The FV Westward, which has been moored in Boothbay Harbor for the last two years, was seized by the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday, June 18.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John H. Rich issued an order for the Westward’s arrest on June 8, in response to Fuller Marine Services’ civil complaint to foreclose upon a salvage lien. After seizing the vessel, the Marshals Service transferred it into the temporary custodial care of Fuller Marine Services.
The Westward arrived in Boothbay Harbor to be refurbished by the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard and returned to commercial fishing, according to its owner. Repairs were begun, but the owner James Sheehy, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was unable to complete the work.
“At the beginning of the project he paid us a lot of money to do the initial phases of the work, but he wasn’t able to come up with money to complete the project,” said Eric Graves, Boothbay Harbor Shipyard Manager.
With repair work on hold, the Westward has languished on its mooring in the inner harbor and twice has broken free. Its second break in January 2015, during an intense winter storm with winds to 60 knots, led to the current civil complaint against the vessel.
As described in the complaint, the Westward was aground near McFarland Point, and in danger of having its hull punctured, with subsequent fuel leakage into the harbor. With the rising tide, the floating Westward posed a hazard to both the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard and Tugboat Inn’s piers. With a Coast Guard requested tug estimated at 24 hours away, Fuller Marine responded to the grounded vessel in hazardous conditions. Over the course of several hours, Fuller Marine, working from the 42’ Miss Carla and a 24’ Carolina skiff, was able to secure the Westward to another mooring.
After the rescue, Jean Fuller said attempts to talk with Sheehy about the Westward’s current state were not fruitful; the Fullers decided the only resolution available was through civil action.
“We have filed a salvage lien on the Westward. It’s a process by which someone who saves a boat can be reimbursed,” Fuller said. “(The civil complaint) also gets the process going to get it out of the harbor.”
In its complaint, Fuller Marine asked the court to declare the salvage lien upon the Westward; to issue a warrant for the vessel’s arrest; and to summon any person claiming any interest to appear and answer the complaint. Fuller Marine also asked the court to determine the salvage award, and that the Westward be condemned and sold to pay the salvage, in due course, by the U.S. Marshals Service.
In his June 8 order, Judge Rich ordered the Westward’s arrest and declared that any person “asserting a right of possession or any ownership interest in the ship” must file with the court within 14 days. While the court and the Fullers await a response, the Westward is under the watchful eye of Fuller Marine.
“We’ve been appointed custodian for the boat by the U.S. Marshals. We are taking care of it and checking on it daily,” Fuller said. The Westward is securely attached to a Fuller Marine mooring with two 6,000 pound blocks. High water alarm switches have been installed.
Harbormaster Nick Upham said he was glad the Fullers have taken action, and to see the U.S. Marshals seize the vessel.
“It may take some time, but it’s going to be nice to see it go. It’s been here far too long. I’m happy that something is finally in the works to resolve this dangerous situation,” Upham said.
Calls to the U.S. Marshals Service and James Sheehy were not returned as of press time.