Two stories in the mainstream press today put boating in a less-than-favorable light, but signaled that, as always, there are opportunities out there to get a good deal. Our columnist, Charles Plueddeman, was first this morning to send me a link to The New York Times story by David Streitfeld on an increase in the number of abandoned boats, many of which are being left on river banks by owners who can't sell them to get out from under their boat loans.
(As an aside, and only slightly tongue in cheek, I'm having trouble believing that's the whole story since, at Boats.com, we have a working solution for private owners ready to sell—and, to the best of my knowledge, the biggest listing of boats for sale on the Internet. Just click on the home page button under "Sell Your Boat Quickly" and you can have your boat listed today. Sales may have slowed down over the winter, but we do have testimonials to back up our sales pitch.)
Obviously, there are some desparate boat owners who haven't heard of us, but, according to the story, benign neglect is also a factor (to see more of that, just look around your nearby marina). Yet there are other motives for unloading your boat in an unseemly way. Potentially the most lucrative is insurance fraud; in some cases the owner has scuttled his boat. If you think that's a clever idea, though, think again. Insurance investigators weren't born yesterday and if they raise your boat as they did one mentioned in the article, they're going to find the hole you drilled in the bottom and you'll soon be going to jail. Not only busted and broke, but boatless, too.
States are getting tougher on derelicts, writes Streitfeld. The battles in Florida between waterside homeowners and those who want to maintain anchoring rights often focus on liveaboard boats that never move (and perhaps can't under their own power) and have become eyesores. The Times wrote that it recently "became illegal in South Carolina to abandon a boat on a public waterway. Violators can be fined $5,000 and jailed for 30 days." Meantime, investigators recently counted 150 likely boats abandoned on state waterways.
Streitfeld went on to report a potential new approach in California, which sounds a lot friendlier: "... a boater bailout of sorts. Under a law proposed by State Representative Ted Lieu, owners of marginally seaworthy vessels would be encouraged to surrender them to the state. If they abandoned the boat, the bill would double the fine to $1,000."
The second story came in this afternoon via Twitter from Diane Byrne of MegaYacht News (remember, one of our top marine blogs of the year?). Two of Bernie Madoff's yachts have been secured by Federal marshals in Fort Lauderdale. (MSNBC has the AP story and video report—or you can read the AP story is also up at Mad Mariner.) The story says that Bull is a 1969 Rybovich, which is valued, they say, at $2.2 million. Also seized was Sitting Bull, a 24-footer that was not shown in the story. If 1969 is when the larger Bull was built, it was only one of two boats the custom builder produced that year, according to the Rybovich Registry, so presumably it was the 56-footer originally called Apava.
Just in case you're in the market for a 56-foot Rybovich, I did a Boats.com search on models over 50 feet and found four at 55 or 56 feet in length, ranging from a 1976 model for $395,000 to a 2004 for close to $2 million. Considering Bull is reported to be older than any of those, albeit in very good shape, you might get a good deal on it from the Feds...although you might have to wait a while on that. I also found this 2008 post with a closeup of the boat and the conjecture that this would be the perfect boat for him to make an escape. I think he missed his chance.
According to Diane's sources, there's another larger Madoff yacht still up for grabs. Here's the story she wrote back in January. Proof that Mr. Madoff has some sense of humor (however inadvertent) is the fact that this even larger boat is also named Bull. Once that boats gets taken, they'll truly be no more room for bull in Bernie's life. Busted, broke, boatless.