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