PORTSMOUTH — Don Kidd woke at about 1:30 a.m. last Tuesday to a strange noise he couldn’t place.
Even above that night’s howling southwest winds, the grinding sound down by his Point Road, Portsmouth, waterfront house was unusual enough to roust him from bed.
As he walked out his Blue Bill Cove dock, the noise became louder, seemingly from in front Kidd’s Stuff, his brand new 50-foot Riviera powerboat.
With the help of a flashlight he discovered the source. A large, jagged chunk of fiberglass had wedged itself between the bow of his boat and a piling. With each wave came more grinding.
Working in the wind and rain he eventually managed to push the chunk free and went back to bed; it was too dark to assess damage.
Morning’s light brought answers. The fiberglass piece hadn’t gone far since he had pushed it free — it was lying mostly submerged in the shallows not far from his dock. And Mr. Kidd knew just where it had come from.
“It was the cabin top from that piece of **** derelict that has been lying out in the cove since Hurricane Irene … the one the town and the state refuse to do anything about.”
The chunk, which measured over ten feet long and nearly as wide, had left scrape marks on the piling where it had been stuck.
No damage was visible to his boat above the waterline, but since much of the heavy fiberglass lay underwater, he said he won’t know until his boat is hauled what sort of harm has been done.
Adding to his frustration, Mr. Kidd said, is the fact that “this doesn’t surprise me at all.” People all around the cove have been pleading for action — to town, state and Coast Guard — for many months “and not a thing has happened.”
The wrecked cabin cruiser, 35 to 40 feet long and perhaps a Chris Craft, foundered during Irene and settled to the bottom of the shallow cove. Much of its listing hull remained above water in plain sight, gradually collecting a greenish coating of mold, slime and barnacles. Once in awhile a piece breaks away.
He said he is baffled by state and Coast Guard contentions that there is no immediate need to remove the wreck because it is not a hazard to navigation.
“If that’s not a hazard, I don’t know what is … At night you can’t see it; what happens if someone runs into it?”
And now big pieces of flotsam are breaking loose from the boat. Had that been a tropical storm or hurricane, that fiberglass cabin top might have become an airborne missile, he fears.
Derelects like this one aren’t a new problem here in the cove and all around “and there is a simple solution,” one that Mr. Kidd has shared with state officials.
“If you moor a boat in state waters, you should have to have insurance.” That way, if something happens, there will be money to remove it.
Blue Bill Cove has been a popular place over the years for people to moor old boats (some haven’t even had working engines) and take up residence. This cabin cruiser had been home to a local man whom authorities say may not have the funds to remove it.
Portsmouth’s harbormaster said the town has gone to court in an effort to get the owner to do something, so far to no avail.
And those who have tried other routes have met with no success.
Portsmouth resident Mark Flaherty, who calls the wreck “an eyesore and a hazard” that a year later continues to emit a small oily sheen, has written and called everyone he can think of.
His letter to the state Department of Environmental Management about this boat and a smaller one received this reply from DEM’s Ryan Crowley:
“As you may have been told, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has determined that neither the 18-foot fiberglass boat on the beach or the 35 foot wood cabin cruiser 100 yards offshore are an environmental threat or hazard to navigation at this time.”
The bigger boat does not qualify for removal at this time, Mr. Crowley said.
Mr. Kidd, who owns Pirate Cove Marina on the other side of the Escape Bridge from his house, said that he has offered to use his boatyard’s barge to help with removal but has received no reply.
“I’m upset because everyone knows this thing is a hazard,” he added. “It ought to be pretty obvious that there’s a really good chance that someone is going to get hurt out there.”