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‘Ghost ship’ turns out to be houseboat cut loose during tow; owner to pay restitution

(Nov. 8, 2013) The mystery behind the boat that washed ashore on Assateague’s beach last week has been solved, laying to rest rumors surrounding what came to be known as the “ghost ship” after its Halloween appearance dazzled visitors.

A beached boat rests on Assateague’s shoreline Halloween night. Over the weekend, waves dismantled the houseboat and Assateague maintenance workers removed the remains, said Liz Davis, Assistant Chief of Interpretation and Education at the park. (Photo courtesy of Matt Landon)

“Sorry, no ghosts around,” said Ted Morlock, Assateague Island National Seashore chief ranger in an e-mail Tuesday.

The 40-foot houseboat appeared on Assateague’s beach Wednesday evening, lodged in the sand near the Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) entrance, near the 17-kilometer marker, said Assateague’s Assistant Chief of Interpretation and Education Liz Davis.

Visitors soon stumbled on the “ghost ship.”

“It seemed like a really old house boat,” said photographer Matt Landon, who came to shoot the ship on Halloween. “It was pretty cool. It was definitely kind of spooky.”

By the time Landon returned to the beach on Friday, however, high waves from a lunar tide had taken their toll on the boat.

Though several stories surrounded the ship’s appearance, “what had happened was clear to us right from the start,” Morlock said.

The boat’s owner, a South Carolina man, was towing the houseboat he had purchased in New Jersey to his home state when the project became dangerous, causing him to cut the ship loose, Morlock said.

A park ranger discovered the boat on the beach around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30.

“Because it posed no environmental or significant risk to anyone, we decided to leave it for the evening and deal with it in the morning when it would be safer,” Morlock said.

By then, Assateague staff had used the boat’s hull identification number to get the boat’s information from the Coast Guard and contacted the owner.

“He was going to come back in 10 days, but the boat was showing signs that it wasn’t going to last that long,” Davis said. “Over the next two days, it came apart.”

Maintenance workers arrived on their day off, Sunday, with some heavy equipment and removed the boat’s remains, she said.

According to Murlock, criminal charges and restitution for the cost of removing the boat are pending for the owner of the now-defunct “ghost ship.”

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