industrial to remove them.
Roe said crews are heading up to the Comox area next to remove derelict boats, but the arrival in early November depends on tides and weather, as well as the location and condition of the vessels identified.
The companies may also scoop some vessels at Cowichan Bay.