I published an article on this subject several years ago in Noreaster Magazine, which recently went out of business. In researching the article I discovered that there were more than 100,000 abandoned boats in the U.S. alone, most of which were not worth the time it took to look at them. The vast majority were sailboats, about 60 percent. Some of the power boats I looked at were motor-yachts ranging up to 65 feet in length, while most of the sailboats ranged 17 to 27 feet, with a few over 30 feet.
The vast majority of them were at boat yards and marinas, locations where they were at one time used by owners who were 70 or more years of age, a category that I'm in. For various health reasons, the owner(s) were no longer able to use their boats. Storage fees built up, while at the same time the owners health deteriorated. The owner often died, and his or her name was the only name on the storage contract, thus the boat was abandoned.
More often than not the families of the deceased did not want the boat and ignored letters and phone calls from the marina or boat yard. After a couple years, the facilities try to sell the boat to recoup their storage fees. However, in order to do this, there is a massive amount of paper work, newspaper ads, auction, etc.., a process that takes forever, and can be somewhat expensive. Eventually, the boats are often striped for parts, cut up with a chain saw, loaded in a dump truck and taken to a landfill.
Ironically, my 27-foot Catalina was a derelict that I purchased from Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Living Classroom in Baltimore Harbor. I got a fantastic price, put a couple grand into fixing some minor problems, and sailed it for five years.
When I get some free time I'll post a copy of the article on this forum.