Boat, once owned by Billy Joel, sinks

Boat, once owned by Billy Joel, sinks
By Colin Gustafson
Staff Writer
Updated: 04/25/2009 11:13:19 PM EDT

A luxury yacht once owned by singer-songwriter Billy Joel sank into the sea early Saturday morning near the dock where it had been moored at a Cos Cob marina.

The 35-foot vessel, which still bears the Piano Man-dubbed name "Sea Major," was found almost entirely submerged about 8:30 a.m. Saturday near a pier at the Riverscape Marina on River Road.

The yacht's current owner, Hub Orr, 70, of Stamford, said he'd left the yacht docked at the Cos Cob marina to undergo repairs and inspections over winter, and had been waiting for the first sunny day in spring to drive it to Seaview House Marina in Stamford.

Those hopes were dashed when he received a call from marina employees Saturday morning notifying him that the craft had inexplicably sunk in the middle of the night.

"It's a damn shame," Hub said, shaking his head as he surveyed the yacht, which had a roughly 10-foot portion of the bow sticking out of the water. "It was gorgeous."

He'd purchased the craft, originally built for Joel in 1985 by Southwest Harbor, Maine-based Wilbur Yachts, for $200,000 from an independent dealer in New Haven after the artist sold it in the early '90s, according to Orr.

Orr said he'd just recently had the yacht inspected and commissioned for operation, after plunking down more than $30,000 to have the cockpit refurbished and refurnish the interior with teak wood.

"We had changed the filters, checked the hoses, the shafts, made sure the bilges were OK,

everything," he said glumly. "It was dry as a bone."

Boat recovery workers at the scene were unclear on what caused the vessel to sink, but speculated that a malfunctioning "bilge pump," used to prevent flooding, or possibly a faulty intake valve, which funnels water to cool the engine, could be the culprit.

The sinking caused the yacht's 300-gallon fuel tank to leak petroleum into the marina waters, leaving a thick sheen on the surface and a pungent odor in the air near the marina. Officials did not know how much fuel spilled into the marina waters.

Oscar Straw, a marine science engineer for U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said the fuel spill was largely contained to the marina area and did not pose an environmental threat to the ecosystems along Mianus Pond, which empties into Cos Cob Harbor and out into Long Island Sound.

To prevent the fuel from spreading, state Department of Environmental Protection workers cordoned off the spill area with a so-called "sorbent boom," a floating barrier that soaks up petroleum and other debris.

After using the booms to corral the petroleum on the water's surface into a smaller area, workers in a row boat tossed special absorbent pads onto the surface to soak up the remaining fuel.

"It's a good thing it's a warm and sunny day, because it allows the (fuel) to burn off from the surface easier," Straw said.

To lift the boat out of the water, crews inflated a large air bag that they'd inserted into the hull of the vessel.

DEP and Coast Guard officials were still investigating the sinking late Saturday.

There is at least one other former Joel vessel in town waters. The 46-foot elegantly equipped Osprey, based at a dock adjacent to the Delamar Hotel, is a members-only yacht or a "five-star hotel or country club on the water" the club members pay to use.


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