Abandoned sailboats cost taxpayers thousands

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SAN DIEGO -- It’s become a floating nuisance on San Diego waters.

A growing number of sailboats, catamarans and other vessels are being abandoned and its costing taxpayers thousands.

“This one is sinking,” said Lt. John Sandmeyer with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, as he showed us one of the recent arrivals at his makeshift impound yard on Mission Bay waters.

“Someone can’t keep up with the payments, can’t pay for the dock space and they end up just leaving it,” he said about the usual deserters; “another reason is boat owners come in here and are trafficking something illegally, whether its people or drugs, so they’re purposely coming in and abandoning their boats on the shoreline,” Sandmeyer added.

On most occasions, every boat left behind ends up in the hands of SDFRD.

If no one shows up to claim it, it’s up to them to get rid of it.

The agency has tried putting the boats up for sale but that hasn’t proven successful, mainly because the vessels are often left in bad condition.

It’s then on their time and dime to get it out of the water which can cost upwards of about $1,000.

Then, the city pays a contractor more money to recycle it.

“Just last Friday we spent $3,800 on a sailboat,” said the lieutenant.

The agency has seen as many as 40 vessels abandoned costing the city as much as $30,000 to deal with the issue.

Recently the agency was awarded a grant from the California Division of Boating and Waterways worth $60,000 to help it deal with the nagging problem, but given the cost of the nuisance, the money will only go so far.

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