On Friday, Sept. 24, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torreson ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to sell the F/V Westward, including all its equipment and fishing permits, to the highest bidder.
Torreson also granted Fuller Marine’s request for a salvage lien and set the lien’s value at $28,723.08. The auction will take place in Portland, but a date has not yet been set.
Fuller Marine, which rescued the adrift vessel during severe weather conditions in January 2015, filed for foreclosure of a salvage lien against the Westward in early June. On June 18, federal marshals seized the vessel and appointed Fuller Marine the vessel’s custodian.
On June 22, under court order, Fuller Marine and its representatives met with James Sheehy, who represents the Westward, in an unsuccessful attempt to settle the matter.
Failing settlement, Fuller Marine requested an evidentiary hearing so the court could decide whether its salvage lien was valid, so it could set the lien’s value and also to determine whether circumstances warranted the Westward’s sale. The court set the hearing date for Sept. 14.
In the meantime, Fuller Marine was required to notify Sheehy, and to give public notice in the Portland Press Herald, so anyone with a claim of ownership or lien could respond. One individual filed a lien on the Westward, but neither James Sheehy nor any other Westward representative responded. The court granted a motion of default against Sheehy on Aug. 14.
Hours before the evidentiary hearing began on Sept. 14, Attorney Stephen Ouellette, on behalf of the Westward’s owner Dennis Murphy, filed a motion to vacate the default finding, to exclude or separate the fishing permits from the vessel sale, and to award Murphy with any excess sale value over the salvage lien. On Sept. 24, Judge Torreson ruled there was no basis for Murphy’s requests.
Chuck Fuller said on Monday he is still waiting for more details. Fuller said the salvage lien granted was substantially less than Fuller Marine sought, and it does not address the costs of custodial care. On Sept. 28, Attorney Nicholas Walsh, on behalf of Fuller Marine, filed a request for reconsideration of the salvage award.
Evidence presented to the court valued the F/V Westward at $30,000 to $40,000 and its fishing permits at $100,000. Fuller Marine will be allowed to bid on the Westward up to the value of their salvage lien.
Although the Westward will be sold, Fuller said that does not ensure it will leave Boothbay Harbor.
“Just because it is being sold that doesn’t mean anyone will buy it,” Fuller said.
He added that obtaining insurance to tow the vessel from Boothbay Harbor may be difficult.
Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, the only local shipyard with the capacity to haul the Westward, is currently engaged in a multi-year project to refurbish the Ernestina-Morrissey.