Opinion Columns & Blogs

Ye who abandon ship: Label them

In the final tally, it’s a puzzle and a problem: People who abandon their kayaks, canoes and small sailboats at Cuesta Inlet in Los Osos.

For the past two years, a group of some 200 volunteers rallying under the banner of Celebrate Los Osos have tagged, towed away or tried to find the owners of these orphan boats.

Their first cleanup effort in 2010 involved 286 vessels.

Yet by the following year, more boats showed up — and were tagged or towed.

This Saturday, Celebrate Los Osos will once again sally forth in dealing with about 100 vessels in what is now being called “boat creep.”

The problem is that Cuesta Inlet is one of the few intertidal areas in the state of California that’s privately owned. The State Lands Commission owns almost all of the land under the state’s tidal/intertidal waters. The inlet is an exception. And therein lies the rub. Although Celebrate Los Osos has erected four signs indicating that the inlet isn’t publicly owned, there’s still a misconception that the area is a public park.

So, if you’ve got a kayak, canoe or some other vessel sitting at the inlet, here’s the deal: The owners of the property don’t mind if you want to store your boat on their property; however, they do want your boat to have current registration and/or a way to contact you. Pretty simple, really.

Owner contact information should include your name and a contact number. This info should be placed in a plastic baggie and duct-taped to the hull.

The reason for this is that when a boat is left below the high-tide level, and a 6-foot tide rolls in, those boats end up scattered around the bay. For enlightened self-interest alone, you’d think that a person would like to know that his or her boat has been recovered.

A caveat here: Don’t use Magic Marker to write the information on the hull; the elements will quickly fade the info into oblivion.

As to boat registration, here’s the drill: All vessels must be registered except boats that are manually propelled; sailboats of 8 feet or shorter; boats from outside of the state that are registered in their home states; and sailboards.

And, finally, absolutely no trailers are allowed to be stored on the property.

If you don’t have contact information and/or a state license, if applicable, the boat will be tagged this Saturday and will be removed after 60 days under County Code Section 8.24, which allows “abatement and removal as a public nuisance of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled and inoperative” vessels. You could also be on the hook for the costs to remove your boat, if it should come to that.

If you like using Cuesta Inlet to launch your small boat and want to leave it there for convenience’s sake, permanently affix your contact information on it. Problem solved.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com.