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Abandoned Boat Law Passes - But Not For Pamlico
Update On Oriental Anchorage Issue
July 1, 2013

ome North Carolina counties will be able to get rid of abandoned boats in the waters off of their towns. Last week, the Legislature gave Dare and Brunswick counties the authority to remove boats that, defined by the language in the bill, were abandoned.

In the new law, an abandoned vessel may be defined as one “that is in danger of sinking, has sunk, is resting on the bottom or is located such that it is a hazard to navigation or is an immediate danger to other vessels.”

Now Session Law 2013-182, it stemmed from a “local bill” that went before the Legislature. It applies only to Dare and Brunswick, not to Pamlico county. But it comes as some Oriental area residents — and some who visit here by boat — are suggesting Oriental take more control of its anchorage to prevent abandoned vessels and homesteaders alike.

Long Term Anchorers Deterring Short Term Visitors?

As the calendar flips in to July, three boats have been anchored in Oriental’s anchorage since the beginning of the year. The subject first arose in the Letters to the Editor section at TownDock.net in May. One boat is using the public anchorage as a storage space. Two of the vessels have people living aboard – one of those boats reportedly has a malfunctioning engine and rests on the bottom at least some of the time.

anchorage three
The lineup of three boats that have been in the harbor for months – Primadonna (red), Southern Cross (off-white), The Shire, (pink). Some visiting cruisers say the presence of the long-term anchored boats is shortening their own visits.

To a lot of eyes, the boats anchored long-term violate an unwritten pact in Oriental — the anchorage has traditionally been a place for visiting boaters to drop the hook and visit town, sometimes for a night, sometimes for a few weeks. Until recent years, there’s not been a need for any stated limits on anchoring.

But some visiting boaters say they’ve shortened their stays in Oriental because of wariness about anchoring near the three boats that appear to be homesteading. One concern is possible collision: at least one of the boats uses multiple anchors which keep it from swinging in sync with other boats when the wind shifts. Some cruisers are said to be bypassing our town altogether – rather than travel the 2 miles off the ICW only to find no safe room in deep enough water in the anchorage.

Oriental’s anchorage one afternoon in early June when a storm brought 51 mile an hour winds. The long-term anchored sailboat Southern Cross (off-white hull with bow pointed to the camera) spilled diesel after it broke from its anchor and went aground in the shallower waters behind the line formed by itself, the red boat, at left and the pink boat at right. The space in front of that line would put other anchored boats close to the navigation channel used by trawlers.

A month in to hurricane season, another concern arises. Two of the boats have already broken free of their anchors in storms this year; would they present a risk to structures or other boats on the harbor should they break free in a storm surge or hurricane force winds? (There was a precursor to this two years ago with another boat that was seemingly abandoned by its owner in Oriental’s harbor. It was moved to Adams Creek in advance of Hurricane Irene, whose eventual storm surge left it high and dry up on the shore.)

Harbor & Waterfronts Committee Chair: Overstaying Vessels Not Our Job

When the Town’s Harbor and Waterfronts committee met last week, its chair, Town Commissioner Barbara Venturi, said it wasn’t the panel’s job to take on the issue of boats overextending their stay, nor problems with derelict boats, nor pollution problems. The Committee instead drew up a survey to ask the public what features it wanted to see on the harbor. (That survey work has drawn some criticism from those who say the issue of the moment is the anchorage and pollution.)

In heavy winds in early June in Oriental’s anchorage, the SV Primadonna, heeled over on bottom as low waters beset the harbor. Primadonna is one of three boats that have been anchored in the harbor since the beginning of the year; in another blow this winter, it broke free from its anchor and bore down on the Oriental bridge before a line was tossed from the face dock at Oriental Harbor Marina. (Behind Primadonna in this photo, a visiting boat that anchored near or in the navigation channel that morning.)

Most members of the audience who spoke at the Harbor and Waterfronts Committee meeting returned over and over to the anchorage question. As the meeting was ending, committee member David White volunteered to look in to the matter and report to Venturi and Town Commissioner Larry Summers for possible action by the Town Board.

Also in the audience was Duke Law professor emeritus and local resident Michael Tigar who offered the Town the services of some Duke Law students who could research the pollution laws. And Torrey Neal, an Oriental resident, said he’d share the Bainbridge Island (Washington) harbor plan which he helped write about 15-20 years ago.

Options For Oriental Anchorage: A Gray Area

In the meantime, as the Oriental Anchorage issue simmers, TownDock.net has been investigating what options the Town might have.

Faced with this dilemma of wanting to be welcoming to all boaters but not have some repel others, there’ve been suggestions that the town install a mooring field in the anchorage. Some though, are wary of moorings, saying they’d deter cruisers who just want a free — and relatively temporary — place to anchor. With moorings also come questions — how would fees be collected? would the Town have to hire and pay a harbormaster? It has also been noted that moorings would also require maintenance and would present liability.

Separately, some have suggested the Town impose a time limit for anchoring — allowing boats to anchor up to two weeks or a month. There is precedent for this – the Town already limits stays at the Town Dock where boats are not supposed to remain longer than 48 hours.

But away from the Town Dock, and out on the water, the idea of setting a time limit for anchoring appears to be uncharted territory in North Carolina. It’s not ruled out, necessarily, but the search is on for precedents. TownDock.net is aiming to publish a fuller review laying out the possible channels the Town might navigate.

Readers who want to share input are welcome to write in to letters@towndock.net or to info@towndock.net


The law the Legislature passed last week concerned abandoned vessels in Dare and Brunswick County and was tacked on to an existing law that governs how those counties may deal with abandoned vehicles. Click here to read the full law – formerly HB 294 now Session Law 2013-182.

Posted Monday July 1, 2013 by Melinda Penkava

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