Earlier today, we ran a story about how, while it's no Truk Lagoon
boats sink in San Francisco Bay more often than you might guess
. Yet getting even an incomplete count of how often vessels slip beneath the waves here was also harder than you might guess. There's no one list titled "Ships that Sank in San Francisco Bay." We called the Coast Guard, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Safety Board, Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Police Department, and state Department of Boating and Waterways to just get a partial tally.
Officials at the Department of Boating and Waterways told us they'd have a count of statewide boat recoveries underwritten by their agency available by tomorrow. But they also mentioned something else that caught our attention. Mary Thomas oversees the state's Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund, which finances 90 percent of municipalities' costs in disposing of sunken, derelict boats. Yet she told SF Weekly
that San Francisco doesn't participate in this program.
When we told this to Fisherman's Wharf wharvinger Hedley Prince, he responded with a high-decibel "Whaaaaaat?" This came as news to him because he personally wrote the grant application to the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund, received the check -- and spent the money.
"We've already received the money, the boats have already been disposed of and the job has already been done," said a puzzled Prince.
He was referring to a summer operation in which 10 sunken or partially sunken ships were finally lifted out of the Port of San Francisco's waters and destroyed once and for all. Prince put in for a shade over $20,000 from the state and was given around $15,000. The operation cost $17,500 -- "so we paid our 10 percent plus."
By the way, if you figured the way San Francisco disposes of rotting, sunken ships is to simply throw them in the garbage can -- you're not far off. Some municipalities do, in fact, crush them with bulldozers and toss the scrap into a dumpster. San Francisco, however, hired a contractor to haul the boats to a North Bay junk yard where they were crushed in a compactor.
Our subsequent calls to Thomas and the Department of Boating and Waterways have not yet been returned.