As the Florida economy continues to sink faster than the Titanic, local boat owners are saying "bon voyage" to their ships, ditching their expensive vessels to try to cut costs.
A shipwreck used to be the act of mother nature or a careless ship captain, but more and more boat owners are illegally dumping their dinghys along coasts and in inlets as the costs of maintaining them becomes too much.
And now officials throughout the country are taking measures to make sure these owners who abandon ship get punished.
“Our waters have become dumping grounds,” Maj. Paul R. Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the New York Times. “It’s got to the point where something has to be done.”
The abandoned boats are causing all sorts of problems in the waters of Florida and elsewhere. They leak toxic chemicals and pose dangers to other vessels and people when they come loose.
While some owners simply want the boat to go away, others are deliberately destroying the boats to collect on insurance claims.
Florida officials told the Times they are starting to unclog the local inlets, harbors, swamps and rivers of the boats as they track down the deadbeat owners. The state removed 118 derelicts this summer, compared with just a handful last year.
Lt. David Dipre, who runs the state’s derelict vessel program, said most of the owners he tracked down basically gave up on their expensive toys.
“They say, ‘I had a dream of sailing around the world, I just never got around to it.’ Then they have some bad times and they leave it to someone else to clean up the mess,” Dipre said.