On July 11, 2011, I got to witness the demolition of the Miss China, a 67-foot former commercial fishing boat with an interesting history. In 2010 the disabled wood-hulled former shrimper was being used as the floating home of Nantucket scalloper Joe Dooley and his 4 dogs, until it broke free of its mooring in Nantucket Harbor in a December gale and grounded in front of Brant Point Light.
Since Dooley apparently didn’t have the funds to pay for the removal of the ship, the town of Nantucket took possession of the vessel and paid Fairhaven, Massachusetts-based Tucker Roy Marine Towing and Salvage to tow the ship to New Bedford. The Miss China sat on a mooring in New Bedford Harbor for the next 7 months while any fuel, oil and pollutants, along with salvageable rigging and other items, were removed the ship.
In mid-July the 180-ton Miss China was towed to Fairhaven Shipyard, where it was lifted from the water on a 400-ton TraveLift and lowered into a hopper barge. Once the ship was secured with boat stands, the barge was moved via tug to a location just north of the Rte. 6 swing bridge on the New Bedford side of the harbor.
The next day I visited the site and watched as Jonny Roy expertly dismantled the ship with the excavator equipped with a massive pair of hydraulic shears, assisted by his older brother, Conrad Jr. While I’ve seen numerous boats being constructed, this was the first time I’d witnessed the “de-struction” of a vessel. Roy was amazingly skillful, carefully ripping open the side of the ship and plucking fuel tanks, a generator and even the ship’s wheel with the shears.
It was all very interesting, although I have to admit to feeling a twinge of sadness as the Miss China was reduced to scraps of lumber in a matter of hours. After all, a boat is more than just the sum of its parts—it contains the experiences and memories of those who crewed aboard the vessel, as well as storms endured and various ports of call.
Then again, maybe it was just an old rustbucket that smelled of dog.