What happens to private boats and yachts that sink?

So, what happen to large yachts that sink in riverways and are either way too expensive to remove or will disintegrate and contaminated the waterway? Is it illegal to do urban exploration on abandoned ships/yachts or sunken ships?

I guess larger government ships or active bomb sites might be very illegal, but what about small private yachts?

What about those small private yachts that you sometimes see in waterways, that are sunken but just barely floating OR the water is too shallow for it to sink completely? Can you board those and look around? What about taking items from them?

How is ownership managed by these abandoned boats? If you wrecked a yacht somewhere and decided to live there, could you legally keep people away from it? If you woke up one night to some urban explorers walking around your quarters, could you shoot them for trespassing?

What about this one: You see a abandoned boat sunken on a lake, and decide to shoot it for no reason. You fire a few shots and get bored and go home. Later on, you see the area barricaded by police cars and crime scene tape. You later learn on the news that some guy had been shot dead in his sunken boat that he legally owned and had been reported by his friending coming around to visit him that day. You decide to turn yourself in, what happens?
Also, is it illegal to sail your boat in a dangerous state? For example, you buy a large yacht, but your mechanic discovers that it is riddled with holes. You ignore him and decide to take it out anyway. Let’s say you sail it on a waterway that is used as dumping grounds for power/chemical/manufacturing plants and landfills, so it is generally toxic and filled with filth anyway, so that a abandoned boat would not damage it by a noticeable amount.

Also: is there any way to legally ‘build’ new ship wreckage sites? For example, can you legally buy a boat and sink it somewhere to create some new wreckage? Is there anywhere on the earth where you could do this?

Hmm. Well, the only thing I’m sure of, is that anyone who shoots up something when they don’t know what they are hitting, is going to be found guilty of at least manslaughter if someone dies. That’s just straight up idiocy.

As for the rest of your rather odd questions, the one I can partly respond to, is that I have read where lots of people have purposely sunk SOME things, and left them where they did so, in order to create reefs for habitats for undersea creatures. I think I remember someone purposely sinking a large vessel, in order to use it for divers to practice on, or entertain themselves by exploring.

I have also heard of instances where the owner of an abandoned SOMETHING, were held legally responsible for whatever trouble that it caused. That’s probably state by state, and dependent on whether the people in charge choose to spend the money to pursue such. People do abandon things which are too expensive for them to deal with, all the time.

As for wandering into seemingly abandoned property to look for things to take, or even just for the fun of exploring them, I’d be very careful. It’s not up to you to decide whether someone’s property is truly abandoned or not.

Depends on which Country the river is in and what laws it has. There might be a law requiring all boat owners to have insurance (similar to car insurance) which pays for the removal of navigational/ enviromental hazards. Or using the river means paying a license fee, which goes into a big pot out of which yearly cleaning (dredging/ removal) of the waterway is paid from. Or the Country may decide that the riverway is important for industrial Transport/ Tourism and pay the yearly dredging from General taxes. Or the Country may decide to not give a care and just put a marker “navigational hazard”.

Again, depends on the local laws. You might have to pay a fee to be allowed to dive, if the local community wants to make Money. You might be required to have a diving certificate, so they know you won’t endanger yourself. You might be forbidden from diving if the area is protected (though they would probably then remove the wreck for enviromental reasons); or if the waterway is too busy with boats.

They might “belong” to a private salvage Company -either because they found the wreck first; or because the owner passed the rights onto them for a fee; or they paid the City/ local a fee to use that wrack.

A riverway is similar to a motorway usually in that it is intended for traffic. What happens when you leave a broken-down car on the road? It gets towed, and either you as last owner get charged, or, if they can’t find the owner, taxes = everybody pays.

Similar, I would be surprised if whatever Office is responsible for keeping the riverway passable would allow you to live there, because in many places, you only anchor in Harbours both for traffic safety and enviromental reasons. How seaworthy/ driveable the boat is is a secondary concern to the “no anchoring/ lying about” rule.

In non-US countries, that is, Europe, it’s not allowed to shoot People, even if you think they are trespassing. We call that murder or attempted murder or manslaughter or killing.

Again, laws vary, but most first-world nations have rules for waterways just like traffic rules on land, so I would expect a certain amount of sea-worthiness. Even if Inland rivers were used to dump toxic stuff (where the heck do you want to go boating? And why would that be allowed? That’s not only harmful for enviroment, People get sick and die if the rivers are polluted) - as Long as other boats might be driving around, a not-properly working boat endangers them.

You as private Person or you, as the local state? And are we still talking about public river/ Waterways, or elsewhere? Some local communities have deliberately sunk old ships into the shallow ocean to encourage the growing of new reefs*.
If you own a private lake or similar and want to attract tourists for diving by sinking your own boat - and you have cleared it with local enviroment agency (no oil or diesel on board before sinking etc.) - it would probably work. You’d still have to ask, and you wouldn’t probably be allowed in a public-owned river-waterway, where it might be a hazard.

  • at first, some places used old tires, because they were cheap. Turned out the Tide moved them around so much they ended up damaging the existing reefs very much. Bad idea.

Please explain taking up residence in your sunken yacht, how’s that gonna work? Do you mean it’s broken but beached? Aren’t you then trespassing unless you own the shoreline? I doubt you can just crash your boat on someone’s beach and then just live there. Why would you think this would be okay?

It’s not just who owns the waterway that’s a Problem. If you live somewhere, you will Need fresh water and Food - where do you get it, if your boat doesn’t swim? (Okay, you could wreck your yacht and paddle your canoe).

However, the real Trouble with People living somewhere is shitting. Human waste can carry diseases; and staying in one place for weeks or months means the shit concentrates, which again is bad for the enviroment. That’s why human Settlements like cities have waste water Treatments (cloace), and that’s why most first-world countries have laws against living somewhere without facilities.

Do you shoot him and ignore him, or just ignore him?

Most expensive boats are insured and belong to the insurance company if a claim is paid on them. In the local waterways around here you’d probably be required to have the boat removed because something in it will be considered a pollutant. That might be the rule in all of the US but I never heard as much as I have about the subject until I moved to the Ocean State.

I think the question in the OP is about when an abandoned boat is considered “unowned” … such that anyone who comes along can say it’s theirs … where I live that never happens … similar to a car, there will always be an owner until a scrap yard surrenders the title to the State claiming the boat or car has been destroyed in an environmentally friendly way … luckily, the one time I had an abandoned boat to deal with, the registration hadn’t been updated for many years and the State when ahead and issued a “permission to dispose of” order … this allowed the landfill to accept it from me …

The New Carrisa broke anchorage in a storm, washed up on the beach and broke in half … first thing was the State came in and pumped out all the fuel and other toxins … second thing was a bunch of lawsuits … eventually the US Navy got ownership and they towed the hulk out to deep water and practiced torpedo attacks on it …

This. A friend’s snowmobile fell through lake ice in northern Wisconsin some years ago. After stumbling through the woods and nearly dying of hypothermia, he encountered a cabin that happened to be owned/occupied by a state trooper, and so the incident ended up having to be formally reported. My friend was charged a fine for every day that the snowmobile remained in the lake, motivating him to have it removed as soon as circumstances allowed it.

Presumably the same would be true for sunken boats.

See USS Oriskany.
video of USS Oriskany sinking

Before it was sunk, apparently there was a lot of work done to render the ship environmentally friendly, e.g. removing as much lead, asbestos, fuel, oil, PCBs and other toxic crap as they could.

At a regatta on Lake Erie, we noticed a catamaran abandoned on a desolate section of beach.

While we were salvaging incidental hardware (sails, mast, boom, all long gone) we noticed that whoever had abandoned the boat had taken great care to make it non-traceable. The capacity plate was gone and the numbers had been removed with a wire brush.

ETA: the reason we were salvaging hardware was we needed a boom tang (ours had suffered catastrophic failure) and we couldn’t find one for sale. We had paid fees to race, and the salvaged piece of hardware allowed us to not only race, but place second overall.

Who and where are these people living on sunken boats?

Most drift underwater until they reach the centre of the Atlantic and rise up to join their fellows in the wide Sargasso Sea.

Once had a 1920s cheap tie-in book linked to some 1920s silent film ( with photo stills ! ) as much of a documentary as they had then. Apparently there are Roman Galleys and Viking Longships and Aztec vessels alongside modern steamers and sailing frigates, and you can walk on the dense mat of weed from one to t’other.

Well, you’d be violating one of the four basic gun rules:

Know your backstop and what’s behind it. "


Mike Rowe goes to Miami, where there’s business salvaging submerged boats ( a lot of dirt and silt involved).

I think that’s the one I saw. Don’t remember if there were any details about ownership.

Here in Minnesota, every so often some fool drives a vehicle on the ice of a frozen lake – and discovers it isn’t quite as frozen as he had expected: his vehicle sinks through the ice.

And then the state Pollution Control Agency requires him to raise the vehicle and remove it from the lake, which can be rather expensive. (On top of the cost of the damage to the vehicle, which can even be totaled.) And the agency requires this to be done pretty fast, because they want to limit the oil/gas/lubricant that leaks into the lake. They assess fines, which can start accumulating quite quickly, just like in Wisconsin. Plus the people with cabins on the lake, or resort owners on it, can file civil lawsuits against them.

Like Machine Elf, I’d expect that boats are treated similarly.

My grandfather was in the Austro-Hungarian Merchant Marine at the tail end of and just after WWI. He jumped ship in New Jersey and lived for a short time on an abandoned and half-sunk ship, which was already occupied by another squatter. “He was a communist, but still a good person.” So anecdotally, it does happen, or has happened at least once. My grandfather is dead so unfortunately I can’t ask for details–like how did they get food? Things I didn’t think to ask when I was a kid.

You should probably ensure your Insurance covers recovery from a drivers error.

But thats not really answering the OP’s question which probably involves years of neglect and thus voids insurance. (and indicates it wasn’t worth insuring.)

I suspect that laws regarding enviromental Impact (and thus requiring the owner or the state acting on behalf of the owner to remove the wreck) have changed a bit since shortly after the end of WWI (= 1920s).

I also suspect that, as with many other laws, things might be illegal, but if you are in a rather empty place = where nobody sees you, you can get away with it (for a while at least).

As for Food - if the boat is beached/ wrecked above water on a lake, they might be able to fish for Food (esp. if there’s a small row-boat). I would worry much more about drinking water, which was the biggest Problem for the older British navy; and latrines. Ships that are moving distribute the waste; ships lying about don’t, and accumulated waste is a problem, esp. with getting drinking water.