Frank Gwathney, a Banks Channel neighbor to Clark, could once look out from his prop-erty
and see clear across the water, a majestic oil painting brought to life. Now he sees a
panoply of anchored boats. “Awful-looking things,” the former hand surgeon says.
Of course, the town can’t make ordinances based on personal taste.
“We allow not more than 30 days anchoring in Wrightsville Beach in a 180-day period,”
Owens says. “The 31st day they could get a $250 fine. It’s $100 a day after that. We also
don’t allow discharge. (All of) New Hanover County is a no-discharge zone. Boaters can
use private marinas and do pump-outs. There are some hefty fines, up to $10,000 for
abuses. Fish and Wildlife can regulate.”
Owens says he’s seen an increase in anchoring out in his six-plus years with the town.
“We had problems last year using VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and using apps to
take people out to their boats and let them stay the weekend,” he says.
Owens said earlier in the year two unoccupied anchored boats in Banks Channel drug
their anchors two different times.
“Both of them drifted back to one of our bridges and hit the bridge,” he says. “It could
have been bad. Those are unattended boats, probably 30-plus feet (in length).”
He says then it becomes a struggle between who wants to take responsibility for
retrieving those boats, or even raising sunken boats.
“We’ve redone our ordinances,” Owens says. “We added some language. If you’re in viola-tion
of the ordinance we can go through a process if the boat is abandoned. We can remove
the boat and get rid of the boat through sale, which recoups costs for towing and storage.”
Owens admits 30 days might be too long an allowance for boats to anchor out, some-times
with the owners coming ashore for most of that time.
Unlike docking at marinas, anchoring in public waters is free, to a point. He says some
places that tried to limit anchoring to 24 or 48 hours were shot down for legal or constitu-tional
“Last year there were three or four boats overstaying, and we cracked down on that
pretty hard, contacted those folks,” Owens says. “One of the boats moved to outside our
jurisdiction. One of the other guys moved to another location and two of his boats sank
during Hurricane Florence.”
WBM FILE PHOTO
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