By Patrick Donachie
For months, a forest-green sailboat sat moored in the harbor of Little Neck Bay with a jetski attached by rope to its back. The boat has since sunk into the harbor with only a small part still showing, but some community members remain interested in how it came to rest in the bay in the first place.
Arthur “Tip” Sempliner, a cartoonist for the Bayside Times, first noticed the boat in October, although others he spoke to believed that it had been moored for nearly a year by that point.
“There was this boat that was in the wrong place,” he said. “It was in Fort Totten, in the kind of place that you would just drop anchor and spend a night.”
Its name was “Celebration,” the bold, white letters clearly visible on the boat’s side when it was afloat.
Sempliner and others soon learned that the 40-foot, one-ton sloop had belonged to the Norwalk Sea Scouts Ship Six, an educational sailing program for teenagers that is based in Connecticut and sails out of the Norwalk Cove Marina.
The Sea Scouts Ship Six continue to train and sail today with a new boat, christened as ‘Celebration II.’ According to Kai Horan, the ship’s skipper, the original “Celebration” was donated to the Sea Scouts for use in 1995 by someone whose name is forgotten at this point and was used by the group until a newer boat was procured in 2010.
“Every once in awhile, I’ll hear that someone raced on the boat back in the day. It was a terrific platform for kids who were learning to sail,” she said. “We were very lucky to get our hands on the next boat, which we named Celebration in honor of the first boat.”
The Norwalk Sea Scouts Ship Six sailed its first boat in 1957, and it is a co-ed program open to teenagers from 14 to 21 that is part of the ‘Venturing’ division of the Boy Scouts of America. Horan recalled that she had heard that the original Celebration even competed in the Block Island Race Week at a time when it was unusual for teenagers to race in such an event.
“It’s obviously disappointing to see what’s been happening to the boat,” she said, referring to its resting place in Little Neck Bay. She also was unsure of what happened to the boat after its time with the Sea Scouts. “The only thing I really know is that we let go of it in 2010. After that, my understanding is it changed hands several times, and I don’t know if anybody had the experience to handle it.”
The story of the boat between its sale by the Sea Scouts and its eventual end continues to be cloudy, and Celebration is now mostly submerged. No records could be found of its subsequent owner or owners.
A representative for the U.S. Coast Guard wrote via e-mail that since the boat is not an environmental hazard and does not impede a federal waterway, the Coast Guard has no cause for jurisdiction.
From his home further down the length of the bay, Sempliner has witnessed the boat’s gradual sinking. He expressed surprise about Celebration’s bizarre end in the waters off of Fort Totten.
“It’s a mystery,” he said. “It’s just a strange story.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona