A sailboat named "Sanity" lies heeled over in the Charleston Harbor marsh in view of the downtown sightseers who flock to the Pineapple Fountain in popular Joe Riley Waterfront Park.
It's sat there since early December, spoiling the view, some say. But with its keel wedged in the bottom mud, this boat is not sailing away in a hurry.
"It's an eyesore that’s in my way," said Matt Woolsey of Charleston, a photographer who walks his dog in the park every weekend.
"The harbor’s look changes from day to day and is a great photography subject, but that boat’s killing it," he said.
The Sanity is the most recent of any number of abandoned vessels the city and state have to legally gain some control of and undertake removal of when the owners don't. It's a problem that washes up as recurrently as a storm tide.
No sooner do a few boats come out of the water than a few more break loose from their moorings, get washed away in a storm or just get left.
"You can probably go over any bridge in Charleston and see those vessels in the marsh," Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Phillip VanderWeit said.
A medical emergency aboard the Sanity forced the beaching, VanderWeit said.
The owner later died from unrelated injuries and the city of Charleston is working with the estate to get a consent agreement to remove the boat, said spokesman Jack O'Toole. Part of the negotiation is just who will own what and who pays what, said city attorney Janie Borden.
Then there's the funding for the salvage, which is usually through a matching federal grant, followed by the bidding process for the contractor.
Removing the Sanity will take at least another month, said Charleston Police Sgt. Chris Morrell.
"It's still somebody's personal property," Morrell said. "It's not just a legal process, there is an environmental concern, as well. We're working diligently to bring it around safely and in accordance with the law."
It’s widely thought that salvage law gives anyone who comes across an abandoned ship the rights to it. But it’s not as easy as that. Salvage is an expensive, lengthy legal procedure involving filing complaints, claims and liens. Any recovery of a vessel can end up in federal court.
As a rule, if a boat is not in a navigable waterway, the U.S. Coast Guard's responsibility is to make sure any pollution aboard it is secured. Then it's left to the state and the city to deal with. Once out of the waterway and secured, an abandoned vessel is under the jurisdiction of the governing body where it sits.
In the case of the Sanity, that's the city of Charleston.
Charleston recently was awarded $47,500 in federal grants to remove five vessels identified as post-Hurricane Irma storm debris, according to records provided by the city — two south of the Ashley River Memorial Bridge and three east of the James Island connector. Irma was in 2017.
As least 14 vessels were previously removed from Charleston Harbor and Folly Beach waters under the same program.
Sooner or later, the Sanity will go, too. In 2016, the town of Kiawah took more than three months to remove a sailboat that washed up on its beach with no one aboard. The town paid about $10,000 for the removal after tracing the owner, contacting him, and getting various legal approvals from state and federal regulators.
The boat eventually was broken down and hauled away.
For the people strolling the popular waterfront park, that can't happen soon enough with the Sanity.
"The park is a masterpiece that draws a lot of visitors. At the rate we’re going, whoever has seen (the boat) since it wrecked there two months ago will see it there again on their next visit. It’s got to go," Woolsey said.