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Sailboat Stranded for Nine Days in Marine Protected Area of Coal Oil Point Reserve

Owner Out of the Country but Intent on Salvaging Vessel

Credit: Lili Hartounian

A sailboat out of San Mateo County remains stranded in the marine protected area of Coal Oil Point Reserve after running aground there nine days ago, eliciting concern from environmental watchdogs about its impact to the sensitive reef habitat. “Boat strandings sometimes pose a risk of gas or oil spill, but they also can turn into terrible sources of marine debris once the hull starts breaking apart,” said Ben Pitterle with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Eric Raney said the boat ran aground just before 8 a.m. on October 5. A single person, who’s identity has not been released, was on board at the time but was able to safely reach shore. Recent photos show a liferaft inflated next to the vessel. Raney said the boat is registered to 27-year-old Northern California resident Mikel Lindborg, who is out of the country and has been difficult to communicate with.

Photo: Lili Hartounian

Lindborg is reportedly still intent on salvaging the boat, which appears to have been vandalized and graffitied during its time in the tideline. It has a steel hull and is not taking on water, Coast Guard officials have stated, and they don’t believe there is a significant amount of fuel on board. For that reason, they’re leaving it in the hands of local authorities. Raney said if Lindborg doesn’t act soon (though he couldn’t provide an exact deadline), his office will contract with Marborg to remove the vessel.

In the meantime, explained Lili Hartounian with the Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit, its mere presence is affecting the sea life of Coal Oil Point Preserve. “It’s impacting creatures when the waves rock the boat back and forth on the reef,” she said. “Muscles, nudibranchs, sea urchins, octopuses, sea anemone ― these invertebrates are a vital part of the ecosystem.” Hartounian also wondered how and why the boat wrecked where it did. “What was he doing so close to [marine protected area]? He isn’t allowed to fish there. I still have so many questions.”

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