Boat Graveyard

When we were stuck in Bellingham with the exhaust system blues, we had a day to play a bit while waiting for the welder to finish his work. It happens we were fairly close to the used sailboat wrecking yard in Bellingham. It sounded like a good way to spend some hours, so off we went.

The owner, Jeff, has an interesting business idea. He takes derelict sailboats off the hands of marinas and others who need a place for them to go, cuts the keels off, and recycles the lead in the keel. He does a brisk business in recycled lead. If a boat is in good enough condition, he might repair it, clean it up, and sell it to someone who will use it.

The rest of the boat gets cut up and the fiberglass ground up to be recycled. Before the boats go to their final rest people can climb around on them looking for useful parts. This is the fun part for anyone who loves crawling around boats, which I do, by the way. Most of the boats are small because Jeff doesn’t have a way to move larger boats. So I didn’t find any useful items for Galapagos. But it was a fun way to spend a few hours in the blistering heat.

We spent a couple of hours listening to Jeff’s stories about the boats resting in what feels to me more like an old boat graveyard than a wrecking yard. Most of the stories will make you want to weep. There’s the one about the guy who worked at Boeing as an engineer, then bought a boat when he retired so he could go sailing, then died. That one hits a little close to the bone. Then there are the boats whose owners die because they are old, and they haven’t been able to care for the boat in many years. It’s always sad to see a boat that is neglected in her slip. Jeff said people just get used to paying the marina fees so they don’t really think about selling the boat to someone who might love it and care for it.

You’d think that with all these stories about failures to launch, death before sailing, and complete neglect that the place would be a downer. But it wasn’t. It was really interesting, kind of like visiting an old graveyard. And it’s a great place to learn about how sailboats are built.

The only downer is that it might not exist after August 1.  Some business man from Russia has bought the place, allegedly hoping to cash in on the new marijuana laws. Sheesh. The boat yard has to move, and Jeff is having trouble finding a place in Bellingham that can accommodate his need for both a shop and a yard.

Considering the number of derelict boats that the state has to worry about, it seems like this would be a big loss to the boating community. We hope he is successful in moving the business. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon, especially if you have a small boat, and especially if you like listening to stories.junglerides







18 thoughts on “Boat Graveyard

    • I can think of a few around here as well. Maybe someone in your neck of the woods needs to take this idea and run with it.

  1. We missed you by a day. We went back up to scavenge more parts from that wrecked catalina 34. Jeff is an interesting guy for sure.

    • That Catalina was one that never should have been wrecked to begin with. It was a nice boat that ended up on the rocks.

  2. Fingers crossed he finds a new home that will work. I always find the stories of those who buy boats but never get the chance to use them inspirational. Its a kick in the butt to get going NOW.

  3. Keep us posted on your exhaust rebuild. You have ascended into the premier sailing blog. I read it daily before starting work (and while mooning about going sailing). Thanks, Don

    • Oh we will not fail to report back! We’ve been in touch with the owners of the sister ship and they have sent photos of their setup. Now if only working for a living would get out of the way we could get this show on the road. Stay tuned. I know. It’s a real cliffhanger!

  4. Looks a lot like the type of work I was thinking about doing when I retire from the military. 🙂

    Just need to get my first dozen boats. 😀

    • It could be a profitable enterprise. The states and marinas have terrible time with these old boats. If you could streamline the process of breaking the hulls down into usable material, you would have a real advantage.

    • Jeff said some of these boats actually don’t cost him anything. People just need a place to dump them. They are surprised he isn’t going to charge him for removing them !

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