Those Pesky Marine Hazards Explained

half-sunken wrecked boat

July 12th was not only my husband’s birthday but the three-year anniversary of the launch of Tech Liminal, the co-working space in Oakland where the East Bay WordPress Meetup gathers every month. That meant we weren’t able to stay for the whole of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce mixer at the Lauritzen Yacht Harbor (they really deserve a better website, if I do say so myself) that evening.

This was too bad, because Chris Lauritzen had some really interesting stories to tell about the days when his grandfather started the business, from bootlegging among the Delta islands to rescuing people during the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. (Ferries were a regular means of transport into San Franciso in those days.)

Chris told us about the four types of moving bridges in the Delta (though I had to go look them up again): drawbridges where one end lifts, bascule bridges that open in the middle, lift bridges where the bridge span is raised between two towers, and swing bridges where the bridge span rotates out of the way of the boats.

There are, apparently, a number of other types of moving bridges in existence, but those are the four in use throughout the Delta. While double-checking my memory, I came across a nice article about the Delta’s bridges from the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004.

Chris was also able to explain a mystery that had been plaguing me for months. Stefan and I regularly read the cop logs in the Press. This is partly because we like the reaffirmation that Oakley is a safer place to live than El Cerrito, but partly because some of the notices are pretty entertaining. (Woman finds GPS on porch. Subject assaults another subject with peach. Subject discovers marijuana abandoned at street crossing.)

One notice that I’ve seen several times has baffled me.

“A marine hazard was removed from the 100 block of Lauritzen Lane.”

I mean, how the heck could it be a marine hazard if it’s in the street?

Chris explained that these marine hazards are abandoned boats–sometimes damaged, sometimes just foreclosed on. If left out in the water, they will eventually sink and will indeed present a navigational hazard to boats. It costs far less to haul them away while they’re still floating than to dredge them up, so when he finds them he tows them in, recycles what he can, and then has the police take the hulks off his hands.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways provides Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund grants to reimburse public local agencies for the cost of removing such marine hazards, but private marinas like Lauritzen cannot apply for these funds directly.

Read Chris’ PowerPoint presentation outlining the salvage process here.

WordPress fangirl, ghostwriter, linguistic alchemist, podcast consultant, and accidental vapor advocate. Married with 2 cats.

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