Islanders irked by tug left at Race Rock

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

Fishers Island residents are asking Southold Town for help in removing this tugboat that ran aground at Race Point in May.

A 50-foot tugboat headed from Baltimore to New London that ran aground at Race Point on Fishers Island in early May, its captain and sole crew member rescued by the Coast Guard, is still lying on its side in two feet of water at what residents say is one of the most scenic places on the island.

New London resident Douglas Walker had just purchased the tugboat in Baltimore and was taking it home when it ran aground May 8, according to reports at the time of the accident. He was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter crew from Cape Cod after a Coast Guard boat crew and a commercial rescue boat from TowBoatUS were unable to reach the vessel because it lay in such shallow water.

Now, the tugboat lies with a hole in its side not far from the Fishers Island ferry dock in Silver Eel Cove, in a stretch of shallow water between Race Point and the Race Rock Light, baffling passing boaters.

Passengers on a special ferry headed to Fishers Island last Wednesday for the Southold Town Board’s annual meeting there wondered why no one was responding to what still looked, from a distance, like a sinking boat in need of assistance.

Ken Edwards, who lives year-round on Fishers Island, pleaded with board member to remove the boat from the rocks.

“I guess the Coast Guard has washed its hands of it,” he said.

Some members of the board took a brief boat ride to examine the wreck before the meeting. Councilman Vincent Orlando said that he’d been briefed that the captain had apparently been the only person on board when the engines died, and could not avoid drifting ashore. He said Mr. Walker apparently did not have enough money to remove the boat himself.

There is no published phone listing for Douglas Walker in New London.

Though the boat is technically salvageable, meaning that it could be claimed and removed by anyone willing to do the work of hauling it away, Coast Guard spokesman Rob Delano of Sector Long Island Sound said last week that no one has submitted a salvage plan to his office. He said that nothing would prohibit Southold Town from removing the boat and added that the Coast Guard had already removed all potential hazards, including fuel oil, from the vessel.

The tugboat was just one of a number of issues brought up by Fishers Island residents at the meeting. Bill Ridgeway, who serves on the board of the Fishers Island Electric Corp., asked the board to help expedite state and county approvals for a backup generator that the utility wants to install on the island. Mr. Ridgeway said the island currently receives electricity through just one underwater cable from Connecticut.

“Last week we had a three-hour outage. If it happened in winter, it could be a major problem,” he said, adding that the primary sticking point has been getting the state and the county to agree to allow the utility to pour a concrete slab underneath the generator.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine, who attended the meeting, pledged to help expedite county approval of the project.

Mr. Edwards also asked board members why the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has not yet established a presence on the island. Residents who want to go to the DMV need to take a ferry to New London, then another ferry to Orient, and then drive to the DMV in Riverhead to register their cars.

DMV representative Sandra Mercedes Little, who was at the meeting, said that approval of a DMV office was contingent on the passage of the state budget, which had only occurred the night prior to the meeting. She said that her office now has to lobby to have the department use money in the budget to expand service to Fishers Island. In the meantime, she said, residents can get help from the DMV by calling 631-369-0501.

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