Saturday, August 24, 2013


Look it up. It means more than abandoned; it also connotes “outcast” or “one guilty of neglect.”

Storm over the river.

Nearly a year ago, a red hulled steel ketch tied up at the free Town Dock. It flew the colors of France and overstayed the forty-eight hour limit for the free dock until someone called our policeman (amazingly, our tiny town has surged from one full time to one full time plus two part time gendarmes).

S/V Primadonna withdrew to the harbor anchorage and lingered through the winter into spring and then summer, all the while showing the wear of time and weather and apparent neglect. But she was not abandoned. Her two crew stuck with her through storms and what cold winter brought.

Rumors regarding the two crew and the condition of the boat sputtered about. One storm laid her over on her keel as she swung onto the unmarked muddy lump of shoal just off the Oriental Yacht Club docks. Her crew set a second anchor to keep her off the shoal and out of the main channel. Her hull continued to fade to a dusty pale red.

When Primadonna dropped her hook in the anchorage, she became the third in a triumvirate of long term boats in a short term anchorage. Despite two of the boats being occupied, all appeared in varying states of neglect. Some passing cruisers reportedly avoided a stay in the Oriental anchorage due to concerns about being left with the repair tab if one of the seemingly unattended and likely uninsured boats broke free. And one of the boats did break free to wash onto the same shoal on which Primadonna had leaned.

Community conversation and criticism exploded. It has been a slow year for visiting boats. How much of that can be blamed on the vagrancy of these three boats? Local discussion in many cases turned to anger.

Clouds swirl beyond the point.
One of the crew was arrested for shoplifting (coffee and Nutella). Some in the community have offered food or cash as assistance. In total, it was not sufficient for Primadonna to disembark for the Atlantic crossing back to France. In an interview with, the captain explained why he had not been able to leave: no funds to pay for a starter repair or twine to fix his sails, no funds for fuel. He did not mention the need for at least thirty days’ food supply.

Community patience has largely expired. There is still no known plan for the crew to be able to depart, so some want to drag her out to sea or seize the boat and jail the crew. Is the crew hoping that the heavens will open with cash, food and fuel falling free from the sky? What to do? Two people are stranded in a foreign country on a boat that cannot leave under its own power, penniless and hungry. What are the limits of charity? Should we continue to feed those who will not/cannot feed themselves?

Dull water, dull sky.

I cannot answer for others, but I do not believe any sane person chooses to become themselves derelict. Theirs is not a happy life. I do not think those who are angry are entirely wrong in their objections, but I feel empathy and compassion for our strangers in our strange land, far from home, far from family, far from the comforts of the familiar.


  1. What a difficult subject! It's such a small step from compassion and patience to frustration and anger. I am curious where the Customs and Immigration people are. Surely crew on a French flagged vessel have visas that have/will expire?

  2. INS is, as you know, under Homeland Security, the failed behemoth. Yes, at least one of the crew has an expired visa, but no apparent action by DHS.


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