Hurricane Irene brought unprecedented damage to eastern North Carolina. The tidal surge reached levels that even the oldest Old Timers had never seen and may never see again. The debris that H. Irene spread throughout the area may never be completely cleaned up and has created lots of questions in the minds of the landowners on which land the debris settled.
Boats belong in the water and Irene’s water took numerous boats on trips that took them far from their intended docks. One large sailboat slipped her moorings at Fairfield Harbor near New Bern and several days later washed up in a relatively unscathed condition near Engelhard in Hyde County. The unmanned craft made quite a journey from the Neuse River, out into Pamlico Sound and north to Hyde County. Its grateful owner eventually reclaimed his sailboat and returned it to Fairfield harbor.
There are still unanswered questions regarding a good number of boats that remain grounded along the east’s waterways. Some of these boats are unmarked and can’t readily be identified and others bear markings that can’t readily be traced so that their owners can come and claim their “Irened” boats. In other cases it looks like the boat’s owners aren’t especially anxious to be identified for one reason or another.
One boat owner lost a Sunfish sailboat to the hurricane and advertised on Craig’s List asking for information as to the boat’s whereabouts. He gave an identifying number and within a few days had a response from a very honest person who had his sailboat in his yard. The world still has some honest people.
One large motorboat remains where it finally came to rest washed up in the pine forest of eastern Beaufort County and has a lot of people asking who the boat’s owner is and what plans the owner of the boat has to retrieve the boat.
The 30-foot “Elation Ship” is (was) a very nice inboard cabin cruiser that appeared in the aftermath of H. Irene about 75 feet from the shoreline of the Pamlico River. Helicopter pilots discovered the craft very quickly after the storm and the word spread throughout the local communities as to the boat’s whereabouts. It didn’t take long for scavengers to strip anything of value from the boats hull.
The early Outer Bankers have a long history of taking whatever they can from shipwrecked boats along our coast. Many homes along the coast were built and furnished from the remains of wrecked boats that foundered off our “Graveyard Of The Atlantic.” The Nags Head story is well known.
In the case of the wreck of the “Elation Ship” early explorers of the derelict boat reported that the two inboard engines appeared to be very new and well cared for. Upon checking the oil in the crankcases they found that the oil appeared to be as clean as if it had just been replaced.
The registration numbers of the bow of the “Elation Ship” bear the prefix of a Michigan registered craft (MC-4605-LF) and its homeport is listed on the stern as “Horse Island-GIB.”
After H. Irene and the discovery of the “Elation Ship” in the woods near the village of South Creek both the North Carolina Wildlife resources Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard investigated the boat’s grounding in an attempt to locate the owner.
When the Coast Guard was contacted they referred to a website that allows any citizen of the United States to access information that is in the public domain. This was done and the information gained was so wrapped-up in the federal bureaucracy that literally nothing was gained. Form after form was filled out and the results were—nothing. I’ve heard the term “bureaucratic paranoia” used to describe the fear that many of the “federales” have about releasing any information to the public and this seems to be appropriate in the case of the “Elation Ship” and its owner.
N.C. Wildlife Enforcement Officers also attempted to find out who owned the “Elation Ship” and the also ran into the same stonewall. When I recently asked them what they found out the reply was, “Absolutely nothing.” They attempted to run the numbers of the state registration and the documentation numbers (federal) and didn’t get any answers at all.
The question of just who owns (or owned) the “Elation Ship” remains unsolved to this day. As to whose land the boat resides on, it seems to be that the land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Corporation.
If the owner of the “Elation Ship” should be located questions still will remain. Was the boat insured and will the insurance pay for having the wrecked boat removed from private property? If not, who will pay for its removal? Does the owner of the land on which the boat resides even want the boat removed? What’s to be done with the wrecked boat if it is removed?
Boating expert Emory Morgan from Washington (N.C.) managed to figure out something from the letters and numbers on the “Elation Ship.” The MC prefix on the bow numbers was Michigan lettering. The boat’s homeport identifying letters showed Capt. Morgan that there was a Horse Island on Lake Michigan and that there was a GIBralter community on that Island. Still, there was no indication as to the boats actual owner.
Disposition of fiberglass hulls of abandoned boats is a national problem. Literally millions of wrecked and abandoned synthetic boat hulls sit on grown up lots and back yards across our nation. Environmental regulations do not allow the burning of the synthetic hulls and no one yet has figured out exactly how these pieces of junk can be safely destroyed.
A small yacht in the 40+ class has resided at a private dock on South Creek in Aurora for many years. Nobody could determine just who owned it and the boat was leaking diesel fuel and battery acids. Today only a small part of the boat’s superstructure rises above the water and the chances are that the abandoned boat will be there forever. The town would like to see the eyesore removed but the cost of salvaging the boat and having it hauled off is prohibitive.
When wooden boats were abandoned they at lease rotted away over time. What rot didn’t get, the sea worms did. Synthetic materials just last and last and there are few methods of having them safely reduced to nothing.
In scouting around in various coastal waters it’s not hard to find numerous abandoned boats pushed up in the back of remote creeks where the former owners hope that no one will ever worry about these eye sores. Since H. Irene there are even more abandoned hulls of boats scattered across the coastal marshes. In some cases the boat’s hull numbers can be found and traced to find the owner’s name. If that does happen who’d going to take the time and money to have the legal owner dispose of the boat? Few are willing to pursue these matters.
The “Elation Ship” remains a bit of an enigma. The question of who owns it and what was its purpose remains. Was the “Elation Ship” a drug runner whose owner does not wish to be named? Was the boat stolen from the state of Michigan where the boat was last registered? If the boat’s owner was residing in North Carolina why wasn’t the boat registered in this state and would the owner owe back property taxes on the boat if its residency were determined?
Does anyone out there have any answers?