Death of the “Heron”


I bought my Grampian 28 from a singular Tasmanian named Dave in February, 2003. I had gone to Florida to look around at boats, among other things. One day I rowed my brother-in-law's rickety aluminum rowboat out Frazier Creek, and right there at the mouth was a boat with a "For Sale" sign on it. Always dangerous, but, in this case, serendipitous. And serendipity has governed a good deal of my life. Dave and I began negotiations.


Dave had sailed everywhere in everything, and had severely modified "Lupi" to fit his unique understanding of sailboats. The inboard was replaced by a 15hp Honda outboard in a custom-made, height-adjustable mount on the transom. The lifelines were pretty much done away with ("Look how they just catch you below the knee and overboard you go."). Water storage was a series of 6 gallon jerry cans ("One goes bad, you still have the others, and you can swim them from shore.") The head was original -- and illegal. Most of what he did was illegal or extralegal, I was to find out.


And she was old. No new paint. Mostly original sails and rigging. Serious anchors .. . an autopilot, and was good to go anywhere.


She was my first boat. A learning experience. Anchored in the gypsy zone of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River, she was my rent free home on and off for a year while I learned and prepared for adventures.  Living and teaching in Colorado meant occasional trips to see how she was doing and sailing her as much as I could. She was my home and the object of a hell of a lot of work. I updated the head, worked on some cosmetics, and tried to learn how to sail her.


One ongoing headache was registration. The Tasmanian had bought her from a woman in Tampa but had never registered her. He had painted a bogus Jamaican number on the bow with Magic Marker, and that served his purpose. ("You want to register her? Let's take her to the Bahamas; it will only cost $30 there.") Florida still had her on the books as belonging to the woman in Tampa and would not allow me to register her in my name. (There is a much, much longer sub-story here, but that is for another time.)


I finally registered her in Colorado. Thirty dollars and a number that Florida would have to deal with until I could do something better.


The City of Stuart threw the gypsies out of the South Fork in the summer of '03, so I moved her to a marina, and, in winter, to the hard in Indiantown. In the spring of '04 I went down and did her bottom. The glass was fine - no blisters, good, solid hull. Put her back in and spend the rest of the summer living and sailing, still getting ready for the big offshore adventure. She sailed well, with her original sails, though never well enough to win any of the local "races" my brother-in-law entered her in. I learned navigation and singlehanding. The Honda purred, and all systems worked.


At the end of the summer I had to go back to Colorado for one last semester. Hurricane Charlie was headed toward Florida, and half of the boat owners in Southpointe Anchorage, where she now was, took the storm seriously. Since I was leaving, I followed their lead, stripped her deck completely, and tied her to the mooring with three new half inch lines with chafe protection. The Anchorage people said the moorings were good for a "Force 5" storm.


Charlie didn't get near Stuart, nor did Danielle, but Frances did. She came ashore right at Sewall's Point in Stuart on September 5th. More than half of the boats in Southpointe were blown off; either the moorings gave way (so much for Force 5) or, as with "Night Heron," as I now called her (but never got the name painted on), just sheared the lines right off. All three were broken clean through right near the bow; the lashings on the deck were still firmly in place. The south fork of the St. Lucie River is about a mile wide, and most boats were blown from the Anchorage on the east side to shorelines on the west. Some sank, some were holed, some ended upon the beach. Night Heron sat on her port side on a rocky beach in the front yard of an upscale home. She had neighbors on the same beach.


The storm went through on Sunday morning. I got to Stuart on Thursday, and the Honda was already gone to looters (it had been there on Tuesday). The hull was cracked laterally just behind the keel, probably from being pounded up and down on the rocks on the keel. She has had quite a but of water in her and everything inside below waist height was water-soaked. The mast was intact, though one shroud had broken. The bow pulpit was partially damaged.


At that point I thought she might be recoverable, but I stripped off and out everything of value -- electronics and personal possessions -- and arranged for a salvage company to haul her off and take her back to Indiantown Marina. I had liability insurance, but no insurance on the value. Trying to insure a 28-year old boat with questionable registration was too much.  Then I went back to Colorado.


The salvage guys dawdled (there was a hell of a lot to do - boats all over the place) and Jeanne came shore on Sunday morning, September 26, at exactly the same place, exactly three weeks after Frances,  taking care of much of what Frances had missed. I did not get down to see the Grampian after that, but I guess Jeanne did her in. Took off  the mast and finished holing the port side as she pounded on the rocks again. Looters seem to have had a free hand also. The hatches were broken open and anything else of any value (whisker pole, water containers, old fenders, winches) was removed. Finally, after a couple of months on the beach, the salvage company floated her off somehow, patched the holes with boards, glue, and expanding sealant, and towed her the twenty-some miles to Indiantown Marina, bailing all the way, I guess.


 When I saw Night Heron in November. it was clear she was terminal. All the rigging was gone, the hull was holed in several places, some bulkheads were broken loose, she stank, and there was nothing left but the bare hull -- and a storage unit full of gear that the Tasmanian had collected over the years and that I had spent weeks ferrying off.


So I am pronouncing her dead. Progressive Insurance was wonderful in covering the recovery from the beach -- expensive, and no questions asked. I'll eat the loss of the value. I still have that storage shed full of stuff that I'll try to sell in tailgate sales at Indiantown, and some things I may keep toward the possibility of another boat sometime in the future, one that will live on a trailer and never be far away from where I am.


Hight Heron” was hull #54, made in Ontario, as far as I know, in 1976. Her first owner was Robert Teneyck, who lived in Connecticut. The second seems to have been Bernard Silverman, who probably brought her to Florida from New Jersey. Sally Livingston bought her in Miami and named her "Sally and Me," and the Tasmanian bought her in 1999 in Tampa and named her "Lupi."  In February, I'll probably cut her up with a Sawzall and take her to the Martin County landfill.


Maybe it was all those name changes.


And before the story is completely over, I may have to write up the many stories collected from and about the Tasmanian, who was last heard of heading to Panama to captain a tanker whose crew had murdered each other back to Puerto Rico.


Karl Krahnke