The Schooner Windsong will compete in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner race to raise money for removing abandoned boats from the water. Photo: Schooner Windsong

Racing Schooner to Raise Money for Abandoned Vessel Disposal

When the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race sails off this October, one competitor will be racing for the sake of getting old, sunken vessels out of our waterways.

In December of 2021 Michael Provost created the Vessel Disposal and Reuse Foundation (VDRF), a non-profit based in Virginia Beach. VDRF raises money to remove abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) from Virginia waterways.  Removing a sunken vessel is expensive, which is why the schooner Windsong has decided to donate race proceeds to VDRF.

The Windsong is a 47-foot Tancook Schooner designed by Ray Stevens of Nova Scotia. She was built by Guy H. Asbury in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, before 1960.  Much of her life was spent in New York both around Long Island and on Lake Ontario. She is now based out of Cape Charles, Virginia, offering sailing charters for up to six people on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Windsong will be participating in The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race Oct. 3-8.

The goal is to raise enough money to remove a 30-foot sloop that sunk in the Lynnhaven River in 2009.  The vessel burned and sank in Broad Bay, which is a mostly shallow and very popular section of the Lynnhaven. VDRF estimates that is will cost $8,500 to complete the job.

Provost has tried to get boat owners to pay for ADV removals, but that is a difficult process. “In my experience the people who create ADVs fall into five at-risk categories: elderly, indigent, physically handicapped, mentally ill, and/or drug addicted. Time and again I’ve heard from frustrated residents that the Commonwealth should just force the owner to take responsibility, or that the owner should be fined and jailed. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Even when a boat owner is fined and prosecuted, the boat still sits there and pollutes; the problem isn’t solved that way,” he said.   

Which brings us to the deeper problem. There is no convenient way to get rid of old boats in Virginia.  Especially larger boats.

“In Virginia, there is no way to dispose of old vessels,” said Provost. “It can cost over $1,500 per linear foot  to hire a contractor to remove and demolish a vessel. If we want to solve this problem we need to treat the root cause and not the symptom. It’s far more economical to dispose of an unwanted boat before it’s abandoned and sinking in our waterways. That’s why VDRF has a petition calling for the establishment of a Vessel Turn-in Program (VTIP). A VTIP would allow Virginia residents and businesses to turn in vessels free of charge.”

VDRF tackles removing abandoned, sinking boats one by one, as shown in this graphic.

As of this month, VDRF has removed 25 vessels, cleared over 275,000 pounds of debris, and has recycled almost 17,000 pounds of metals. (The organization has made remarkable progress—the last time Chesapeake Bay Magazine spoke to Provost, back in April, 17 vessels had been removed.) 

According to VDRF, Virginia has over 200 derelict vessels, and the average cost to remove one is $14,000.  If you want to donate to the Windsong‘s race effort, you can do so by clicking here.

-Kendall Osborne