Resident Prods Officials to Move Tuckerton Creek Ghost Boats

Two Sailboats Abandoned, One a Year Ago
Jul 12, 2017
Photo by: Gail Travers

Two sailboats have been sitting on the meadows at the entrance to Tuckerton Creek, one for more than a year and another one from this past winter. Soon after they floated there, concerned boaters turned the registration numbers over to the N.J. Marine Police, Little Egg Harbor Township and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Yet, the boats still sit high and dry on the meadows.

Joseph Welsh of Little Egg Harbor said he contacted Mayor Ray Gormley, who sent him on to code enforcement officer Mike Fromosky, who said the land belongs to the state and contacted the Marine Police and DEP.

“This could be a environmental problem,” said Welsh. “I know one of the boats must have an on-board tank. Also, they could become a danger to navigation if we have a storm that floats them off the ground.”

A DEP spokesman said if the vessels were leaking hazardous material, the Coast Guard, with an assist from the DEP, would mitigate the situation. He was unsure if the vessels were on state land.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Seth Johnson said anyone who is concerned about potential oil or gas spillage or sees a spill should call the Coast Guard. “We have marine investigators who are specially trained to assess these types of situations.”

Fromosky said on Tuesday that he had talked with the DEP just last week and was told they were not going to do anything with it. “I’m going to get the info off the boats and try to track down the owners or where they were stored.”

Fromosky is retired from the state police. He said he will use his contacts with the Marine Police and “handle it from that end.”

Welsh said he’s no longer a commercial fishing captain, but he runs in and out of the creek frequently. “It torques me when I see them sitting there. It’s also an eyesore. Anyone vacationing here and comes up the creek, that’s the first thing you see.”

Depending on where the boats are actually located, according to statute, the township or the state can institute proceedings to acquire title to the boats and salvage them.

According to statute, it is unlawful for any owner to abandon any vessel to or upon public land or waters of the state, including any municipal waterway, to or upon any municipally owned land, or upon any private property, or the water immediately adjacent thereto without the consent of the owner, except when an emergency exists.

A vessel that has remained moored, grounded, docked or attached to any public land, waterway or any private property without consent for a period of more than 30 days shall be deemed abandoned and may be impounded if an official authorized by statute or ordinance to enforce regulations related to municipal waterways, or a law enforcement officer having enforcement authority, has reason to believe that the vessel has been abandoned.

The vessel may then be removed from a municipal waterway by, or at the direction of, the municipality or harbor commission and may be impounded and removed to a storage space, and its registration plates seized. The owner shall be responsible for the cost of the removal, transportation, storage or disposal, and any other incidental costs associated with the impounded vessel.

The municipality can then file an incident report with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and if the owner of the vessel fails to claim the impounded vessel and pay the reasonable costs of removal and storage by midnight of the 30th day following impoundment, it is presumed that the vessel is abandoned and the municipality may institute proceedings to acquire the title.

The acquisition of title divests any other person and any other legal entity, including lien holders, of any interest in the vessel.

If the owner wants to reclaim the vessel, the owner is liable for all outstanding costs, fines and penalties, and the municipality shall have a lien against the property and income of that violator for the total amount of those outstanding costs.

— Pat Johnson

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