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Suspicious fire on beached boat stokes emotions on Salt Spring

Emotions are running high on Salt Spring Island after a suspicious fire Wednesday night aboard an old concrete catamaran beached at Ganges Harbour.
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A catamaran that had been beached for several weeks burns in Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.

Emotions are running high on Salt Spring Island after a suspicious fire Wednesday night aboard an old concrete catamaran beached at Ganges Harbour.

Salt Spring RCMP said the cause of the fire is not yet known, but fire investigators with the Island District General Investigation Section are treating it as suspicious.

Salt Spring Fire Chief Arjuna George said firefighters arrived just after 8:20 p.m. to find the houseboat engulfed in flames.

“We attacked it from the parking lot adjacent to the harbour,” George said. “Once it was extinguished, we did a primary search but did not find anyone inside.”

The wood-on-concrete boat, named the Castle Finn, has suffered extensive damage, George said.

It’s not know what will happen to the houseboat now. A number of agencies will have to determine what the next step is, said the fire chief.

The houseboat has been a source of contention for several weeks. People in the community have complained that the boat is an eyesore.

Police were called to the boat several times because of complaints about parties being held on it.

The Castle Finn hit a rock during a November storm. When it began to sink, the coast guard and a marine rescue company towed it to shore for repairs.

On Jan. 21, a public appeal was posted on the Salt Spring Exchange asking members of the community to help move the Castle Finn from the beach to refloat it during the highest tides of the year.

Last week, people tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the heavy boat by using cables attached to a dump truck, digging troughs in the harbour floor, using blasting materials under the hull and using floats and barrels.

In a Facebook post Jan. 22, owner Jay Seagrave said he had been cleared by the coast guard to repair the boat where it was beached.

“We were given no other choice than to rest it where it is now. It has to remain there, as we undergo repairs,” he wrote.

“As a vessel in distress we will do all that is necessary to protect Castle Finn while it is undergoing repairs. This includes 24-hour surveillance. … We need to be constantly [vigilant].”

The boat had been spray-painted with signs saying “Stop the Abuse” and “Stay off My Boat.”

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call the RCMP at 250-537-5555 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

ldickson@timescolonist.com