Sunday, May 5, 2013

Game Warden Files: Missed it by *This* Much!

As I mentioned before, a big part of the workload when we were in Brooklyn was trying to keep illegal shellfish, particularly clams from Jamaica Bay, from getting to market.  We spent many hours trying to prevent or end clamming operations.

One day we got a call about a suspicious-looking boat docked in Head of Bay, a small tidal creek off Jamaica Bay that was largely in Nassau County.  We located the boat, and one night Lt. Jim Molinelli and I decided to go "sit on it" for a few hours.    We had a pretty good vantage point all picked out and when we got there we found the boat gone.  We figured we'd just wait for it to come back and grab the operators when they unloaded the clams.  Armed with a thermos of coffee, we settled in for the night.  A couple hours into our watch the boat came in and tied up at the dock, with only one person.  He left the boat, walked down the dock...and we never saw him again.  The boat was empty--no clam rakes, no baskets, no clams.  We later heard through the rumor mill that the operators had off-loaded the clams elsewhere, presumably into a vehicle and then that vehicle picked up the boat operator after he'd docked.  Since we had seen the boat operating without navigation lights, with no visible registration numbers and, if I recall correctly, no hull ID number, we had the Coast Guard come up and tow the boat to their station for investigation.

It was a nice boat--designed and built purely as a work boat, most likely all homemade.  It was about 17 feet long, powered by a 235 horsepower OMC outboard engine, so it could really move.  There was no tracing the boat; but the engine had a serial number, so I called OMC to find out what I could.  I chased that on and off for about two weeks, making several trips to marinas and boat shops across the south shore of Long Island; but the trail came to a dead end--quite literally.  The last owner of record had run his boat into a rock pile in the Great South Bay and perished.  All trace of ownership ended there.

But, we had the boat.  While we were trying to figure just how we could make use of it, nature took that decision from us.  We'd left the boat at the Coast Guard Station and a couple bad storms came up.  Between dealing with their own station security, and doing whatever Search and Rescue work required during the storm, the guys at the station didn't pay any attention to clamming boat and it filled with water and sank.  They raised it, but the damage was done.  One of the Chief Petty Officers called me to tell me the news.  They'd tried to save it but the engine had been totally underwater for over 24 hours and was beyond any repairs.  It went to the dump.

At least we deprived its owners of a substantial investment.  Sometimes that's all the justice we got.

(Just a note:  I'll use Lt. Molinelli, Jim Molinelli and Jay Molinelli interchangeably)

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