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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesEarl-Damaged Boats to Soon Be Off V.I. Beaches

Earl-Damaged Boats to Soon Be Off V.I. Beaches

When Hurricane Earl washed Scott Nye’s 36-foot sailboat onto the beach at Water Island, he didn’t only lose a source of recreation; the boat was also his home.

Nye’s boat was not alone. For several weeks, the 20-year-old Columbia sailing vessel laid at a 45-degree angle, joining about a dozen other boats that Earl damaged in the waters of St. Thomas, Water and Hassel islands and around St. John.

The V.I. government has contracted with Sea Tow, a marine assistance company, to move boats off the beach. Last Thursday Nye got lucky, when Sea Tow got the go-ahead to get his boat back in the water.

But the luck didn’t last long enough for other boats, as Sea Tow was told to stand down, according to Sea Tow’s Capt. Alan Wentworth.

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The stand-down order came from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes, who said that VITEMA had notified him of its concerns about being reimbursed by the federal government.

Mathes said in a recent telephone interview that the project will get back under way within about a week and a half.

It took over three weeks for the federal government to name Hurricane Earl a disaster area, which triggers federal aid. Federal funds can supplement V.I. government monies earmarked to help remove abandoned boats from the beach.

Although the federal funds were not released until the end of the month, on Sept. 24 the V.I. government gave official notice for boat owners to rectify the problem, and get their property off the beach or out of the water.

This notice gives owners fair warning that their boats are going to be moved. The move isn’t a courtesy to the boat owners—there is a charge associated, and those who don’t pay can lose their boat without any compensation.

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding removal of abandoned boats. In reality and practice, removal of boats from the beach is a lot like removing abandoned cars from the road. The cost of removing the property is the owner’s responsibility. When the owner can’t or won’t pay, the property is forfeited. Any value that can be gotten out of the property can be used to reimburse the cost of the tow.

This comes as a surprise to many boat owners, according to Austin Callwood, DPNR’s director of environmental enforcement.

“[They have] a perception that the government is going to buy people’s boats,” Callwood said. “People really believe that they are entitled to compensation because their boat was damaged or destroyed.”

“We give them the opportunity to come and collect their property,” Callwood said.

As for Nye, Earl wasn’t his first hurricane; he has made it through hurricanes Marilyn, Bertha and Georges with various boats.

“I was on three anchors,” Nye said of his experience with Earl. “I had been in that area for quite a while and had sat through 50-knot winds there. I was actually feeling pretty good, but then again I had only expected a Cat-1 storm.”

“Generally I either go south or go north,” Nye said. “I know it’s a dice roll.

Assessing the outcome from Earl, Nye said that he probably should have reacted faster and hightailed it for Vieques or Culebra.

“That was my battle plan in the beginning; I probably should have just motored over there,” Nye said. “There are always lessons learned, it’s the advice they give in all the books, ‘Don’t dilly dally, go do something.’ We all make the same mistakes."

Speaking of getting his boat back in the water, Nye had nothing but kudos for Sea Tow. “They had all the bells and whistles,” Nye said. “They had lift bags and crash pumps and had four of their boats out.”

For now, Nye is pleased with the fact that there was very little damage to the boat and that he can now move back aboard after staying with a friend since the hurricane.

“I’m floating!" Nye said excitedly. "I am trying to clean up the mess, trying to move back aboard.”

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When Hurricane Earl washed Scott Nye’s 36-foot sailboat onto the beach at Water Island, he didn’t only lose a source of recreation; the boat was also his home.

Nye’s boat was not alone. For several weeks, the 20-year-old Columbia sailing vessel laid at a 45-degree angle, joining about a dozen other boats that Earl damaged in the waters of St. Thomas, Water and Hassel islands and around St. John.

The V.I. government has contracted with Sea Tow, a marine assistance company, to move boats off the beach. Last Thursday Nye got lucky, when Sea Tow got the go-ahead to get his boat back in the water.

But the luck didn’t last long enough for other boats, as Sea Tow was told to stand down, according to Sea Tow’s Capt. Alan Wentworth.

The stand-down order came from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes, who said that VITEMA had notified him of its concerns about being reimbursed by the federal government.

Mathes said in a recent telephone interview that the project will get back under way within about a week and a half.

It took over three weeks for the federal government to name Hurricane Earl a disaster area, which triggers federal aid. Federal funds can supplement V.I. government monies earmarked to help remove abandoned boats from the beach.

Although the federal funds were not released until the end of the month, on Sept. 24 the V.I. government gave official notice for boat owners to rectify the problem, and get their property off the beach or out of the water.

This notice gives owners fair warning that their boats are going to be moved. The move isn’t a courtesy to the boat owners—there is a charge associated, and those who don’t pay can lose their boat without any compensation.

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding removal of abandoned boats. In reality and practice, removal of boats from the beach is a lot like removing abandoned cars from the road. The cost of removing the property is the owner’s responsibility. When the owner can’t or won’t pay, the property is forfeited. Any value that can be gotten out of the property can be used to reimburse the cost of the tow.

This comes as a surprise to many boat owners, according to Austin Callwood, DPNR's director of environmental enforcement.

“[They have] a perception that the government is going to buy people’s boats,” Callwood said. “People really believe that they are entitled to compensation because their boat was damaged or destroyed.”

“We give them the opportunity to come and collect their property,” Callwood said.

As for Nye, Earl wasn’t his first hurricane; he has made it through hurricanes Marilyn, Bertha and Georges with various boats.

“I was on three anchors,” Nye said of his experience with Earl. “I had been in that area for quite a while and had sat through 50-knot winds there. I was actually feeling pretty good, but then again I had only expected a Cat-1 storm.”

“Generally I either go south or go north,” Nye said. “I know it’s a dice roll.

Assessing the outcome from Earl, Nye said that he probably should have reacted faster and hightailed it for Vieques or Culebra.

“That was my battle plan in the beginning; I probably should have just motored over there,” Nye said. “There are always lessons learned, it’s the advice they give in all the books, ‘Don’t dilly dally, go do something.’ We all make the same mistakes."

Speaking of getting his boat back in the water, Nye had nothing but kudos for Sea Tow. “They had all the bells and whistles,” Nye said. “They had lift bags and crash pumps and had four of their boats out.”

For now, Nye is pleased with the fact that there was very little damage to the boat and that he can now move back aboard after staying with a friend since the hurricane.

“I’m floating!" Nye said excitedly. "I am trying to clean up the mess, trying to move back aboard.”