Life — April 2003
|Part 2: Weeks passed without a word.|
About two and a half hours later the Coast Guard responded that Tender Leigh had been sighted drifting north of Montauk Point. Being as far west as Port Jefferson, I was not about to turn around and toss us back into the soup, so I authorized a towboat to conduct a search and recovery for a couple of hours or until our tender was found—whichever came first.
We made it all the way to Manhattan, and as we stopped on the New Jersey side for refueling before our trip up the Hudson for home, the cellphone rang. It was the towboat skipper with some good news—and some bad news. The good news: He’d heard on the radio that another vessel had recovered our boat and arranged for transfer at G“1BI,” just north of Block Island. The bad news: The vessel never showed up. The Inflatable Pirates had struck again! Worse, the towboat skipper had not gotten any information on Capt. Kidd’s vessel name or hailing port. The next day, I sadly reported Tender Leigh missing to the local sheriff’s office.
Weeks passed without a word. By August I’d reconciled myself to being a captain who lost a ship—until the phone rang. It was Kidd himself! He claimed he’d damaged his boat trying to lift Tender Leigh in rough seas and wanted compensation, or I would never see the boat again. Ransom! I sidestepped the issue and let him contact my insurance carrier.
Three days passed until the phone rang again. This time it was the town of Southhold, New York’s police department calling to inform me that they had my tender in their possession. What? A local marina had called them when Kidd had asked them to store a boat he’d “found” but not reported as missing. “How was the engine?” I asked. “What engine?” came the reply. After I provided the engine serial number, the constable said he’d visit the marina and call back.
The constable called backed as promised. According to the marina, Kidd had removed the engine, sent it out of state for service—what a citizen—and arranged for shipment from Connecticut back to Long Island. When the treasure chest was opened, the ebony outboard revealed the same numbers I had provided. The wind was out of Kidd’s sails! Charges were pressed.
If the seven-month season was short for boating, it was even shorter for Tender Leigh. Incarcerated at the police station, the lost vessel weathered under the falling leaves. The weather turned colder. The legal process ground on. Kidd was spending his treasure on legal fees. I just wanted my boat back.
Finally in November a deal was cut with Kidd. He agreed to behave for six months—no pillaging, no sinking of Spanish galleons, no stealing doubloons—if charges were dropped. My first mate and I made a weekend trek to Greenport to retrieve Tender Leigh. Following cleanup and reconditioning, she was carried to the backyard patio for a ceremony we should have held five months earlier: her christening. Amongst the lightly falling snow and before family and friends, I broke a bottle of champagne over her bow eye.
As boaters know, a properly christened vessel is naturally protected from weather, rough seas, and other calamities. I sure hope that includes pirates, too.
David E. Hunter is a project manager for a major computer services company and a member of the 102nd Internal Security Battalion, 56th Brigade, New York Guard. He resides with his family in Lagrangeville, New York.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.