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Listing boat spurs concerns, complaints

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The Eager Miss is shown listing to its port side at the water's edge of the Pasquotank River near the Pelican Marina on the Camden Causeway, Wednesday. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and local first responders are keeping an eye on the vessel, which is apparently being de-watered by generator-operated pumps.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 23, 2017

CAMDEN — A large cruising boat listing to its port side in the Pasquotank River off the Camden Causeway has spurred dozens of calls and complaints to the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement officials in recent months.

But authorities say the boat's operator isn’t violating any laws and the vessel itself isn’t a pollution hazard or a threat to navigation. Consequently, the owner has a legal right to keep the boat, named the "Eager Miss," moored in the river just off Machelhe Island, near the Pelican Marina.

Currently, the boat’s owner, identified by Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Management Coordinator Christy Saunders as John Brice, is keeping the Eager Miss afloat with de-watering pumps operated by generators. 

Saunders didn’t have contact information for Brice, but said her records indicate the Eager Miss has been moored in the river at least since August.

Brice, who doesn’t have a published phone number, also couldn't be reached via email on his Facebook page. However, an officer at Coast Guard Small Boat Station Elizabeth City said the Coast Guard is keeping a close watch on the Eager Miss.

Petty Officer Second Class Frederick Lamm, who declined to identify the boat's operator by name, said the man apparently acquired the Eager Miss in Virginia and planned to cruise in it to Elizabeth City. While heading south on the North River, however, the Eager Miss ran aground at the river’s mouth and began taking on water, causing its engine to stall.

Lamm said a private towing service transported the Eager Miss to the Pelican Marina on the causeway. The Coast Guard also provided the boat’s owner with a de-watering pump to keep overnight.

Melissa Jensen, co-owner of the Pelican with her husband, Niels, said they couldn't allow the Eager Miss to be moored at the marina because the boat's condition raised liability concerns. However, the Pelican did it what it could to help Brice, she said.

Jensen said her husband went out to the Eager Miss and helped Brice get the boat’s de-watering system operational. 

"We also went out there on several occasions with our work boat and helped him take fuel out to keep his generators running," she said.

Brice’s need for help, however, finally reached the point where it was too much for the Jensens.

"It got to the point where he was relying on us to transport him back and forth in our work boat to the boat," Jensen said.

She said the couple told Brice, "Look, we just can't do that. And he made other arrangements."

Lamm said it’s his understanding the Eager Miss’ owner travels back and forth between land and the boat, and that he de-waters the vessel while he’s aboard.

Lamm said the Eager Miss’ owner is complying with Coast Guard boating safety regulations. The Eager Miss has the proper life-jackets and sound-producing devices aboard, he said. The boat's batteries are also in working order, meaning its lights can be operated when necessary.

"Everything on that boat checks out," he said. "That boat has everything it needs to be on the water."

Additionally, the Eager Miss isn't polluting the waters of the Pasquotank and isn't obstructing navigation, Lamm said.

Nonetheless, the Small Boat Station is monitoring the Eager Miss "pretty much daily" for anything that could harm the environment, he said.

Lamm said the Coast Guard has received a number of phone calls about the Eager Miss. He assumes many of those with complaints about the listing vessel believe it to be an eyesore in the city’s harbor.

Lamm said it’s his understanding the Eager Miss’ owner does hope to get the vessel operational again.

"He has had people working on it," he said. "As far as I know, it wouldn't be over there in that shallow water, in my opinion, if he had it running and it wasn't taking on water."

Although the boat is moored in the river just off the Camden Causeway, the city of Elizabeth City has jurisdiction because it’s part of Camden the city annexed.

City Manager Rich Olson said city officials have fielded multiple calls about the Eager Miss. Both the city police and fire departments have also responded to the site of the listing vessel, he said. 

"What happens is people ride by and they see it listing to one side or the other," City Fire Marshal Chris Carver said.

Carver said by the time city firefighters are en route to respond, Coast Guard personnel or representatives of another agency are already on the scene.

Capt. Jamie LaCombe of the police department said the sight of the Eager Miss listing to one side has generated concern from citizens. He said most of those expressing concern to police just want to make sure no one on the vessel is in danger.

"We have gotten several calls. They've kind of slacked off here lately, but off and on, we'll get a call," he said.

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