The old shrimp boat, which is being kept afloat by electric pumps, was towed away from the Augusta Riverfront Marina in September to make way for the ESi Ironman Triathlon.
Stacy, who operates the marina under contract with the Augusta Ports Authority, said Ironman officials were afraid the vessel would sink in its slip and create a potential hazard for swimmers in the race.
Stacy said the owner was behind on rent anyway, so he had it towed down the Savannah River to be moored behind the marina warehouse. Efforts to persuade the owner, Ray Thompkins, to take it away have been unsuccessful, Stacy said.
“We sent him a letter and kindly asked him get his property out of the marina,” he said. “We really don’t want it back. It is old and it is ugly.”
As the marina operator, Stacy said he has limited power in getting old boats out of the water or even away from Augusta, but he has been trying. Since this summer, he has pulled two old vessels out of the water. The last one was
a house boat dubbed “Sweet Caroline” that sank in its slip in August.
Stacy and his crew are working to refurbish that vessel at the owner’s expense to make it seaworthy. Another boat abandoned by the owner is expected to be scrapped, he said.
Stacy has been working to eliminate such derelict old boats from the marina and bring in newer, better quality vessels, with owners who are more responsible, he said.
He said an ordinance that addressed the issue would help greatly. As it is now, he has to take owners to court to demand payment for unpaid fees or for expenses incurred to remove the boats. He doesn’t want to seize such vessels, even if a court would allow it.
“That can be expensive,” he said. “It will cost thousands of dollars to get a crane to pull that boat out.”
Wayne Hawkins, the chairman of the Ports Authority, said there have been discussions about creating an ordinance addressing derelict vessels, but nothing has been authored yet.
“We’ve talked about it, but getting the city legal department to do something is like pulling teeth,” he said.
Hawkins said the Ports Authority doesn’t have a budget for removing such boats and doesn’t have any specific powers to compel boat owners to comply with marina regulations. The most that can be done is ask them to leave or tow their boats to the public docks, officials said.
Stacy said that just moves the problem, it doesn’t eliminate it.
Frank Carl, another authority member, said an ordinance is needed because the other agencies with legal standing, such as the Coast Guard
and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, have no funding or incentive to take action against boat owners.
“If the city could pass an ordinance like that, it would prevent a lot of passing the buck that we have seen over the years,” Carl said.
Until that time, Stacy said he will keep doing what he can to improve the marina and move the old boats out.
“It’s important to us that the marina looks good because it is right in the center of Augusta,” he said. “We are trying to make things better.”