The 31-year-old owner cited for abandoning two of her boats after they were evicted from a marina last summer — and pulled out of the water by state officials — warned that legislation drafted after the incident could be an opening for others to abuse.
The State Boat Act, sponsored by Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Annapolis, and Del. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, was inspired by Crazy Girl — a 32-foot Trojan cruiser — evicted in July from a South River marina. The boat, owned by Angelina Scarton, later sank near Annapolis, and Natural Resources Police cited it as abandoned. Scarton has disputed that her boat was abandoned. Another of Scarton’s vessels, Party of Five, was also evicted and sank later, prompting another citation.
Neighbors of Scarton’s boats said they reported it to the Department of Natural Resources multiple times, but the department said they were unable to do anything until the boat was in disrepair. The event was a multi-day episode around Annapolis that prompted state lawmakers to try and tighten regulations on sunken and abandoned vessels.
Scarton has disputed that her boat was abandoned, saying the Crazy Girl’s captain was elderly and struggling with medical issues. She said she was in communication with the Natural Resources Police officers about issues with the boat, and she was told she could leave her boats but no one would help her until the boat was in disrepair.
“If they used me as a staple for this, then they lied in order to justify that, then obviously what they’re doing is a problem — not the person who’s abandoning it,” Scarton said. “We all know what this is. This is just to give the (Department of Natural Resources) the ability to abuse their power more than they already do.”
Crazy Girl eventually sank and was hauled out by DNR. Elfreth estimates the salvage cost taxpayers about $9,600 more than if the state had just towed it away while it was afloat unattended — which would have cost about $2,400.
Scarton was charged with abandoning a vessel and awaits trial in April. She was charged a second time when another of her boats, Party of Five, was also recovered by the Department of Natural Resources.
Elfreth’s district includes Tolley Point, where Crazy Girl sank. She said she hopes to prevent any more abandoned vessels, which can threaten navigation, safety, and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
“The saga of Crazy Girl is not unique to my community,” Elfreth said, noting that waters across Maryland are plagued with abandoned vessels. “Our constituents expect government to do its job and remove these vessels when they pose a threat.”
The bill would authorize the DNR to act without first notifying a boat’s last known owner if it poses immediate hazards, and prohibit the department from using Natural Resources Police funds to remove or store abandoned boats.
The bill would also change the definition of “abandoned or sunken vessels.”
It decreases the amount of time a boat has to be untouched by its owner or guardian before it is considered abandoned — from 90 days untouched without consent at a private marina or boatyard, to 30 days. And it splits up a multi-part definition so that any of the following circumstances can qualify a vessel as sunken or abandoned:
A boat that has been found adrift or unattended in or upon Maryland waters.
A boat that is found in disrepair.
A boat that is presenting a health or environmental hazard.
Scarton reached out to Elfreth after learning that her boats were mentioned at the first hearing on the bill. She said they spoke twice.
Elfreth said she also spoke with the owner of the marina where some of Scarton’s boats were docked.
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This bill is not targeting one person, but a response to an issue that plagues waterfront communities across the state, and the Senate bill has support from every senator with a waterfront district, Elfreth said.
At hearings for the bill in both the House and the Senate, representatives from the Marina Trade Association of Maryland and the Department of Natural Resources testified in support.
Scarton came down to the State House on Wednesday when the House version of the bill was set to be heard at 1 p.m. in the Environment and Transportation Committee. She arrived early, but not early enough to sign up to testify. After missing the noon deadline, Scarton said she didn’t “want to be a part of it” unless she could testify.
“I really do think this (bill) is going to open up the doors for an unbelievable abuse of power,” Scarton said. “Lying about me proves that point. Don't do that.”
Instead, Scarton suggested a system where boat owners are required to upload their boat insurance to a statewide database, which would prevent situations like hers. She said she sent her insurance information to DNR before her boats sank, but the information was disregarded.