Meridian Star

May 15, 2013

'Ghost ship' offered to highest bidder


CNHI News Service

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — This historic seaport is offering for sale a 37-foot fiberglass sailboat some mariners might describe as a "ghost ship" because the owner mysteriously fell overboard and presumably drowned, his body never found.

It is unusual for a municipality to sell a private boat but no one from the owner's family has come forward to claim it, adding to the intrigue.

The owner, Richard Decker, a German national, bought the sloop last fall with the intention of living on it, police said. He was reported missing six months ago when the Coast Guard discovered his swamped dinghy tied to the boat's stern near the mouth of the fast-flowing Merrimack River. His dog was tied to a park post across the river.

Officials do not know exactly what happened to Decker, but they theorize he fell overboard and drowned when his dinghy line became entangled in the sailboat's propeller and he attempted to free it while enroute to a dock to retrieve his dog.

A ghost ship is a boat with no living crew member aboard when it is found. Such a boat is no stranger to this coastal city, which built magestic clipper ships during the China trade era in the mid-1800s.

The city of Newburyport has offered Decker's boat, an Endeavour make, for sale on a municipal auction website (www.municibid.com) to the highest bidder. Its ghost ship status has not deterred potential new owners. Thus far 26 bids have been received, with the high $9,250. The deadline for bids is May 29.

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Details for this story were provided by the Newburyport, Mass., Daily News.