Early morning Vineyard Haven Harbor joy ride leaves wake of destruction

The unmanned 25-foot powerboat raced in circles and struck a sailboat with four people aboard on the first night of their visit to Martha's Vineyard.

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Updated 12:30 pm, Wednesday

A late night boat trip by a Needham teen on the last day of his Island vacation ended with his arrest on numerous charges and significant damage to several boats after he and a friend were ejected from his family’s 25-foot HydraSports center console Vector, which continued to circle outer Vineyard Haven Harbor under power until slamming ashore.

Investigating officers and those familiar with the waterfront agreed it is a miracle no one was seriously injured as the unmanned boat, powered by twin 150 horsepower Yamaha four-stroke engines, raced in circles striking three anchored boats before crashing up on Eastville Beach about 3 am Monday morning.

Noah Jick, 18, of Needham was arraigned Monday in Edgartown District Court on charges of boating while under the influence of alcohol; negligent operation of a boat; minor in possession of liquor; leaving the scene of personal injury by boat, and three counts of leaving the scene of property damage by boat. Bail was set at $500 and he was released that morning. He is due back in court on Sept. 16.

Tisbury police said Mr. Jick had a blood alcohol content of .025 when tested at the Dukes County Jail that morning. The level at which a minor faces possible administrative suspension of a license is .02 percent.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday, Mr. Jick’s lawyer, attorney James Milligan of Norwell, who specializes in defending clients against OUI charges, said that given the results of the blood alcohol test, his client was incorrectly charged with operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident. Mr. Milligan said both boys remained on the sailboat in the vicinity of the accident. “To say that they left the scene is ridiculous,” Mr. Milligan said. “The boat was unmanned when it struck these objects, so they never left the scene.”

Police confiscated a Tropicana orange juice container with alcohol, an empty Four Loko can, and a peppermint Schnapps bottle from the boat.

Assessing the morning’s events, Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan said he was grateful for the speedy and professional response from his officers and multiple agencies that ended with no serious injuries and an arrest.

Catching air

The evening began, according to the police report, at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, where Mr. Jick met a group of friends. About 8:30 pm, Mr. Jick and his friends left the yacht club “for Falmouth to pick up some girls.”

Later that night, one of the group, a male whom the police did not identify because at age 17 he is considered a minor, asked to return to shore and was dropped off at the yacht club. On his way home in a 2005 Infiniti FX, the young man struck a utility pole on West Chop about 1:45 am, snapping it off at its base. The impact was so great it sheared off the rear wheel of the car, which spun 180-degrees and smashed a section of fence in front of the Coast Guard house and West Chop Lighthouse, Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling told The Times.

The young man ran from the scene, police said. He called his friends out in the boat for assistance and asked them to pick him up at the beach.

One of the party left the boat to find the teen who had struck the pole and encountered police at the scene of the accident which led police to the teen driver. Police expect to seek charges against the young driver that include leaving the scene of an accident.

Mr. Jick asked Morgan Michalski, 18, of West Tisbury, who was not charged in connection with any of the events of the evening, to accompany him while he returned the girls to Falmouth, according to the police report. The pair later returned to Vineyard Haven Harbor intent on meeting the juvenile after they moored the boat. “Morgan said he remembers Mr. Jick cutting the wheel hard and then hitting something,” according to the police report. “The next thing he remembers is being thrown from the boat into the water. Morgan said he called out to Mr. Jick to see if he was OK. They both swam to the nearest sailboat, Catching Air.

According to the investigation, the men were thrown overboard after they collided with a Beneteau 26 sailboat that was anchored in the harbor.

Scary to see

Steve Bouton, a Manhattan contractor, had anchored his 62-foot blue ketch, Lilia, in Vineyard Haven Harbor Sunday afternoon. Also aboard at the start of a two-week vacation were his wife, 13-year-old son and 25-year-old niece. About 3 am, Mr. Bouton woke up to the sound of a boat racing through the mooring field.

He looked out from the hatch and saw a boat going very fast “making big, big circles around other boats.” As it got closer he saw that no one was aboard. He went back into the cabin and told his family members to lie on the floor away from the hull.

“I got on the VHF radio and told the Coast Guard there’s a boat going full speed around and its going to hit one of the boats,” he said. “Then I told my niece to let me know while I was on the radio if it was coming at us. And she said, ‘It’s going to hit us.’”

The HydraSport struck the rear starboard side of his sailboat, made several big circles and then hit his sailboat dead on. “The bow went up to my top over to the boom there,” he said pointing to a large mark and damaged safety line on the port side of his ketch as she lay tied up to Owen Park dock Tuesday.

He tried to grab a free line from the power boat to tie it off, injuring and possibly breaking his thumb. “It was scary to see it and be able to do nothing to stop it,” he said.

Mr. Bouton said he is now contacting insurance companies and expects to have to cut his trip short.  “I don’t usually take vacations,” Mr. Bouton said.

David Sylvia was fishing in the area of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge when he heard “a loud crash from a boat” and then heard the sound of multiple crashes. Mr. Sylvia saw a boat light going in circles and called 911. He also told police he heard a male voice yell, “We have to get the [expletive] out of here.”

Coast Guard Lt. Jarrod Pomajzl told The Times Station Woods Hole responded with a 45-foot response boat. A Coast Guard helicopter was also made ready. Lieutenant Pomajzl said more often than not an unmanned boat circling means one thing. “We initially started searching for a person in the water,” he said. At the same time, the Coast Guard contacted the Island communications center.

The Coast Guard soon located Noah and Morgan aboard Catching Air, and brought them to Owen Park where they were met by Tisbury police officers. Mr. Jick told police he was the boat operator.

Multi-agency response

The report of a boat circling and possible people in the water and injuries generated a multi-agency response. In addition to Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police and fire rescue, Tisbury emergency medical services and harbor personnel responded.

Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker said he received a call “from communications about 3 am telling me that there was a vessel circling off West Chop and it was banging into other vessels.” A second call followed about a person with a broken hand.

Mr. Crocker and assistant harbormaster Jim Pepper met EMS personnel, fire chief John Schilling and the ambulance at the Owen Park dock. He brought an EMS medic out to the vessel where the two young men were waiting. Mr. Bouton declined medical attention.

On Monday, Mr. Crocker surveyed the damage. He said the powerboat struck three sailboats on the West Chop side of the outer harbor. A Beneteau 26 sailboat had a small hole, “four or five inches in the starboard side,” he said. “The boat that really got the worst of it, a 62-foot blue ketch , that one got the worst of it — he got hit on two sides.” Lilia, homeported in Oyster Bay, N.Y., was struck in the rear quarters and then was “T-boned,” Mr. Crocker said.

“It’s just a miracle that nobody died,” Mr. Crocker said. “It’s a miracle.”

Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said that as Tisbury EMS was racing to respond to reports of people in the water, the department received a call for a significant medical emergency. Oak Bluffs was asked to respond to Tisbury. As Oak Bluffs EMS responded to Tisbury, a call for another medical emergency in Oak Bluffs followed. Edgartown EMS was asked to respond to that call.

“There was an incredible ripple effect across the Island,” Mr. Schilling said. “Their poor judgement affected all of us.”

Mr. Schilling said the response reflected great cooperation among many different agencies. He also expressed astonishment at the lack of any serious injuries.

Startled awake

Seasonal Eastville waterfront residents Harriet and Bob Dewey told The Times they woke up to a loud bang about 3 am Monday morning. Initially, Ms. Dewey thought a door might have been thrown open by a passing squall.

When she looked out and saw the running light of a boat on the rocks adjacent to their dock, she called 911.

“They told us not to go on the dock,” she said. “I kept shouting — ‘Is anybody on board? Is anybody hurt?’ — and got no response.”

Oak Bluffs police arrived quickly and removed various items from the boat. The Deweys were concerned that someone might have been thrown from the boat. Oak Bluffs police assured them that was not the case and an arrest had been made in connection with the early morning joy ride.

Monday morning, the Deweys watched as captain R.W. Henson of Towboat Nantucket Sound, a marine tow and salvage company based in Falmouth, began preparations to pull the boat off the rocks and away from their dock, a portion of which was damaged when the boat slammed up on the beach.

“It’s really a shame because the boards were original to when the house was built,” Ms. Dewey said, noting they were almost a century old. “We rebuilt it five years ago but kept the boards because they were original.”

Jigsaw puzzle

Early Monday morning, Captain Henson arrived in the company’s custom built 30-foot Almar towboat outfitted with twin 250-horsepower engines and began the process of contacting local agencies and the boat owner.

Once he had permission to pull the Vector center console, worth more than $50,000 according to current listings, from the rocks he installed portable pumps and plotted his moves. The bow was smashed in sections, the fiberglass clearly visible. “It was in really bad shape,” he said.

The boat transom was jammed in between boulders and the dock.

“It was just pinned in there in such an awkward way,” he said, “that the angle I first had to pull it out was to clear the transom, then after that I had to pull it from a couple of different angles — it was like a jigsaw puzzle getting it off those rocks.”

James Hale of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard arrived to lend a hand. About 11 am Monday morning, after several efforts to clear the transom, Captain Henson was able to pull the powerboat off the rocks and tie up alongside it.

The HydraSport was towed to MV Shipyard and lifted from the water that afternoon.

Mr. Jick’s mother arrived at the shipyard about 2 pm and asked to retrieve  her son’s backpack and keys, which she said remained on the boat. Ms. Jick said she had little time as she was scheduled to depart on the 2:30 pm Island Home from Vineyard Haven. Environmental Police Sergeant Mike Silba, who was inspecting damaged boats in the harbor, instructed the shipyard not to remove anything from the boat until he arrived back at the shipyard. Ms. Jick left to catch her boat.

Sgt. Silba arrived and placed an evidence sticker on the boat. He said he is proceeding with his investigation and expects to seek charges in connection with the damage caused by the runaway boat.

Editor’s noteIn an email dated Dec. 16, Noah Jick’s attorney Jay Milligan updated this story with the following information: “Mr. Jick was placed on pre-trial probation for 1 year on the unsafe boating offense.  This involved no admission of guilt or wrongdoing as there was no evidence that he operated the boat in an unsafe manner.  To the contrary, the witness who was in the boat indicated that Mr. Jick was operating the boat in a responsible manner. If Mr. Jick remains out of trouble for the year, that case will be dismissed.  The OUI [operating under the influence], leaving the scene of property damage and all other charges have been dismissed.”