January 5,  2008


Another chapter in the strange story of
the stranded sailboat, Gypsy Dane

By IRENE NOLAN



(Editor's Note:  This is the story of a  modern-day shipwreck that took curious twists and turns from November 2008 when it washed ashore until January 2009 when it was finally hauled off the Avon beach.)


The sailboat Gypsy Dane, a 50-foot ketch that washed up in Avon on Nov. 15, was finally moved yesterday from the National Park Service parking lot at Ramp 38, where it has had become a familiar sight since early December when it was moved off the beach.

Shortly after sunrise on Sunday morning, Jan. 4, the sailboat on a trailer was moved down Highway 12, which was closed for the occasion, with a law enforcement escort from the Dare County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service.

The boat was moved by Steve Steiner, a licensed house mover and owner of Steiner and Daughters House Moving and Raising in Pantego, N.C.

Steiner said the move took about 45 minutes and that everything went smoothly.

The Gypsy Dane is now in Buxton at property owned by Steve Crum, and Steiner, who now owns the boat he salvaged, is working with a broker to sell it.

“Anytime Steiner is involved, it gets done,” the house mover said proudly after the sailboat was moved down the highway.

The story of the Gypsy Dane and its owner, Yves Oger, a Frenchman who lived in Toronto, has been a matter of interest and curiosity for islanders and visitors since its abrupt arrival on the Avon beach on the afternoon of Nov. 15.

Oger told law enforcement officials and others that he was well off the coast that afternoon and went below deck to make a sandwich.  Next thing he knew the Gypsy Dane was beached in the surf break near the Avon Pier.

Law enforcement officials removed Oger, who was not injured, from the boat.

The incident in Avon was the second time Oger needed rescue after leaving a New England port, bound for Charleston, S.C. The first was exactly a week earlier.

According to published reports, on Saturday, Nov. 8, the USS Gonzalez, a Navy missile destroyer based in Norfolk, Va., responded to a distress call from the boat, adrift in 10-foot seas off the coast of Virginia.

Those reports said the boat’s owner told them that the vessel had lost steering and had been drifting for four days prior to the Gonzalez’s arrival.

The Gonzalez sent an inflatable boat with several crew members to assist the Gypsy Dane, and after spending several hours with the vessel, the sailors were able to repair the steering, lost because of a line wrapped around the rudder, as well as several other mechanical problems.  The Gypsy Dane was then inspected by the Coast Guard and cleared to continue its voyage.

After it washed up in Avon, the story of the Gypsy Dane got even stranger.

Oger, who had no insurance on the craft, hired Paul Rosell, who owns a marine towing and salvage service in Hatteras, to move it back to sea.  Rosell first attempted, unsuccessfully, to move the boat using a system of anchors and winches at high tide.  Then he tried to turn the boat sideways, by the nose, and pull it out to sea using a tow boat.

When the boat didn’t budge, it became clear that they were going to need the assistance of some heavier machinery.

So Rosell contacted Cape Dredging, in Buxton, which agreed to come out to the site on Tuesday morning, dig a trench around the buried keel, and set the boat on its way.

But late Monday afternoon, Nov. 17, Oger apparently changed his mind, telling Rosell that his services would no longer be needed and that he had found someone else who would provide the service at less cost. 

David Carter, the National Park Service ranger who responded to Oger’s distress call, confirmed that Murray Clark, better known to islanders as “Frisco Mo,” would be assisting Oger, though he didn’t know when.

Unfortunately for Oger, high winds and tides from a coastal storm on Wednesday, Nov. 19, battered the Gypsy Dane in the shorebreak and the ketch was damaged to the point that it was no longer seaworthy.

The effort to get Gypsy Dane back into the Atlantic turned to an operation to get the boat off the beach before it broke apart and became a hazard to navigation and headache for the National Park Service.

That is when Steve Steiner came on the scene.

He was on Hatteras with other house-moving jobs when he heard about the boat.

He agreed to move the Gypsy Dane off the beach in exchange for ownership, which Oger agreed to.

“I was doing it to help the man,” Steiner says. “And I love challenges.  I thought this would be a real challenge, but it was easier than I expected.”

The boat was jacked up by Steiner and several locals he contracted to help him and lifted onto steel beams on a trailer.  Then the trailer had to be hauled down the beach, through soft sand, to Ramp 38, north of Avon.

“The hardest part was moving it down the beach,” Steiner says. “Moving it over the ramp was no problem.”

Once over the ramp, the Gypsy Dane on the trailer, was left at the NPS parking lot until the masts could be removed and the necessary permits could be procured from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to move the oversize load down the highway to Buxton.

Removing the masts was also not a problem, Steiner says.  He leased a 48-foot tall crane and his crew handled the removal.

“The hardest part,” he says, “was getting the permit from DOT….Raleigh was not helpful.”

And, he says, state office closings over the holidays contributed to the delay.

Finally, the Gypsy Dane and its entourage headed south to Buxton on a quiet, January winter morning – well before church services.

Steiner says he has had several people who are interested in purchasing the boat contacting him.

“I probably won’t make money,” he says, “but hopefully (the sale price) will pay for time and expenses.”

After Yves Oger signed the boat over to Steiner, he stayed on Hatteras Island, befriended by “Frisco Mo” Clark, for more than a month.

He moved all of his belongings from the boat into Clark’s storage shed in Frisco. He granted no interviews to reporters, though he did talk with some locals.  The slight Frenchman was seen on Highway 12 hitchhiking and riding a bicycle.

“He’s been living with me for about a month, and I know very little about him,” said Clark in a telephone interview from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is spending the winter.

Clark says Oger doesn’t like to talk much.

“You might ask him a question and he wouldn’t answer until the next day,” Clark says.

However, when Clark took the Frenchman to several Christmas parties, he seemed to have a good time.

“He’s a skinny thing, but he eats everything in sight,” Clark says of Oger.

“He also doesn’t like spending money,” Clark says, though he says Oger is “not destitute.”

Clark says Oger is a retired metallurgic engineer, who bought the boat for about $150,000 and had “everything he owned” invested in the boat or on it.

“He had very little experience sailing,” Clark says.

Clark and his girlfriend headed south to Florida on New Year’s Day.  He said he suggested to Oger that he follow in a week or two and that the two men could sail in the Keys.  Clark was surprised when he boarded the plane to Florida, and Oger was on board.

“Frisco Mo” Clark said he last saw Oger standing on a curb at the airport surrounded by suitcases.  “The man does not travel light,” he said.

Because of a problem with rental cars, Clark and his girlfriend had to share a car with another couple of visitors and had no room for Oger and his luggage.

“I’m sure he’ll be calling me anytime now,” Clark said.



(Jordan Tomberlin also contributed information for this article.)

(For more information on the Gypsy Dane and its troubles, read the stories below.)





December 5,  2008

UPDATE:
 The sailboat Gypsy Dane is the wreck that just won’t go away


By JORDAN TOMBERLIN




If you’ve driven through Avon in the past week and a half, you’ve probably noticed something a little strange—namely, the large sailboat hogging the Ramp 38 parking lot.

The boat is the Gypsy Dane, a 50-foot sailboat that crashed into an Avon beach, about a mile south of the pier, on Saturday, Nov. 15.

After sitting on the beach for more than a week, enduring bad weather and even worse luck, the Gypsy Dane, at the behest of the Park Service, was finally moved off the beach by Steve Steiner, a licensed house mover and owner of Steiner and Daughters House Moving and Raising in Pantego, N.C.

Steiner agreed to move the boat in exchange for ownership. The owner of the boat, Yves Oger of Toronto, who was sailing the boat to Charleston, S.C., apparently had no insurance and lacked the funds to pay for the salvage operation. He has refused media interviews since he washed up on the beach, after, he reportedly said, he went below deck to make a sandwich.

Steiner dug the boat out of the sand, lifted it onto steel beams on a massive trailer, hauled it down the beach, and over Ramp 38.  According to the National Park Service, which issued a special use permit for the move, the ramp had to be widened slightly and sand had to be added and packed down to make the trip up and over the ramp possible with the big boat and massive trailer.

Steiner parked the boat in the NPS parking lot until he could remove the masts and move it to dry dock at Steve Crum’s stables in Buxton.

Now, a week and half later—and almost three weeks after its arrival— the boat is still sitting in the parking lot, and the permit, required by the Park Service, that allows Steiner to take the necessary measures to move the boat off Park Service property, has expired.  

Even though Steiner has not yet moved the boat off Park Service Property, which he was required to do under the conditions of the permit, NPS is willing to work with him.

"We will allow him a reasonable amount of time to move the boat," said Hatteras Island District Ranger John McCutcheon.  "However, if it isn't moved in two weeks or so, I am going to be unhappy."

Initially, his main concern was making sure the boat didn’t break up on the beach, but McCutcheon now sees safety issues with the steel beams that extend past the sides of the trailer, and says he wants the boat off the parking lot before the holiday visitors arrive.

Steiner is confident that he and his crew can get the boat moved within the Park Service’s time frame, but they still have quite a bit of work to do.

First, Steiner will have to acquire permits from the North Carolina Department of Transportation in order to pull the trailer down the highway.

“They should issue the permits within a day, two days tops,” Steiner said, adding that he anticipated sending his paperwork to Raleigh by Friday, Dec. 5.

Once he receives his DOT permits, Steiner will have to arrange for a highway patrol escort from the parking lot to the stables, and, given the width of the boat, the move will most likely require closing down both lanes of traffic on Highway 12.

But perhaps the biggest challenge for Steiner, and the task most likely to put a kink in his timeline, will be removing the masts, which must be done before the boat can be moved. This will require tedious labor, careful maneuvering, and a really big crane.

He had originally planned on contracting with Murray Clark, better known as “Frisco Mo,” to tackle the project, and had hoped he would start Thursday or Friday, Dec. 4 or 5, but by Thursday night, Dec.5, their plans had fallen through because of business disagreements. 

In spite of the challenges, Steiner doesn’t seem too worried. 

“We’ll get it figured out,” he said with confidence. “There’s nothing we can’t move.”



(For more information on the Gypsy Dane and its troubles, read the stories below.)




November 24,  2008


Stranded sailboat is finally leaving the Avon beach

By JORDAN TOMBERLIN



The coast of North Carolina is a lot of things, but unfortunately for Yves Oger, forgiving isn’t one of them. 

When his sailboat, the Gypsy Dane, a 50-foot ketch, washed ashore in Avon on Saturday, Nov. 15, there appeared to be a pretty straightforward solution. Given the boat’s position on the beach and its lack of structural damage, Paul Rosell, owner of a marine salvage service in Hatteras, and his crew were going to use anchors and winches to essentially “sail” the vessel off the beach at high tide. 

But when the boat didn’t budge, and Rosell informed Oger, a French national who lives in Toronto, Canada, and was sailing to Charleston, S.C., that they would have to dig a trench to get it out, Oger, for reasons that remain unclear, declined any further assistance from Rosell.

So on Tuesday, instead of making its way back to the water, the Gypsy Dane sat idly in the sand, and Oger enlisted the help of Murray Clark, better known to locals as “Frisco Mo.”

Clark agreed to help Oger dig the boat out, but, with a northwest blow forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, he would have to wait. So, they tied an extra line to the boat and planned to start digging when the storm passed.

But, as is often the case on Hatteras, Mother Nature had other plans. 

On Wednesday afternoon, strong winds and high tide from the storm turned the Gypsy Dane sideways, forced it farther onto the beach, and left the boat lying on its starboard side, deep in the sand, with cracks on each side of the hull, a missing skeg, and a damaged rudder.

There was no way Clark would be able to excavate the boat, and by Friday morning—almost a week after the boat came ashore—Oger and Clark had still made no apparent progress toward removing it.
That’s when John McCutcheon, the National Park Service’s Hatteras Island district ranger, stepped in.

After examining a sizeable crack in the portside hull on Friday morning, McCutcheon said, “I immediately changed gears.”

For McCutcheon, the fracture was evidence of the fact that, if left on the beach much longer, the boat would soon begin to break apart, endangering park patrons and creating a huge mess for the Park Service to clean up.  

After interviewing Oger and Clark, McCutcheon discovered that they had no contractual agreement and no real course of action.  Believing that time was of the essence and realizing that the situation “was quickly becoming [NPS’s] problem,” McCutcheon essentially gave Oger an ultimatum -- get us a plan very quickly, or in the next few days, we’re going to move the boat for you. 

Buxton resident Barry Crum contacted Steve Steiner, a licensed house mover and owner of Steiner and Daughters House Raising and Moving in Pantego, and told him about the boat and Oger’s situation.
Steiner, who was on the island raising a house in Hatteras, volunteered to come look at the boat. He made a bid on the project, and when Oger said he couldn’t cover the costs, Steiner agreed to move the boat in exchange for ownership. He met with Oger, Clark, and McCutcheon on Friday to work the details.

The Park Service granted him the necessary permits immediately, and by Friday afternoon, they had developed a definitive plan for getting the Gypsy Dane off the beach.  Oger signed the boat over to Steiner, and at about 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, Steiner and his crew, as well as several locals he contracted to work with him, began the laborious process.  

They started by digging about 3 1/2 feet under the boat, then they placed cribbing and cross-steel under the bow and the stern. Using hydraulic jacks, they lifted the boat high enough to place the wheeled, 68-foot steel mains, necessary to get the boat down the beach, beneath the vessel.   

“It was a slow process until we got it up to about 16 inches,” Steiner said. After that, things seemed to go smoothly, though it certainly wasn’t easy. He and his crew—some of whom had been working since 2 that morning—continued working well past dark, until about 6:30 on Sunday night, in order to get the boat on the mains.

Amazingly, for the first time since the Gypsy Dane’s arrival, “There were no surprises,” Steiner reported. “Everything went as planned.”

On Monday morning, Steiner will cart the boat about a mile or so down the beach and park it at ramp 38, where his crew will remove the masts. Then the Gypsy Dane will travel to her new home—Steve Crum’s stables in Buxton, where Steiner said he would start taking bids on the boat, though, as part of the deal, he promised Oger first dibs.

Oger still refuses to answer questions, but according to locals who befriended him, he is likely headed to Florida and is considering buying another sailboat.
 




November 18,  2008

Stranded sailboat still sitting high and dry on Avon beach

By JORDAN TOMBERLIN



 As of Tuesday night, the Gypsy Dane, A 50-foot double masted sailboat,  is still resting on the Avon beach where it landed early last Saturday evening. And it looks like the boat, and its owner, Yves Oger, will be staying there for a few more days. 

Plans to return the boat to sea Monday morning did not work out.  Paul Rosell, who owns a marine towing and salvage service in Hatteras, first attempted, unsuccessfully, to move the boat using a system of anchors and winches at high tide.  They then tried to turn the boat sideways, by the nose, and pull it out to sea using Rosell’s tow boat, the Good News. 

When the boat didn’t budge, it became clear that they were going to need the assistance of some heavier machinery.

So Rosell contacted Cape Dredging, in Buxton, which agreed to come out to the site on Tuesday morning, dig a trench around the buried keel, and set the boat on its way.

But late Monday afternoon, Oger apparently changed his mind, telling Rosell that his services would no longer be needed and that he had found someone else who would provide the service at less cost. 
David Carter, the National Park Service ranger who responded to Oger’s distress call, confirmed Tuesday evening that Murray Clark, better known to islanders as “Frisco Mo,” would be assisting Oger, though he didn’t know when.

First, the Coast Guard must receive and approve a salvage plan from Clark before he can proceed with any efforts. 
Then there’s the weather. 

The strong northwest blow that has been forecast for the next few days will make it extremely difficult to sail the Gypsy Dane off the east-facing beach.

Clark and Oger will most likely have to wait out the storm, which could mean that the Gypsy Dane will still be sitting there for several more days.  Word is that another attempt to get the boat off the beach may be made Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Oger, who has refused to talk to The Island Free Press, stands watch over his boat from a vehicle that was lent to him by folks in Avon.






(For more information on the Gypsy Dane and its troubles, read the story below.)



November 16,  2008


50-foot sailboat is stranded in the Avon surf

By JORDAN TOMBERLIN


Just before dark on Saturday evening, Nov. 15, local authorities received a distress call from the Gypsy Dane, a 50-foot, double-masted sailboat, that was caught in the surf about a mile south of the Avon Pier.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service, and Hatteras Island Rescue Squad responded to the call and assisted the owner and sole occupant, Yves R. Oger, of Toronto, Canada, off the boat, uninjured. With winds forecast to strengthen and shift offshore, they decided it would be best to anchor the vessel to the beach for the night.
 
The specifics of how the boat ended up anchored to an Avon beach are not certain, but according to islanders who spoke with him Saturday evening, Oger says he went below deck to make a sandwich and listen to the weather and came back up to find his boat headed for the sand.
 
This is the second time since leaving a New England port, bound for Charleston, that Oger and the Gypsy Dane have required emergency assistance.

According to published reports, on Saturday, Nov. 8, the USS Gonzalez, a Navy missile destroyer based in Norfolk, Va., responded to a distress call from the boat, adrift in 10-foot seas off the coast of Virginia.

Those reports said the boat’s owner told them that the vessel had lost steering and had been drifting for four days prior to the Gonzalez’s arrival.

The Gonzalez sent an inflatable boat with several crew members to assist the Gypsy Dane, and after spending several hours with the vessel, the sailors were able to repair the steering, lost because of a line wrapped around the rudder, as well as several other mechanical problems.  The Gypsy Dane was then inspected by the Coast Guard and cleared to continue its voyage.

Exactly one week later, the boat and its owner washed up in Avon.

This time, in addition to rescue personnel, several local residents and organizations came to Oger’s assistance.  Volunteers with the Avon Volunteer Fire Department cooked him dinner and provided him with a hot shower.

They also offered him a bed for the night, but Oger, concerned about the boat’s safety, wanted to remain close by, so the Palazzolo family of Nino’s Pizza in Avon, generously lent him their Jeep, allowing him to sleep on the beach, right in front of his boat.

As of Sunday morning, the Gypsy Dane remained anchored on the shore, while Paul Rosell, who owns a marine towing service in Hatteras, examined the boat for signs of structural damage and made arrangements to get it back to sea.

“As far as we know right now, there’s no damage,” Rosell said. “Its saving grace is that it does have a Coast Guard certificate of inspection,” meaning that, having complied with rigorous Coast Guard regulations and passed their thorough inspection, “the Gypsy Dane is a stronger vessel.”

Currently, Rosell and crew plan to return the boat to sea at high tide Monday morning. 

“We’re going to try using anchors and winches to essentially ‘sail’ the boat off the beach,” he said, emphasizing the island’s capricious nature and asserting that it’s still a tentative plan. “Tomorrow is a different day. We don’t know what [we’ll be] facing in the morning.”

 Meanwhile, island residents and visitors came to the Avon beach to sit and watch the drama with the latest boat to run into trouble on the shoals off the Outer Banks, known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Oger spent the morning pacing and sitting on the beach and then went back onboard his boat to watch over it until it can be sailed off the beach.

With any luck, Yves Oger will once again be facing open seas, headed south to Charleston.






             
comments powered by Disqus