The last vessel abandoned in Oyster Bay Harbor after superstorm Sandy turned Long Island backyards into boatyards has been removed, ending a nine-month chapter in the recovery process.
Last week, a work crew pulled the 23-foot Penn Yan cabin cruiser named Tumbleweed from the shallows beside the southern end of West Shore Road, hauled it away and ripped it to pieces. During the Oct. 29 storm, dozens of boats sank in the harbor; Tumbleweed and other boats washed ashore near that road in the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Throughout Oyster Bay Town, 25 tons of debris, including seven boats, have been removed from waterways. Across the rest of the state, Sandy damaged 32,000 boats at a cost of $324 million, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States, the nation's largest group of recreational boat owners.
Though the harbor surface may look clear now, "the water can play tricks on you," said Michael Craft, town deputy commissioner of public safety.
Much debris, from decks, docks and pilings to patio furniture, is found by bay constables or through resident complaints, said Justin McCaffrey, town public safety commissioner.
"Basically anything that was in the backyard is now floating in the bay," he said. One final vessel, a 55-foot boat sticking straight up in a Massapequa backyard, leaves a "very big" problem, he added.
Many owners left damaged boats unclaimed after Sandy to avoid the high cost of private removal or lack of insurance, Craft said.
Oyster Bay and Nassau County's two other towns, the City of Long Beach and the Village of Freeport have committed to a partnership with the county to remove large debris, said Katie Grilli-Robles, press secretary for the county executive's office. Nassau's Office of Emergency Management has been asked to hire cranes, barges and other equipment local governments lack, McCaffrey said.
Suffolk County provided equipment last spring to help clear marsh area in Mastic Beach when the village lacked resources, county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said. But towns and other villages have not since asked for additional assistance, she added.
The captain of Billy Joel's fleet, Gene Pelland, and Mitch Kramer, of TowBoatUS, donated time and use of their boats last week to hoist Tumbleweed from the mud and float it to shore at high tide. Pelland and Kramer pinned the wreckage between their boats, dragging it upside down as they steered past a sailboat school.
The boat's original white paint and blue trim peeked through green moss. The bay constables traveled behind with the boat's severed console.
The town had known about the boat since the storm, but McCaffrey said its awkward placement -- too far from the road but still close to shore -- made removal difficult. "Honestly, it was more of a cosmetic issue, not a threat to navigation," he said.
When the crew finished demolishing Tumbleweed, only a pile of sand and seashells remained. "Nice job," McCaffrey said, looking back over his shoulder. "What boat?"