Midnight Rider finally goes away
After several failed attempts early this week, the Midnight Rider, the washed-up scalloper from New Bedford that has been abandoned on Norton Point Beach for nearly three weeks, was successfully towed offshore Tuesday afternoon.
Near the 3 pm high tide, a 100-foot tugboat finally eased the 71-foot Midnight Rider from its spot on the barrier beach that connects Chappaquiddick Island with Katama.
"It was a pain in the neck type of job," said Conrad Roy of Tucker-Roy Marine Towing and Salvage, the Mattapoisett company that managed the tow job. Mr. Roy said on Wednesday that "a lot of prayers" helped remove the boat.
An excavator removes sand from beneath the Midnight Rider, allowing water to flow beneath her. Photo by Skip Bettencourt
In addition to the prayers, Mr. Roy explained that an excavator also helped in the process. On Tuesday, before the actual towing began, an excavator furnished by Watercourse Construction removed piles of sand that had built up around and under the boat, allowing water beneath the vessel. "The boat was high and dry on the beach," he said. "So we had to put water underneath it. Once we had water, it was easy to tug."
The removal of the old, rusted vessel was highly anticipated. Before Tuesday's success, there were several failed attempts at towing the boat.
Around four o'clock on Monday afternoon, and again at four in the morning the next day, at the high tides, Conrad-Roy tried towing the Midnight Rider off the shore with their 100-foot diesel electric tugboat, but the old boat didn't budge. Many involved in the removal were worried that the vessel might have to be cut up and salvaged right on the beach, an expensive and laborious process. Some even feared that Norton Point beach might end up with a new and permanent monument.
Since the boat first went aground during the early hours of July 1, several different organizations and companies became involved in the arduous removal of the vessel.
Overseeing the entire process was the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA). According to Lieutenant James Weaver of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England, Kevin Arruda of New Bedford, the owner and captain of the boat, was financially unable to undertake the process of removing the boat, which is why the state intervened.
Six different towing and salvage companies placed bids for the job, and on July 14 Tucker-Roy Marine was hired. According to Vanessa Gulati, EOEA spokesman, Tucker-Roy was hired because of their experience and because they were able to do the job at the first possible high tide.
The Coast Guard also became more involved in the process. Coast Guard Petty Officers Aaron Frost, Ryan Richards, and P.O. Simkins were assigned to help oversee the process, and were on site during the removal. The Coast Guard also hired Towboat USA to provide assistance.
Constantly on hand to regulate onlookers and beachgoers were the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), the private conservation organization that runs the two-mile-long beach. The arrival of the Midnight Rider on the beach, which TTOR had closed to public access to protect nesting shorebirds from any disturbance, threw TTOR a huge curveball this summer and forced them to make significant modifications to their management of the beach.
The boat first went aground almost three weeks ago in the early hours of July 1, after it began to take on water while scalloping in Muskeget Channel, several miles east of where it now rests. After receiving several radio calls from the Midnight Rider requesting assistance, rescue helicopters from Air Station Cape Cod and boats from Coast Guard Stations Brant Point and Menemsha were launched.
A Jayhawk helicopter hoisted Captain Kevin Arruda, 40, Donald Bachand, 40, and Roy Lasham, 40, off the boat in good condition around midnight. Over the next few hours, the boat floated off the shoal and drifted west, eventually ending up high and dry on Norton Point Beach
Two weeks ago, a private company spent an entire day removing the 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel that were onboard, lightening the boat by 7,200 pounds. Removing the oil was the top priority, as an oil spill might have resulted in disastrous environmental consequences.
On Monday, with representatives from every involved organization on site, the removal process finally began.
Around 11 am, Tucker-Roy made a hawser fast to Midnight Rider, and by 4 pm that afternoon they were ready to give the boat a pull.
Because of the angle of the stranded vessel, the towboat, stationed almost 1,000 yards off the beach, pulled westward. The towboat was unable to get any closer to the Midnight Rider because of the shallow water just off the beach. With each towing attempt, the towboat released clouds of gray smoke and its wake erupted in a frothy whirlpool. Despite the efforts of Tucker-Roy and Towboat US, the Midnight Rider refused to budge. Chris Kennedy, TTOR regional supervisor, who was on hand all day to help oversee the area, noted that the towing company only had "a small window of opportunity, just at high tide."
After several hours, that window had passed and everyone decided to call it a day. Another attempt to pull the boat off took place at 4 am the next morning, but the old, rusted vessel remained in place once again.
On Monday, Mr. Kennedy explained that the weather conditions were a large factor in the towing attempts. With moderate waves on Monday, onlookers and officials were hopeful that the water would help loosen the boat from its perch. The only thing the waves did, however, was add more water to the boat, which was removed by several Tucker-Roy employees around 4:45, in the middle of the attempted towing process.
Mr. Mooney, a design engineer with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, who was on site to represent the EOEA and oversee the process, spent most of the day sitting in the shade of a TTOR all-terrain vehicle, looking over the Midnight Rider and the towboat on the horizon. Mr. Mooney refused to answer questions. Vanessa Gulati, EOEA spokesman, said on Tuesday that Mr. Mooney had been involved in hiring the contractor for the removal and was sent to the site to oversee the process.
Tuesday held more luck for the tired crew, and with the help of the excavator, the boat was once and for all pulled from the shore. According to Mr. Roy, the Midnight Rider was safely towed to New Bedford.
Ms. Gulati explained that despite the state's role in the removal, Kevin Arruda, the owner of the Midnight Rider, isn't completely uninvolved. She sited Massachusetts law Chapter 91, sections 39 and 49A. According to Ms. Gulati, section 39 allows the state to cause the removal of the vessel. Section 49A, she said, states that a $10,000 fine will be issued to the owner of the vessel if it is grounded, sunk, or abandoned. "After the boat's removal," she explained, "we can issue a bill to the owner. He then has ten days to create a payment schedule, or will we auction off the boat for reimbursement." Ms. Gulati said that the engine of the vessel is worth approximately $30,000 and the propeller is worth approximately $3,000, and several other parts could be sold or auctioned off.