The boat that didn’t get away


Monday wasn’t a perfect day to start a vacation.

It was cold and rainy, not what one would expect for June.

For Paul Earnshaw, it turned out to be a day of saving Buckeye Brook from yet another desecration.

As president of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, Earnshaw led nine people in their kayaks on a tour of the lower end of the brook the morning before. The weather had cooperated – Sunday was by far the best of the weekend – and so did the tides. The weekend brought the highest tides of the year, meaning easy access to the brook marshlands, although with a bit of a scrape going under the Tidewater Drive Bridge.

So on Monday, the first day of his vacation, Earnshaw returned to the brook, curious to see the height of the morning tide. He was dismayed by what he found.

An 18-foot abandoned fiberglass boat that he spotted days before, and informed the city’s harbormaster about, had ridden the tide up to the West Shore Road culvert where it lodged. The boat was filled with water and Earnshaw feared, with the retreating tide, it would wash back into the marsh. He was right. As the tide changed, the boat started its journey, but Earnshaw wasn’t going to allow it to escape. Using a combination of a bungee and a nylon cord, he lassoed it and secured it to the bridge railing.

But what to do now?

Earnshaw got out his cell phone. He called the Department of Environmental Management, but they weren’t equipped to assist before the likelihood of the derelict boat was swept away. Next, he alerted the city’s Department of Public Works. David Picozzi, acting DPW director, saw the exchange of emails with Earnshaw.

“I saw all the commotion and told one of my supervisors to go pull it out,” he said yesterday.

Earnshaw also made a call to the Beacon and then assumed watch over the unwanted prize that tugged at its leash as the tide ebbed. A few passersby joined him, but they didn’t stay long in the chilling wet wind. Earnshaw contemplated how crews might remove the craft, realizing that the closer it was to the culvert the easier that it would be. He then set to bailing out the boat, although it filled nearly as quickly from holes in the hull. But the plan worked and he was able to get the vessel closer to West Shore Road. At 2:30 that afternoon, a city crew arrived with a backhoe and lifted the hulk from the brook.

Picozzi said the boat was brought to the compost station while the harbormaster tries to track down the owner responsible for its disposal.

Removing a boat from the culvert was a unique experience for Picozzi.

“I’ve never seen a boat make it that far up,” he said. “It’s a first.”

On Monday, Earnshaw made a round of calls to report the success of the mission and then, presumably, went on vacation, but it’s just as likely he’s keeping vigilant watch on Buckeye Brook.


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