A SHORT STORY
Throw Away Boats
If you travel a lot, especially if you are a cruise enthusiast, you will on occasion come across ship and boat wrecks either grounded or in shallow water. They seem to garner more attention than wrecked and abandoned cars on land. Maybe there is something more intriguing or romantic about ship wrecks because they seem to recall huge tragedies or great seafaring legends. It’s unlikely you’ll find a story titled The Wreck Of The 66 Oldsmobile, but there are accounts that live on about the Andrea Doria, Rubin James, Titanic, Edmond Fitzgerald and more.
On a recent stop in Montevideo, Uruguay we came across what looked like a ship graveyard, right in the middle of the harbor. Derelict fishing boats, tugs and even larger freighters and tankers were left in the harbor, making for a very strange sight. Seeing this surprising, large collection of half sunk, rusting, and abandoned boats and ships in the center of this city’s working harbor raised a number of questions. Who abandoned them and why? How long have they been here? What is anybody doing about them?
Abandoned boats are not a problem unique to Uruguay and we often encounter ships wrecked along coasts, unable to be moved or salvaged. Even in the U.S. you’ll find abandoned boats, usually left on remote and rarely used channels or in out of the way bays. The largest location in the U.S. is the Staten Island, New York graveyard, a well-known graveyard for dumping tugboats and barges since the 1930s.
On the west coast of France is Landévennec, an isolated bay where the French Navy has been quietly sending their ships removed from service. One news report called it “out of sight, out of mind”.
The Skeleton Coast, located in Namibia, Africa is a ship graveyard that features the remains of mostly larger ship wrecks resting there for years. The Skeleton Coast originates at the mouth of the River Ugab and extends up to the River Kunene located near the border of Angola. This stretch of coast has been famous for dense fogs and large storms forcing ships to ground for over a hundred years. Today the area is designated the Skeleton Coast National Park (actually named for the whale skeletons left there by whalers). This ship graveyard is regarded by many as the world’s largest graveyard of ships.
Bay of Nouadhibou located in Mauritania, holds more than 300 ships washed ashore, partially sunk or left at anchor. For decades the Bay of Nouadhibou has been used as a ship dumping ground because of rampant corruption of the Mauritian authorities taking bribes to look the other way.
After getting home a little research on Uruguay turned up an article dated 17 June 2015 (HERE) estimating the number of derelicts in Uruguay at fifty being abandoned by their owners because of debts or liens. It indicated that a plan has been developed that will re-float the boats and have them taken away. The Uruguayan National Port Administration will be in charge of the program.
When we were there in January of 2019 and I counted thirty boats so maybe they have made some progress in the last three years but Montevideo still has a long way to go.
One thought on “Abandoned, Derelict and Thrown Away Boats”
It amazes me that most of these discarded boats haven’t been able to be salvaged. Someone could make a fortune in recycling the steel I’m sure?