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Babylon Town dilemma: What to do with an abandoned boat

Patrick Farrell, Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety for

Patrick Farrell, Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety for the Town of Babylon, inspects a boat that was abandoned at Tanner Park in Copiague, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Credit: Steve PFost

The ghost ship arrived at Tanner Park Marina sometime last Wednesday night.

It was a 34-foot Silverton cruiser, filthy but scrubbed of all identifying marks, bearing a message for Babylon Town officials in black tape stuck across the helm: DUMP ME.

Town officials responded with a Facebook post seeking community help to identify the boat’s owners that as of last night had attracted more than a dozen offers to take the boat but no tips.

“Somebody’s dumping their garbage,” said Pat Farrell, the town’s director of public safety, adding that few of the Facebook crowd would want to take ownership if they knew the vessel’s condition: paint peeling, engine shot, cabin chock full of debris.

“This thing’s floating, but it’s not worth anything,” he said.

Sometimes these vessels appear in a marina. Sometimes they’re drifting in the Great South Bay. Sometimes they’re simply dropped over the weekend in an industrial park.

After 10 years on the job, Farrell’s encountered enough cases like these — about 10 or 11 a year — that he knows offhand the town’s response and the likely outcome.

His team starts by looking for a hull identification number, or HIN, required for modern vessels, that can lead them to the boat’s present or previous owners. In many cases it’s effaced or ground down. Here they found no embossed HIN or any signs that one had been ground down, suggesting the vessel was built in the 1970s, before the HIN era.

Nor did they find any identifying correspondence or receipts in the cabin. There were only a few DVDs from a thrift store in Copiague.

Farrell said he could recall only about five cases when the Town Attorney’s office was able to locate a ghost vessel’s owner. When that happens, consequences can be serious, involving fines, administrative fees, labor costs and sometimes criminal charges.

The vessel will have to come out of the water soon, he said: in the water, it could threaten navigation and pollute the bay.

If the Facebook gambit doesn’t work, town workers in coming days will remove the boat from the water to the town landfill, where metal will be separated from wood.

The thing will be disposed of, at a cost to taxpayers of $3,000 to $5,000.

Monday was a beautiful day at the marina, restored after superstorm Sandy and nearly full with bobbing vessels. Farrell stood glum. Another abandoned vessel had been discovered Sunday night at Venetian Shores.

“It’s a waste of town resources, time and effort when we could be doing much more important things,” he said.

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