‘Ghost ship’ off La Jolla coast raises concerns among residents, despite being legal

A sailboat anchored off the coast of La Jolla has been called a “ghost ship” by some residents, though officials say the vessel and its occupant are there legally.

The boat is located about a half-mile off the coast in the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve. It was first spotted on Oct. 11 by residents of the Bird Rock and Lower Hermosa neighborhood, the La Jolla Light reported this week.

Since then, the boat has been unmoving for at least four weeks. One resident told the La Jolla Light that she saw a person drop off the boat and depart in a dinghy. She added that she hasn’t seen the person return.

Other local residents alerted the San Diego Police Department, who said that they are not involved in the investigation.

Monica Munoz, a spokesperson for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, confirmed to the La Jolla Light that the boat is anchored in a marine protected area. However, she shot down concerned that the vessel was abandoned or that the owner was breaking marine protection regulations.

“It’s not [abandoned],” Muñoz told the Light. “It’s not a ghost ship. It’s inhabited by the owner, who is not violating any laws.”

Although California regulations can restrict certain activities to protect marine resources, one public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Steve Gonzalez, said that the boat isn’t doing anything illegal.

“If the boat is in the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve, anchoring is allowed and there is no limit for how long they may stay there,” Gonzalez said.

However, some residents still express concern over the vessel. Resident Don Schmidt, for example, says there’s no light on the boat at night, which places it at risk of being hit by another ship.

Additionally, he wondered if the sailboat’s presence could create an “open season to live on boats in a marine reserve.”

About the author: Mike Peterson is a freelance journalist and writer based in North San Diego County. He’s written and worked for a number of local media outlets, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, the North Coast Current, and the Oceanside Blade.

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