Heal The Ocean Tackles That Boat on the Beach: A Great Collaboration on an Environmental Disaster

By Giving List Staff   |   June 3, 2021
(Harry Rabin photo)
(Hillary Hauser photos)

A trawler that had been anchored off the Santa Barbara shoreline at Montecito, cut loose during the high winds of the week of May 17, 2021, and began drifting down the coast toward Carpinteria. People called and could get no one to help. Technically, there is a jurisdictional line in the ocean between City and County at the end of East Beach, and this wreckage cut loose on the County side, so no harbor patrol boat could go out after it as it drifted.

The boat hit the beach at Sandyland/Padaro on Friday, May 21, 2021. Boat wreckages on County beaches are handled by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, which has no boats but has the strings to State grant funding to clean up such mishaps. It involves days of paperwork and bureaucratic gotta-dos, that takes so long the ocean eats up the boat in the meantime, spreading toxic materials, gasoline, batteries, pieces of boat, and metal far and wide.

The boat pictures here, all by Harry Rabin, show how fast the sea will eat up a vessel if it’s not removed FAST. The sequence shows what one day in the ocean will do to a beached boat. When Harry arrived at the Sandyland/Carpinteria beach at 5 a.m. Friday morning, he was shocked by what he saw. During the night the ocean had slaughtered the boat, eaten it up, spreading oil, batteries, Styrofoam insulation, and other toxic materials, together with gas tanks, engine parts, and wooden pieces of the boat up and down the coast for 4 miles.

(Hillary Hauser photos)

HTO Field Advisor Harry Rabin had already been at work the moment the boat hit the beach. Working with beachfront homeowners to gain access, Harry had led MarBorg workers through private front yards to grab by hand what could be walked through private property. Heal the Ocean, meanwhile, has always had an excellent relationship with Union Pacific Railroad, and when Executive Director Hillary Hauser called our contact at the railroad, the phone was answered almost immediately. We asked for permission for MarBorg to cross the tracks with heavy equipment during low tide, which fell on Friday, May 28, at 5 a.m. MarBorg needed at least three hours to get down to the sand and pick up the mess – which meant the train schedule had to be delayed or slowed down while the operation got in and out. We got an immediate YES from Union Pacific.

Despite the difficulties, the cleanup was done by 4 p.m. that day. By the time MarBorg replaced everything and cleaned up the area, you would not have known anything had gone on there. The tracks were checked by a Union Pacific RR work car, which found the area spotless.

The Hero of this episode is Brian Borgatello, who came up with solutions right and left, including the problem of the extremely heavy trucks getting stuck in the sand as they headed back over the RR tracks. And praises also be to Harry Rabin, who was on-site for six days in a row, morning to night, including working alongside Brian Borgatello and his workers on the big day of the boat removal, coordinating with Union Pacific. Heal the Ocean also thanks Lupe Valdez of Union Pacific, and Javier Sanchez, manager of track maintenance. We thank the Sandyland homeowners, who gave us permission to go through their front yards to the beach.

(Hillary Hauser photos)
(Hillary Hauser photos)

MarBorg Industries is a miracle operation at times like this. Brian Borgatello, president of MarBorg, gathers his heavy equipment, trucks, forklifts, and other gear – plus a fabulous crew of workers. The general operation involves crunching the boat up into pieces, loading up big trucks with it, and hauling it off. The trouble with this particular wreck was that it was on the beach on the other side of the Union Pacific RR tracks. To get all this heavy equipment over the tracks was the vital key to getting at the wreckage.

Heal the Ocean is already at work about the problem of this jurisdictional ocean stuff. We are working on getting a designated vessel, or the City harbor crew to help at such moments – to spring into action the moment a boat cuts loose. We also feel that derelict boats should be removed from the ocean if they’re not moored on a proper City anchor, especially if they are non-operable and/or unattended.

For a view of the Derelict Boat Cleanup Operations, click here for a video and newscast made by our maestro of the news, John Palminteri: https://keyt.com/news/2021/05/27/all-out-effort-at-dawn-take-place-to-remove-shattered-boat-from-santa-claus-beach/

(Hillary Hauser photos)
(Harry Rabin photos)
(Harry Rabin photos)
(Harry Rabin photos)

Heal the Ocean | Santa Barbara


Heal the Ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure – sewers and septic systems – as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution. We are focused on Santa Barbara County, but our methods are now serving as a model for other coastal communities across the country.

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They Heal Our Ocean

I’ve surfed for years at the Rincon, and am in the water all the time. It is such a relief to know that the septic systems are gone, that we’re not swimming in polluted water like we were doing day in and day out, getting sinus, ear, nose, eye infections and who knows what else. Yes, there are other bad things that get into the ocean, but just knowing that this one big source of contamination has been removed is huge. This is one of the most popular surf spots in California, world known, and the legacy left to this piece of ocean will be there forever. It’s so interesting to hear the younger surfers today, who don’t know about the battles Heal the Ocean went through to get this project done. They were little kids at the time. Think of it, it’s now history!
– Heather Hudson, surfer

Return on Investment

Heal the Ocean’s pragmatic approach ensures that any donation the organization receives will be returned in multiples.
A $25,000 investment in aerial infrared photography showing leaking oil fields off the coast of Summerland was the proof then-Governor Jerry Brown needed to sign Senate Bill 44, which allocated $14 million towards capping aging wells along the California coast.
A $5,000 investment in a consultant allowed HTO to snag $150,000 in state funds to pay for a conceptual engineering study for a recycled water facility in Goleta, and another $150,000 for state-funded conceptual engineering plans for a recycled water facility in Santa Ynez. These studies and conceptual engineering plans have put these agencies first in line for state funding help for the actual building of the facilities. So HTO effectively turned $5,000 into a potential of 50 million dollars.

Board of Directors

Hillary Hauser, President and Executive Director
Jean-Michel Cousteau
Thomas Dabney, Treasurer
Charles Vinick
Heather Hudson, Event Manager
Jonathan Wygant
Tom White