Last week’s removal of a sunken boat near the Ocean Avenue footbridge made me reminisce about the old Coast Guard cutter that was moored nearby for the majority of my life. The Cartigan, as it was called, and pictured above when it was still brand spankin’ new, was built and delivered in 1927. It served our country for 42 years, before being decommissioned in 1969. I was about to write my own history about this fine vessel, but then I found this amazing article in the New York Times that I think did it justice, written when the boat was removed from our waters in 2004.
Here’s an excerpt:
For more than 30 years, the Cartigan, a decommissioned 125-foot cutter that, according to legend, once chased Nazi submarines, squatted and rotted by the quaint footbridge across Sheepshead Bay. Its owner and part-time resident, a retired bridge painter and boat dealer named Nicholas Mitchell, defied all attempts to force its removal, disagreeing vigorously with those who called the Cartigan a symbol of Sheepshead Bay’s long decline and, later, a barrier to its renewal. Opponents of the boat got their big break last year, when the Cartigan keeled over like a sclerotic uncle.
Yesterday, after four days of delicate gruntwork to right the sunken vessel and secure it to a barge, contractors from Weeks Marine Inc., hired by the city under a court order, towed it out into Jamaica Bay, on its way to a metal scrapyard in Port Newark, where it will be dissected next week.
Among the dozen-odd old and not-so-old salts gathered along the railing on Emmons Avenue yesterday morning to watch the Cartigan go, not one came to praise it.
”It should have been taken out of here years ago,” said Jay Grande, a retiree and full-time pleasure fisherman in a Calcutta Baits ball cap.
It was a sad ending for a boat that served its country proudly for decades. According to the Coast Guard’s Web site, the Cartigan was launched in 1927 as a patrol boat in that era’s war on bootleg alcohol. It later broke ice on the Connecticut River, worked as an escort vessel along the Eastern Seaboard during World War II, and made the rounds — Cleveland, Galveston, Panama City — until it was decommissioned and sold to Mr. Mitchell in 1969 for $26,000.
In 1972, Mr. Mitchell got permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to install four pilings in Sheepshead Bay, across Emmons Avenue from Lundy’s seafood house. He parked his boat there and, after a while, stopped moving it.
Gradually, the Cartigan decayed, and public and political pressure on Mr. Mitchell to vacate increased, especially after the city rebuilt most of the piers in Sheepshead Bay and began collecting rent on them. But Mr. Mitchell, armed with what he said was a permit from the Department of Ports and Trade, a city agency dissolved in 1991, held his watery ground.
The local city councilman, Anthony D. Weiner, asked two agencies, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, to remove the Cartigan in 1995. Both said they had no jurisdiction. Mr. Weiner, now a congressman, recalled that Mr. Mitchell took a certain pleasure in the chase. ”Whenever I saw him,” Mr. Weiner said yesterday, ”he had the self-satisfied smile of a guy who had outfoxed every government agency for decades.”
Man, I love underdogs. Read the full article.