Shots heard ’round the block

OC homeowner takes aim at derelict boat bashing his property on Marlin Drive

ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

 When a wayward boat made its way toward his property during the height of Hurricane Sandy, Marlin Drive resident Bill Salvatore shot the vessel to prevent it from damaging his property. OCEAN CITY TODAY/NANCY POWELL When a wayward boat made its way toward his property during the height of Hurricane Sandy, Marlin Drive resident Bill Salvatore shot the vessel to prevent it from damaging his property.OCEAN CITY TODAY/NANCY POWELL(Nov. 2, 2012) It’s a story that results in a classified not often seen: “Boat for sale — some weather damage, major gunfire damage.”

This is not Somalia, where gunplay and maritime navigation frequently go hand in hand. But for a few minutes, Ocean City’s Marlin Drive may very well have come close.

On Monday, during the height of Hurricane Sandy’s bombardment of the resort, Marlin Drive resident Bill Salvatore found himself defending his home — with a shotgun — against a marauding vessel threatening the homes of himself and his neighbors.

But rather than being piloted by pirates, the boat was a runaway, propelled by Sandy’s tidal surges straight into the bay bordered by Marlin Drive, which runs along a small peninsula north from 19th Street on the island’s west side.

 Barge workers remove the derelict boat from the Marlin Drive waterfront. The hole gouged by Salvatore’s Jet Ski lift is clearly visible. PHOTO COURTESY JANET HOUGH Barge workers remove the derelict boat from the Marlin Drive waterfront. The hole gouged by Salvatore’s Jet Ski lift is clearly visible.PHOTO COURTESY JANET HOUGH“I looked out the window, and there’s this giant boat bearing down on our houses,” Salvatore said. “The water was already above our property line, so there was nothing holding it back from coming right into us.”

Salvatore’s first instinct was to call the police – but he was told that marine issues were out of the city’s jurisdiction, and would have to be handled by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“I told the guy at the DNR that I thought I should try to sink it,” Salvatore recalled. “He said, ‘I can’t tell you to do that, but if you’re protecting your property, you’re probably okay.’”

The next step, naturally, was to seek legal advice. Salvatore made a call to his brother’s law office in Hagerstown, Md. where one of his brother’s colleagues told him essentially the same thing.

By the time Salvatore made the decision to act, the meandering vessel had already rammed itself into his Jetski lift – fortunately, Salvatore had pulled his own boat and WaveRunner out of the water before the storm started.

“It had already crushed it (the lift). The big metal arm was completely gone,” Salvatore said.

Being hung up on the remains of the lift provided Salvatore with, at the very least, a semi-stationary target at which to fire. Producing his shotgun, Salvatore put, by his count, 15 rounds into the hull of the vessel, firing as close to the water line as possible.

Shooting too high wouldn’t allow any water into the boat, but shooting too low would mean that the water would slow the projectiles down enough so that they wouldn’t penetrate the fiberglass.

Shortly thereafter, the boat began to sink, but not, Salvatore suspects, due to effort of his own. He noted that the vessel’s bilge pump, apparently running on an automated system, was bailing out water as he fired.

“That bilge pump was much more powerful than the holes I was making,” Salvatore said. It was the jagged metal of the lift, he believes, that ripped a hole in the side of the boat big enough to put it under.

“Honestly, I don’t think that what I did actually did a thing to sink that boat,” Salvatore admitted.

The owner of the boat, according to reports, had a much worse day. The boat broke free when the storm destroyed the dock at his second home farther up the bay.

His main residence is in New Jersey, where he remained, as his boat took off on its own, without power.

 

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