Dozens of volunteers hit Cadboro Bay Beach to clean up derelict boats

Garbage from derelict boats filled a large blue bin parked at Cadboro Bay Beach on Saturday as volunteers hauled refuse from the shoreline.

An Oak Bay municipal tractor with a trailer accompanied more than 40 volunteers to the south end of the beach, where abandoned vessels were lodged in the sand and bushes.

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“We have done as much as we can without an influx of cash,” volunteer Jerry Donaldson said.

Saturday’s effort, concentrated on the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay, was co-ordinated by the Cadboro Bay Residents Association and the Veins of Life Watershed Society. The Capital Regional District contributed $4,000.

Landfill tipping fees are expected to come to about $2,700.

Debris in and around the boats was collected by volunteers with sharpened shovels for digging in the sand and other equipment.

“At last count, there were about 14 boats — big ones and small ones,” said Eric Dahli, of the residents association. “It gets as big as a 36-foot, steel hull, former houseboat, down to rowboats in the bush.”

All the boats are derelict.

“We, with the Veins of Life Watershed Society, have taken ownership through the Registrar of Wreck,” Dahli said.

The groups estimate another $10,000 is needed to finish the job.

The plan is to have Sea Tow pull the boats off the beach and take them to the nearby Royal Victoria Yacht Club. From there, Ralmax would take the vessels away via flatbed trucks for dismantling, he said.

At one point this spring, 16 derelict boats littered the Oak Bay side of the beach, but some were removed.

Abandoned and unsafe vessels and wrecks are under overlapping federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions, depending on the tide lines.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has said he tried to persuade B.C. cabinet ministers in recent years to take responsibility for the situation.

Area residents — like many along B.C.’s coastline — are frustrated with vessels being abandoned near their homes and spoiling views and have been pushing for action. They worry about pollution and the possibility of children climbing on the boats and being hurt, and say the vessels are unsightly.

One man said an abandoned houseboat caught fire near the foot of his property.

On Saturday, volunteers found barnacle-encrusted tires weighed down with concrete. Thick old ropes and chunks of plastic were piled into the bin. Rotten cushions, Styrofoam, glass shards, beer cans, old clothes and twisted and rusted pieces of metal were hauled away, too.

“There was a lot of nasty stuff” on the beach, said volunteer Dave Lynn. Workers pulled refuse out of bushes and used a grinder to cut railings on an abandoned boat.

All ages turned out. Oak Bay Coun. Eric Zhelka brought daughter Noelle, 12. “This is our beach, too,” he said. “This is a community effort.”

— With files from Katherine Dedyna

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