Fix up abandoned boats for next generation

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To the Editor:

In the form of carcasses in the weeds behind various town beaches and common shorelines, and in the incidence of kids who might be still happier if they had a boat as a friend, there is good reason to begin a small program to recycle and refloat abandoned hulls. I write to suggest a possible outline.

Each year on New Year’s Day (or just thereafter in case of really bad weather), an abandoned small craft pickup event would be held. Boats that a reasonable person would say are abandoned on the public or common shores would be collected and lined up on a lot on or near to the Sail Martha’s Vineyard fixit headquarters. (A reasonable and legal set of rules regarding abandonment as well as further guidelines would be applied to the collection. For example, if there is a legible name and address or phone number of a living person on the hull, the boat would be considered still owned by her. This is like the informal rule for river running, which says that even if it floats alone downstream, if your name is on it, it is still yours. She might get a phone call asking for a donation, but we’re definitely not taking her boat away unilaterally.)

The boats would repose for a month where assembled. This to further insure against any mistake, and have a chance to clean them up a bit and assess. That which is really just garbage would go to the MV Refuse District, which would take the material upon “charitable organization beach cleanup” terms.

In late winter, Sail MV would hold a “hands-on tutorial day” on small boat repair: how to use epoxy, fix gelcoat, put in an inspection port, or bed a cleat. With guidance: Wear a respirator when sanding, gloves when using the sticky stuff … Anyone who wanted to could come.

During the month of March, Sail MV would accept requests to become the new owner of a boat. A request could be made by anyone. The requestor would be expected to say a little bit about him or herself, show that a little bit of thought had been given to fixing up and using the boat, in essence that this pound puppy would go to a good home.

April 1, boats would be transferred to new owners, the thought being that thereby more kids that summer could spend time sailing a Sunfish on one of the ponds or conducting dinghy explorations along the tideline or be part of a family sailing out to the beach.

An amount of organizing needs to be done to put such a program in place. Sail MV people need to be persuaded, and to choose members and volunteers to do the work involved collecting, demonstrating repair, receiving requests. A small group of local lawyers probably should get together to write a model bylaw that could be adopted at town meetings, articulating the town’s claim on property abandoned on town land and appointing a charitable organization (Sail MV or another if later chosen at meeting) to take it over and redistribute it locally. But, upon some consideration of the matter this Thanksgiving, something like this, which cares, helps, overcomes inertia, and, one hopes, isn’t too heavily bureaucratic, feels like a good thing to do.

Benjamin Reeve
West Tisbury