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Skugaid sails away
The Chief Skugaid has sailed away much to the relief of City of New Westminster officials.
The 100-year-old vessel that had been docked illegally on city property headed upriver during the noon hour Friday to an unknown moorage, according to city bylaw enforcement manager Keith Coueffin.
Skugaid owner David Cobb moved the boat after appearing in court Thursday on a contempt charge for not obeying a court order to remove the vessel from the city dock in front of the Fraser River Discovery Centre at the Westminster Quay.
"We're very pleased the trespass has been eliminated and the safety concerns and the liability concerns posed by that vessel have been eliminated," said Coueffin.
Cobb had moved the Skugaid several metres downstream to the spot in April after he faced eviction as the result of another civil suit from the private owners—Cathedral Ventures Ltd.—of the previous location where he had been docked.
The city responded by going to court to evict him as well. Originally Cobb agreed to move it by June 14, but did not and the city sought a contempt of court ruling and $2,000 in costs.
Although Cobb maintained the city wasn't honouring the Skugaid's working boat tradition and being based for most of its life in New Westminster by giving it the boot, Coueffin said it had to go because it was a safety hazard and could cause liability issues for the city.
Coueffin cited a couple of incidents in New Westminster when safety and liability were issues. In February 2009, a fire on a vessel that had been converted from an old passenger ferry to a live-aboard docked in the 600 block of South Dyke Road in Queensborough took the life of a 73-year-old man and his two dogs. He said although it was a much smaller boat than the Skugaid it cost port authorities more than $50,000 to remove it.
He said another large vessel docked near the foot of Jardine Street in Queensborough also sank and has yet to be removed.
The city was also concerned about the possibility the dock could catch on fire since it has a wooden infrastructure.
An Aug. 1 B.C. Supreme Court order gave Cobb until Aug. 15 to remove the Skugaid and restricted his access to four daily visits not exceeding one hour. Coueffin said the city monitored the situation to make sure Cobb abided by the ruling.
The city was also awarded costs, estimated in a court document at $2,000, but as of Friday afternoon they had not been paid according to Coueffin.
Cobb could not be reached for comment Friday. He is scheduled to appear before Justice Victoria Gray in Vancouver court on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Cobb bought the 100-foot fishing boat two years ago and moored it in New West. He said in an earlier interview with the NewsLeader, liability issues have made it difficult to find a commercial marina willing to tie up such a large, old boat.
The boat, Cobb said has had a storied history plying the West Coast waters while, most of the time, being based in New Westminster. He was upset city council didn't see the "intrinsic value" of the Chief Skugaid, which he believes will eventually receive a heritage designation.
"The boat's registered here, it has a lengthy connection [to New Westminster]. A good portion of its 100 years—it is the oldest working boat in B.C., if not Canada—has been connected to New Westminster. I characterize it as a native son and I'm a little chagrined they're not inclined to see it as a heritage treasure," said Cobb.