Grounded sailboat a headache for Westport harbormaster

Boat ran aground at Horseneck Saturday, but owner appears to be in no rush to remove it

By Ted Hayes
Posted 10/26/23

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 …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events


If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Grounded sailboat a headache for Westport harbormaster

Boat ran aground at Horseneck Saturday, but owner appears to be in no rush to remove it

Posted

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.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.