Cleanup underway for 'boat graveyard' caused by Hurricane Irma

Dozens of storm-damaged sailboats have clogged marina for months

MIAMI – Months after Hurricane Irma, a Miami marina has become a graveyard for derelict boats. Now this week, a government task force is poised to clear away the stinky, rotting mess.

Usually tasked with cleaning up oil spills, the task force, made of representatives from agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard, is tackling the pollution caused by dozens of abandoned boats.

Some of the damaged vessels have been piling up at the Seminole Boat Ramp at Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove. 

"It was a junkyard! I don’t know how to describe it," said Manuel Roman, a sailor who is often in the area.

The boats are not only an eyesore, they are also an environmental threat, as well. The smell is overpowering at the marina, which is filled with sewage, gasoline and rotting wood.

"Until today, they weren't doing anything, just piling up there," Coconut Grove resident Jean Perroe said Wednesday. "It probably requires a lot of money to move those things."

Over the next few days, workers will tow away the vessels - mostly unclaimed sailboats beyond repair - and take them to Watson Island to be destroyed. 

But it is a delicate process. Crews with Sea Tow and George’s Crane Service are placing straps around the boats to then get them in an upright position, and once that’s done, they are loaded on trailers.

“It’s quite tedious,” said Jonathan Pulido with George’s Crane Service. 

The task force has removed more than 2,000 vessels that were abandoned across the state after the hurricane, mostly in the Florida Keys. In Miami, about 250 derelict boats were left behind.

According to Daniel Rotenberg, director of the Department of Real Estate and Asset Management for Miami, the salvage operation will cost at least $145,000.

Rotenberg expects work to finish by Monday, and then the Seminole Boat Ramp will reopen to the public.


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