by MARTHA WAGGONER
---- — RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time Scott Douglas saw his boat, the Queen Bee, it was bobbing away from him off the coast of Nantucket Island.
A large wave in a stormy sea had swept Douglas, who owned the Queen Bee, and his brother-in-law from the 26-foot fiberglass boat and into the water on that August day in 2008. They swam about 1.5 miles to shore and assumed a fisherman must have eventually found the boat.
In January, the U.S. Coast Guard came calling with the news that the center-console fishing boat, made by North Carolina builder Regulator, had been found in Spain. Douglas and his brother-in-law, Rich St. Pierre, saw the boat yesterday in North Carolina for the first time since they were washed off it.
“To me, it’s emotional,” Douglas, 59, of Lyme, Conn., said in a telephone interview ahead of a news conference in Edenton with Regulator’s owners and others. “It’s something I’ve been compartmentalizing pretty well. I’ve not lost any sleep. I’ve not had nightmares. And I won’t after seeing the boat. But to relive that day ... the boat takes me back to that day and the experience Rich and I had.”
That day was cool, cloudy and windy. The men decided to try to get through the inlet to the Atlantic in hopes that conditions were calmer there. But they weren’t.
“We got a little careless. We took our eyes off the water,” said St. Pierre, 69. A rogue wave, 6 feet above the boat and breaking, knocked them overboard.
Three things stand out about the boat: It was found. It was in decent shape when it was found. And it was found in Spain.
Lt. Joe Klinker, spokesman for the 1st District Coast Guard in Boston, said it’s rare for a vessel to drift from the eastern U.S. coast to Europe but not impossible. He surmises that the Queen Bee traveled north into the Gulf Stream and got caught up in the currents of the North Atlantic.
“The ocean moves, and it takes whatever is there with it,” he said.
The 1st District got the call about the boat partially because it said “Nantucket” on the hull, he said. Officers there put together the story after talking with Douglas.
Spain could have claimed the boat but didn’t want it, said Joan Maxwell, co-owner and president of Regulator, which employs 73 people and makes 120 boats a year. So the company eventually reclaimed ownership after Douglas said he didn’t want it back. Regulator plans to take the Queen Bee to shows as evidence of its boat-building expertise. Maxwell hopes it eventually will end up at the shipwreck museum in Nantucket.
Barnacles coated the Queen Bee when it was found, and it appeared to have been hit by a ship because it showed signs of impact on the port side, Maxwell said. The T-top, which provides shade, was damaged, and the deck cap was pulled off, she said.
Otherwise, it was in good condition. Cushions were still on the seats; a nickel remained in the glove box.
Regulator traded in the Queen Bee’s batteries. The twin outboard engines remained. Most of the hatches were gone, but their hinges remained.
“It’s absolutely amazing the things that are still there,” Maxwell said.
Douglas, who bought the Queen Bee in 2003 for just over $100,000, now owns a “much slower, older boat” â€” a 26-foot bass boat. St. Pierre has moved to Nantucket from New Jersey, where he lived at the time of the accident
“We had an awful lot of good times on the boat,” St. Pierre said. Seeing it again “brought back a lot of fond memories. The last we saw of the boat, it was happily sailing away from us.”
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc