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  • Dave Phipps

Boat Ownership Responsibilities in Fairfield Harbour

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

By Dave Phipps, Commodore, Fairfield Harbour Yacht Club

Fairfield Harbour is indeed one of the best kept secrets for boat owners here on the Mid Atlantic Coast. From our beautiful, secluded and protected waterfront community, we can access all of the Eastern seaboard, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Caribbean, or simply explore interesting historical towns and scenic local waters!

As residents, we’re interconnected by the waterways and canals that make our neighborhood unique. Many of us have the privilege of keeping a boat on dock behind our home, and others enjoy using our launch ramp for trailerable boats. But as with most other privileges in life, owning that boat comes with certain responsibilities that are not to be taken lightly. Specifically, in this case, we’re talking about maintaining the vessel such that it doesn’t present a sinking and or pollution hazard. Unfortunately, we seem to experience such preventable events in the Harbour with a bit of regrettable regularity.

All boat owners should be aware that they are responsible for damages caused by their vessels, including fuel and oil pollution, which by Federal and State law, are reportable events to the US Coast Guard and the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, both of which maintain a pollution hotline for the reporting of any spill, defined not by a certain quantity of oil or fuel, but as a visible oil or fuel sheen on the water. A person whose boat causes the sheen is himself required by law to report the spill, but it's not uncommon for others to do so as well. Pollution poses a direct and long lasting health hazard to the wildlife that call our community home, including fish, crab, and birds. Once a spill has occurred, containment and clean up can cost serious money. Please note that the Fairfield Harbour Yacht Club Marine Assistance Committee is NOT equipped to deal with fuel or oil spills.

If you fail to maintain your vessel to the extent that it sinks or is the source of oil or fuel on the water, you might expect a visit from the Coast Guard or NC Department of Natural Resources, (or your neighbors), and you may be subject to civil fines.

To be certain, there are a number of situations that can lead to unintentional neglect of a boat. Some owners have aged out of boating, and no longer use their vessels. In this case it’s still incumbent on the owner to ensure that the vessel can remain afloat. This means regularly making sure that the batteries are charged, scuppers (drains) unobstructed, and bilge pumps operable. Other owners may be out of town for an extended period of time. In these cases, the owner should arrange with a knowledgeable friend or neighbor to keep an eye on the vessel. Trailer boat owners should verify that lower drive units and tilt actuators are not leaking oil, and that the hull drain plug is in place before launch.

Please take this opportunity to check your boat; but remember to do so at regular intervals! Failure to do so may result in unhappy neighbors, expensive salvage operations, and sizable fines. It’s far easier to prevent this sort of thing than to deal with its aftermath. Let’s all work to keep our waterways pristine!

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