By John Burton
RED BANK – The owner of a boat destroyed by fire on the frozen Navesink River last week, believes the blaze was caused by vandals.
Sam Haigh, a borough resident, owned the Fiddler, a 35-foot Maine-built, Downeast lobster boat, since 1999. The State Police Marine Unit and the borough fire department found the destroyed vessel, which was burned down to the waterline, at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, according to a State Police spokesperson.
State Police Capt. Stephen Jones said on Tuesday, Feb. 18, that the investigation is ongoing, though investigators have had some difficulty accessing the wreck because of the weather.
Last week, a state police spokesman said there “nothing of evidentiary value found at the scene.”
But Haigh believes the incident was “the act of some very bad individuals.”
Almost a month ago, the boat, moored about one-eighth mile from the dock at the Molly Pitcher Inn, was damaged by vandals. The river was frozen at the time and during a night someone went onboard and ransacked it, breaking windows and damaging electronic equipment. It appeared whoever was on the craft tried to light a small portable cook stove and attempted to burn the canvas cover over the rear engine, Haigh said.
“It looked like they were out there partying and it got out of control,” he said.
Haigh and his girlfriend contacted police, cleaned up the mess and talked to anyone in the area asking if they saw anything.
Haigh is hoping media attention will allow witnesses to contact him or the authorities to help locate the perpetrators. “I just hope that people keep their eyes and ears open about what had happened,” he said.
Haigh decided to leave his boat in the water for the last few winters because the weather had been reasonably mild and it allowed him to continue to use the boat on temperate days. “I love the water and to miss out on great boating days because it’s winter would be a crying shame,” he said.
The boat readily survived Super Storm Sandy while being moored in the river. Even with this year’s weather, “there was never a question in my mind the ice would hurt the boat,” he said.
“You’re never going to have a boat forever,” Haigh said. “But, to have it go the way it did, is just a crying shame.”