Seacoast officials say unwanted 'Guest' boat to be moved soon

Union Leader Correspondent
June 18. 2014 8:02PM
The Guest List remains grounded in the salt marsh off Tuttle Avenue. (RYAN O'CONNOR/Union Leader Correspondent)

HAMPTON — The Seacoast’s recently famed unwanted “Guest” may soon be headed for greener pastures, or at least deeper waters.

Michael Wheeler, co-owner of Hampton Harbor Boatworks, said his company received a check Monday from one of the owners of the “Guest List,” a 70-foot unmanned boat, which has been grounded in a salt marsh near Tuttle Avenue since January. The funds will be used to facilitate the removal and repair of the boat, he said.

“Right now, we’re just looking for a new home for it so we can repair it,” said Wheeler.

Jim Patenaude, the other owner of Hampton Harbor Boatworks, had secured storage for it at one spot, but Wheeler said that agreement fell through.

“Now they don’t want to take it, because of all the press around the boat,” he said. “They’re afraid they won’t get paid.”

Of course, rumors about the boat have been rampant since it was first discovered floating in the Hampton River last fall. Some said it was a ghost ship. Others claimed the boat was used for filming pornography, and others still insist it was used for drug running or sneaking illegal immigrants into the country. The most popular rumor, according to Hampton homeowner Alicia Preston, was the boat was set to be blown up as part of a Denzel Washington movie being filmed at Salisbury Beach.

“I actually tweeted Denzel and told him to come get his boat,” said Preston. “Obviously, I never heard back from him because it didn’t turn out to be his, but my point remains. I want it removed.”

The boat now rests about 80 feet from Preston’s 25 Tuttle Avenue home, and she said it’s long past due to be towed away.

“We had our fun with it. It was entertaining for awhile and it got us through a long winter, but now it’s a safety issue,” she said. “The idea that it’s now been going on for six months now is kind of ridiculous, and I want one of potential parties involved, whether it’s the state or people at (Hampton Harbor Boatworks) marina to take care of it.”

Preston said she is concerned about the ecological impact, since the boat has created a dam effect, and changed the natural flow of the water in the salt marsh. She also said she’s concerned with the potential for teens or young adults to party on the boat and get hurt.

“It’s become a tourist attraction,” she said.

Right now, the Guest List remains firmly grounded, but a tropical storm or hurricane could spell significant danger for Preston’s home, she said.

“It’s too close for comfort,” she said. “I grew up in this house, and I’ve seen giant docks and all kinds of other stuff come up (with the storm surge). This is a big boat. It’s taller than my house, and it could certainly do significant damage.”

Preston said she’s sought help from the state, the marina, and even hired a lawyer to try to facilitate the boat’s removal, to no avail.

“I don’t know for the life of me how you can have something dumped in a wetland and then say it has to stay there because (the owners) don’t have money,” she said. “If I had a trailer and I accidentally dumped it in a marsh, I’m pretty sure someone else would haul it out and then I’d get a fine.”

Tracy Shattuck, Chief Harbor Master at the New Hampshire, said the delay isn’t a result of apathy, but rather logistics.

“We’ve been working closely with DES (Department of Environmental Services) and Hampton Harbor Boatworks to try to get this thing squared away,” he said. “It’s not a lack of willingness or effort. The problem is there are very few places that can accommodate that boat, and the bad press is scaring a lot of people away. It’s a physical logistical problem.”

Shattuck said the problem originated when the boat came loose in the Hampton Harbor mooring field where it had been stored. Because of fears it would come loose again due to rough winter waters and threaten other vessels as well as the Hampton/Seabrook bridge, he said the boat was moved to a safer location adjacent to the marina, where it again broke loose and eventually found its way into the marshes off Tuttle Avenue.

Wheeler said the boat’s owners, Andresa and Marcelo Nunes, had purchased it from a Newburyport man who had restored it. Plans were in the works to make it into a houseboat, and it was towed to Hampton Harbor Boatworks last summer to have a pair of diesel engines installed, but the owners ran into a series of financial difficulties and misfortunes that resulted in the boat being left in Hampton through the winter.

“They’re nice enough people, and they haven’t told us they can’t afford it,” Wheeler said of the Nunes’. “I guess if anything good has come of all the press around this, is that it’s my understanding three or four people have offered to buy the boat from them.”

The hull of the boat is torn, but Wheeler said repairs are far cheaper than the cost of dismantling and disposing of the boat.

Among alternate ideas that have been floated, Wheeler said a local company has offered to sink the boat off the cost of Hampton and use it as an artificial reef, where tourists can fish, snorkel and swim, though he noted significant hurdles with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exist with that plan.

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