New Bedford scrap yard is end of story for looted sailboat

After drifting 700 miles, the 36 foot ketch Running Free came ashore on Norton Point Beach. — File photo by Jim Crave

A 36-foot Pearson ketch that came ashore on Norton Point beach in Edgartown on July 5 is now in a New Bedford scap yard. Abandoned by her owner, Bill Heldenbrand, in a storm on May 12 as he sailed solo from Jacksonville, Florida, the boat drifted more than 700 miles over 54 days.

After several unsuccessful attempts, salvage operators pulled the sailboat off the beach, but not before looters had done their worst. Last week, after learning of the thefts, Edgartown police offered a brief period of amnesty during which items could be returned.

Edgartown Police Detective Chris Dolby told The Times Wednesday that the items returned included lines, tools, and “the steering wheel,” but no electronics.

“I have an office full of random stuff,” Detective Dolby said.

Asked how the thieves justified their actions, Mr. Dolby said the reasoning ranged from references to maritime law to “everyone else was doing it.” Police were not immediately notified of the looting.

“It seems like it was pretty much a free for all,” Mr. Dolby added.

The question now is what to do with it. The sailboat Running Free has been sold and is now in a scrap yard, Det. Sgt. Dolby said.