Area residents wonder outcome as 'Utopia' haunts cove


The 42-foot Chris Craft, Utopia, swings at anchor in the italic Occupasstuxet Cove. To her north are Gaspee Point and Governor Francis Farm. To her west are the hunter greens, yellows and vermilions of Spring Green woodlands and fields. Reaching south beyond Cole Farm and Conimicut is Narragansett Bay.

How Utopia got to the cove is a narrative lacking a beginning. But how the story ends is of concern to many residents who share the same view and to city Harbormaster Jeff Baris.

Baris has been on the case of the Utopia since April, when it showed up at the Aspray Boathouse in Pawtuxet. It carried a for sale sign. He met Bob Meek, who told him the boat had wintered at Port Edgewood, where he’d been told to leave, and it was being towed to Warwick Cove to be hauled.

The account was a reasonable explanation. Baris waited to see what would happen. Utopia left Aspray, but it didn’t go far.

Baris found her nearby on the rocks in the Pawtuxet mooring field. Now he imagined a whole set of problems, the worst being a sunken, abandoned boat. Then, to his relief, he found her secured at Pettis Boat Yard, only to learn she was there without permission. He crossed paths again with Meek, who reiterated his intention to get the boat to Warwick Cove.

The Utopia moved again.

In May, it appeared in Occupasstuxet Cove. Presumably, it had been towed, as the boat – which is made of fiberglass, and which Baris estimates to be of 1971-72 vintage – is without engines. It has no registration, and Baris doesn’t have a hull number that would allow him to trace ownership.

Baris kept a watchful eye and gave it more time. It’s a strategy that has worked in the past. He notified the Department of Environmental Management and the Coast Guard. Utopia was on the screen, however the situation was changing. Baris hasn’t seen Meek for some time, yet Utopia had company.

According to Baris, a man driving a pickup with Wisconsin license plates started parking in Gaspee and using a kayak to get to Utopia, where he was apparently living. Baris said the man, who gave his name as Chris Nickerson, hasn’t been seen in several weeks, and as best he knows no one is living on the boat.

This is of no consolation to at least one Governor Francis Farm resident who looks out on the cove and wonders what would happen if the Utopia washes ashore. She is one of several people consistently calling, Baris said.

He said because of its size, removing the vessel presents problems. Getting to a place where it can be hauled is one issue, and then, when it is out of the water, transporting it on highways is another. Of course, at the core is the question of who is going to pay.

Baris said he would step up efforts to get the boat moved with his initial efforts for Meek, or whoever lays claim to Utopia, taking responsibility.


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I wonder if there's a body on the Utopia and Baris wasn't able to figure it out (again).

Tuesday, July 23