A mysterious sailboat that ran aground on Horseneck Beach Saturday evening doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon, much to the chagrin of Westport's harbormaster. But he says there's not a …
A mysterious sailboat that ran aground on Horseneck Beach Saturday evening doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon, much to the chagrin of Westport's harbormaster. But he says there's not a lot he can do about it at the moment.
The boat, which bears Rhode Island registration numbers, washed up at the eastern end of Horseneck, just west of Gooseberry Island, at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. It hails (according to the transom) from Maryland and was supposedly being piloted by a Martha's Vineyard man.
Chris Leonard, director of marine services for Westport, first heard about the grounding after getting a call from police that night.
"I get a call, I run down there to check it out. There's an anchor line out, but nobody around. I was looking for possible people in the water."
Leonard learned that the man aboard told people camping on the beach that he'd been anchored at Sakonnet Point in Little Compton while he tended to mechanical issues on the boat. Apparently, he fell asleep only to be woken up by the impact of the boat hitting the sand.
"Where am I?" he supposedly asked a person after climbing out and having a look around.
"Westport, Mass,' a camper who spoke to him several minutes after the grounding replied.
"How did I end up in Massachusetts?"
Leonard said he was told the man asked for a ride to Little Compton, and was gone by the time he got there. But he said he was able to talk to him on the phone the next day.
Leonard's priority was making sure the man got the boat off the beach as soon as possible, and suggested he contact a marine salvage company like Sea Tow. He seemed amenable, Leonard said.
"He said he'd call back in a couple of hours. But he never did," and he's had no luck reaching him since.
In the days since, Leonard has researched what the town can do about the boat, but has come up empty on realistic solutions.
While the town could attempt to pull it off the beach at high tide, or hire a salvor to do the work, it could mean big liability for the town.
"The problem that the town has is that we're not a salvage company and if I tow that off the beach and it's starts sinking, it's a liability for the town."
And even if it doesn't sink, the next question becomes where would the town take the boat? The Town of Westport has a good relationship with Tripps at Westport Point, Leonard said, but "if I bring it to Tripps, they would be stuck with a boat owned by someone they don't know."
Leonard said he called state environmental police to let them know that the vessel could pose a threat to the environment, as it has a diesel engine and an unknown amount of fuel onboard.
But for the time being, "nobody is in harm's way" and Leonard said he will continue to try to compel the owner to make arrangements to get the boat out.