AN UNSEAWORTHY boat has been dismantled after it sank in Ilfracombe Harbour last week.
The rotten bows of the 60-tonne MV Sarah finally gave way last Wednesday evening during the high spring tide.
The 17-metre ship caused a stir when it was towed to safety by the RNLI in July after being found going round and round in circles off the North Devon coast.
The boat was detained in Ilfracombe harbour by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) who deemed her to be dangerous and unseaworthy.
Harbour master Rob Lawson said it was a very difficult situation.
He said: "The MCA said it had to be in a seaworthy condition if it were to leave the harbour.
"But the owners made no attempt to repair it and we were left to pick up the pieces."
Mr Lawson said the frustrating situation had been magnified by the intense debate surrounding the ship.
He said: "Lots of people claimed it was putting off tourists and causing an environmental hazard but that was never really the case.
"We made sure we got rid of as many chemicals as possible from aboard the ship as soon as she entered the harbour.
"We also checked her every day to make sure she was safe and was not in danger of damaging other boats.
"It wasn't a major eyesore or pollution risk, it was actually an old boat with a beautiful old Norwegian hull.
"Storing boats like this is exactly what harbours are for."
Mr Lawson said the harbour authority's hands were tied legally until the boat was made seaworthy or sank.
He said: "All we could do was wait. But then last week the rotten wood gave way and she sank during the high spring tide."
FTD Marine, which runs Richmond Dock in Appledore, started dismantling the ship last week.
FTD Marine spokesman Gareth Evans said: "It will be a tidal job as we can't move her out of the harbour, she is too badly gone.
"There are two risks doing it on site and that is the risk to people and the risk of contaminants leaking out.
"We are binding the ship on the outside with Teflon tape so there is no chance of any leaks but there is no oil left in her anyway."
The boat will be dismantled into eight parts and then driven out of the harbour and taken to Barnstaple to be recycled.
It is hoped the boat will be gone by the end of this week.
North Devon Council will pay for the cost of dismantling the ship but will pursue the Gloucester-based owners for full costs, which are not yet known.