Frustration grows over derelict boat rusting away on South Shore

The Schwalbe was brought to Lunenburg in 2015, but the owner hasn't been heard from since. The boat has since drifted across the harbour to Feltzen South.

Municipality seeks help from Transport Canada after The Schwalbe's owner abandoned vessel

The Schwalbe first tied up in Halifax in 2014 after a near-disastrous transatlantic voyage. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Frustration is brewing in the community of Feltzen South, N.S., over a derelict vessel that has yet to be cleared away after three years. 

The Schwalbe docked in Halifax in 2014 after a near-disastrous transatlantic voyage. The boat's owner brought it to Lunenburg in 2015, but hasn't been heard from since.

After a storm, the boat came off its moorings and drifted across the harbour to Feltzen South, located in the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg. It's been there ever since.

"We're in a small rural community located across the harbour from Lunenburg. If we were in Lunenburg or the Halifax waterfront, it would be gone now," said Tim Wentzell, a lobster fisherman in the area.

"Because we are where we are, it stays where it is — it's out of sight, out of mind." 

'It's an eyesore'

Wentzell, who can see The Schwalbe from his home, said tourists going in and out on the Bluenose II tours around Lunenburg Harbour see the vessel and ask about it all the time.

"You got to tell them what it is — it's a derelict vessel on the shore," he said. "Now some people think that's romantic and it looks pretty. I beg to differ. I think it's an eyesore."

Tim Wentzell, a lobster fisherman who lives in Feltzen South. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

At the time it drifted over to Feltzen South, the coast guard boarded The Schwalbe and got rid of the contaminants and fuel that were on board.

The vessel has been vandalized over the years, Wentzell said, with people throwing rocks at it and smashing its windows.

Ownership issues

People in the area have been trying to get all three levels of government to clear The Schwalbe away with no luck, Wentzell said. He's concerned the vessel will never be removed. 

The coast guard boarded The Schwalbe and got rid of the contaminants and fuel that were on board. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, the mayor of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, said she hoped the federal Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, introduced last fall, would be the solution to the problem.

The act would make it illegal to abandon boats, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already dumped in the country's waterways. Individuals who abandon a boat can face fines up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term, while corporations can be fined as much as $6 million.

The Schwalbe's owner brought the boat to Lunenburg in 2015 and hasn't been heard from since. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

But Bolivar-Getson said council recently voted against applying to Transport Canada for help after learning the municipality would have to assume ownership of the vessel before anyone would haul it away.

"There are costs that would definitely be associated with getting the equipment there to remove this vessel," she said.  "And again, not knowing those costs leaves the municipality vulnerable by taking ownership." 

Bolivar-Getson said council has written a letter to Transport Canada asking if the department would relax the rules about ownership of the vessel and do what it can to haul the vessel away under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

Transport Canada told CBC News that it was willing to work with the community to find a solution.

With files from Preston Mulligan and The Canadian Press