Two boats: one grounded, one sank

CuriousCT readers turned their interests to boats in this round of questions.

Q. What’s the history behind the small boat named “Blue Peter” in the Olde Mistick Village parking lot? Any connection to an early 1900's trading sloop with same name that sailed in the Caribbean? 

A: Remains of an old sailboat — a weather-beaten hull, rudder and keel — have been sitting in a corner of an Olde Mistick Village parking lot for decades. The boat's mast and boom are stored above the boat, tucked under a tin gable roof. 

A plaque on the hull’s stern says the boat, 23-foot sloop Blue Peter, was built in 1942 for William and Anita Thorp, a Noank couple, who, it turns out, were then two years into a marriage that would last 70 years and produce two sons and a daughter.

Gilbert Dunham built the boat, which, in its day, was really something.

Barry Thorp of Mystic, the late Bill and Anita’s 78-year-old son, doesn’t think the boat's history had any connection to that of a trading sloop of the same name that plied the Caribbean in the early 1900s.

“It probably came from something they heard about,” he said. “There was no family connection or particular attachment to the name as far as I know. They were both avid readers, so maybe they came across it somewhere.”

It’s also unlikely that it had anything to do with a famous yacht of the same name that was launched in 1930 and still races in regattas around the world.

“They weren’t racers,” Barry Thorp said of his parents. “They sailed for pleasure, always on Fishers Island Sound and Block Island Sound. My father knew the waters very well. He managed to keep the boat off the rocks for a lot of years.”

Born in Westerly and raised in Stonington’s Quiambaug section, Bill Thorp, who died in 2012 at the age of 96, was “a lifelong lover of the sea” and “a fine sailor” who relished his time on Blue Peter, his son said. Bill Thorp, a mathematician, worked at the Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory in New London. 

Anita Thorp, a Norwich native, was the secretary to the guidance counselor at Robert E. Fitch High School in Groton for many years. She was 93 when she died in 2010.

Built by Dunham at a yard in Essex or Old Saybrook or somewhere else farther down the Connecticut coastline, Blue Peter was a sloop of the Stout Fellow Class, said Barry Thorp, who remembers the family sailing to Block Island on a weekend and having to sleep on the boat's floorboards.

He thinks his father sold the boat in the mid-1970s and that it was sold again thereafter. At some point, with its auxiliary engine removed and badly in need of repairs it never received, the boat, or what was left of it, turned up at Olde Mistick Village.

“Dad noticed it there, and I went over and took a look,” Barry Thorp said. “Whenever I drive by, I feel obliged to pay my respects.”

Chris Regan, the property manager at Olde Mistick Village, figures Blue Peter has been in the shopping village's parking lot, near the adjacent Mystic Aquarium, for at least 30 years. His uncle, Jerry Olson, who co-founded the village along with his twin sister, Joyce Olson Resnikoff, likely had it moved there. From where is anyone’s guess.

Jerry Olson died in late March.

“My uncle used to put stuff around the property to make it unique. Things that people would find interesting,” Regan said. “He’d go around New England looking for cupolas and put them around the village.”

There’s an old caboose on the property, too, across the parking lot from where Blue Peter sits.

Q. What is the story with the partially sunken sailboat in the Thames River, between EB and Junk Island? It's been underwater for several months, with just the mast visible.

A: The mast of the 37-foot Tartan sailboat named Fulmar is poking out of the water in the Greens Harbor section of New London Harbor.

The harbor has been the vessel's resting place since mid-January, when it sank for unknown reasons.

Locals say they suspect they know the owner but that person has not taken responsibility. The boat has not been registered for years but for months prior to sinking could be seen either anchored off shore or making its way from marina to marina.

Kenneth Edwards, a member of the New London Port Authority, said the boat has been to Thamesport Marina, Captain Scott's Marina, New London Waterfront Park & Marina and Crocker's Boatyard — all for short stays.

When the boat sank in January, Edwards said the U.S. Coast Guard was immediately notified. The Coast Guard did respond but likely took no action due to its minimal impact. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also was notified, as well as New London police. Edwards said he awaits action from either agency. New London Harbor Master David Crocker also is investigating options.

In the meantime, Edwards agrees that the boat remains a navigational hazard, as does anything in the water that is unmarked, unlit and can't be found on navigational charts.

"My biggest fear isn't that someone will run into the mast but that it will come loose from its anchor and wreak havoc on the docks," he said.

Another dilemma facing the city is the cost of the boat removal. Under state regulations regarding abandoned vessels, there are provisions for taking possession of the vessel. The Fulmar, however, does not appear to be desirable enough to be worth the cost of removing it.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

g.smith@theday.com

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