What are Zombie Boats?

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If you live somewhere near the water you have likely heard the term “zombie boats” on the news or just in general conversation. Often when this phrase is used people don’t explain what it means so that is where this article comes in. 

In this article I will try to explain exactly what zombie boats are as well as how you can easily recognize them and how to get rid of them. 

The term “Zombie boats” is a made-up word given by the people to those boats which reappear unexpectedly in the harbour or nearby waterway that had been sunken or abandoned many years ago. They are basically boats that have been dead in the past but have started floating or been pushed out of the water in other ways. 

The term zombie boats is also used to describe boats that have been abandoned and left for dead on the water and are now either unused or used for partying, squatting, or other purposes that they weren’t originally intended for. These zombie boats are typically decaying quite badly while in turn being incredibly ugly. 

These zombie boats are also a danger to all of the working boats around them as they can easily move with the tide or waves which in turn could cause them to run into other boats damaging them. 

Generally, some people will live on these boats for a while, but they leave these boats in the end because they are quite uncomfortable to live on and prone to leakage. Sometimes, these zombie boats are left due to the inability to pay mooring or docking fees, so they either leave them in the harbor or other waterway as it is expensive to keep these boats maintained. 

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Sometimes the boat’s owners will sell them for a few dollars just to get rid of the liability of owning the boat and so these boats are often not taken care of well at all since the person purchased it cheaply and often. don’t really care what the boat looks like or even if it is able to move. 

The sudden arrival of these zombie boats at anyone’s property becomes problematic as it will take up a lot of space in that area and will likely cause other problems on top of being an eyesore, Moreover, if the identity of the zombie boat’s owner is unable to be determined then it often falls on the property owner or the city to cover the cost of removing the boat and disposing of it. 

Most of the time, the city has to pay to remove these boats from different locations, when they are trying to locate the boat’s owner or they have to store and maintain these boats at the harbor which is an even costlier expense. For example, a series of appearances of three dilapidated boats have taken place at Cape Coral, where the boat owners have sunk these boats in the canal. 

They were asked to remove these boats within a stipulated time frame but in the meantime they are a hazard and eyesore. 

No wonder why these zombie boats cause a great deal of trouble to so many people. That’s why it is better to sell your functional boat to those who can keep it maintained rather than having it join the group of zombie boats! 

How can you identify Zombie boats?

The unexpected appearance of these boats at virtually any place is not normal but it is a sign for the boats being in the category of zombie boats. If you happen to notice an unusual boat at any place, then you can look for the signs to identify whether to classify it as a zombie boat or not. 

Following is the list of some of the few features that you can look for that will help you check for zombie boats:

  • Excessive grass, moss, algal or any growing plant on the boat vessel or surrounding it
  • Illegitimate mooring/ no movement of the boat for more than a month.
  • Leaning to a single side or riding low in the water.
  • Leakage of fluids like oil, fuel or waste.
  • Extreme degradation of wood, paint or any other materials on the boat
  • Obstructing navigation of the waterway by floating in the water.
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Ways to get rid of unsellable boats

If you are unable to keep up with the maintenance and upkeep of your boat, it is generally better to sell it if at all possible. Since buying a boat is a costly deal, some people usually prefer buying a second-hand boat, which is well-maintained and completely safe for their recreational activities. 

However, if your boat is too old, it can suffer tremendous deterioration if not properly maintained and become unsellable entirely. Though it is said that the older the boat is, the more expensive it is but this is only valid for the antique varieties of boats or for those boats which have a significant history connected with it, which are later on recycled and reused. 

If your boat doesn’t lie in those categories and if you are facing trouble in selling your boat, then it is always best to be open for other options as well. 

To do so, make sure that the boat doesn’t become wreckage as that will not only save you time but also money. Here is a list of many options that you can choose when you want to dispose of your boat:

  • Search for a boat recycling company or facility near your area.
  • Look for certain companies or charities in your region which may be interested in your boat.
  • Ask at the closest landfill whether it takes old boats or not.
  • Ask some local boat sellers and see whether they would buy the boat from you or simply take it off your hands.
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Things to avoid when getting rid of your boat 

If you are thinking of getting rid of your boat, then you must make sure that you follow the right procedure to make sure it is properly disposed of and doesn’t become one of those zombie boats. Since the construction of boats involves the use of chemicals and polymers, they can create massive environmental problems if the disposal procedure is not done right. 

To start with this process, you need to first know what kind of elements that are on a boat can be detrimental to the environment. You need to search for several items such as gas, oil, batteries, solvents, toxic waste materials, plastic waste, stored Freon in the refrigerators and other trash items on your boat. As these materials can be a real source of environmental hazards, you should not junk the boat improperly or you could risk large fines. 

Abandoning your boat or making it sink in the water with these materials on it will not only cause environmental issues but it can also end up with you receiving thousands of dollars in fines if the boat is found. 

So, make sure you avoid this and follow the right procedures to discard your boat. 


I hope this article has been helpful in answering your questions about zombie boats and how to get rid of an old boat. For most people it is best to sell or give away your boat while there is still some value to it rather than having to find a way to discard the boat once it is worthless. 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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