'It could have taken out a whole dock': Irene beaches 65-ton boat in Harpswell

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HARPSWELL — Sheer luck prevented a mooring problem from becoming a disaster when a 65-ton catamaran broke loose in Mackerel Cove during Tropical Storm Irene.

Bearcat II, owned by Charles Bennett of Toronto, had been moored in Mackerel Cove all summer and was there when the storm hit on Sunday night.

Around midnight, Scott Allen, the boat’s operator, who was on shore, watching the boat ride out the storm, saw the catamaran start to move around. Allen said he believes a shackle on the mooring let go, but he’s not sure why the boat broke loose.

After noticing the boat start to move, he and another man, Roger Landry, jumped into a skiff and motored out, only to find that the catamaran’s engines were tangled with rope and wouldn’t start.

“There was nothing we could do at that point,” Allen said.

Allen and Landry tried to steer the boat away from ledges, other boats, and docks as the catamaran blew through moored boats toward the shore. Allen said the boat was moving pretty fast in the wind because “that thing’s like a big sail.”

In what Allen described as a miracle, Bearcat II only collided with seven other boats, with minimal damage to all but one.

“It could have taken out a whole dock,” said Marine Patrol Officer Scott Couture, who investigated the accident the next day. He didn’t have an estimate yet of total damage.

After the boat landed on the beach, Allen and Landry realized there was nothing to do at the time and went home. Around noon the following day, during the next high tide, Allen and a crowd of onlookers returned to the beach to try and pull the Bearcat II from the shore.

He enlisted the help of three lobstermen who used their boats to try and pull the catamaran off the sand, and had a diver try to clear the tangle of ropes from the Bearcat II’s motors. But nothing worked.

“He pulled until he ripped the cleats off the side of his boat,” Allen said of his son, Josh, who used his boat to try and tug Bearcat II off the beach.

As the tide turned, the men decided to dig out underneath the boat and wait until the next high tide, at 1 a.m., which was higher than the noon tide.

Early Tuesday morning, Bearcat II floated off the beach under its own power, and Allen docked it at Bailey Island Lobster. On Tuesday afternoon he took the boat to Gowen Marine in Portland to have the motors repaired; there was little other damage to the catamaran.

Ironically, Bearcat II is moored in Harpswell during summer and fall to escape hurricanes in Florida, where the boat spends the winter with its owner.

Allen said he’s thankful Bearcat II didn’t take out more boats, and is grateful so many people pitched in to help.

“It’s just an unfortunate situation that turned out a lot better than it should have,” he said.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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The 65-ton catamaran Bearcat II sits on the sand at Mackerel Cove in Harpswell after breaking loose from its mooring on Sunday night during Tropical Storm Irene.

A lobster boat unsuccessfully tries to pull the beached Bearcat II out of the sand on Monday morning.