A 36.5-foot sailboat that washed ashore on Norton Point July 5 is finally off the beach after a week of removal efforts, and Edgartown police reported that several people who stripped the boat of its contents have returned the items.
Edgartown police Det. Sgt. Christopher Dolby told the Gazette this week that Running Free, the sailboat belonging to Bill Heldenbrand, 67, of St. Joseph, Mo., was pulled off the beach last Friday. During an attempted transatlantic voyage, Mr. Heldenbrand encountered a severe storm and was forced to abandon his boat between Florida and Bermuda.
Detective Dolby said the boat is now in New Bedford, and Mr. Heldenbrand sold it for $1 because so much damage was done to the boat.
While the boat languished on the beach, people began stripping it of its contents. Edgartown police said they would offer limited amnesty to those involved, asking for the items to be returned.
Detective Dolby said the grace period yielded several items that were brought to the Edgartown police station: a steering wheel, two anchors, tools, battery meters, electronics, marine radios, a sail in a big bag. There are some outstanding items, he said, including other electronics that have not been returned. Detective Dolby said he has some leads.
“I consider it a success,” he said, adding that maritime law, if read closely, clearly indicates that items on boats are “not all free for the taking when it hits land.”
He said those returning the items said they thought the boat’s contents were salvaged property, while others said they thought it was okay because everyone else was doing it.