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Jul 15, 2011 1:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Boat Submerges Off Hampton Bays, Leaks Fuel

Jul 20, 2011 9:56 AM

A boat partially sank at the head of Smith Creek in Hampton Bays late last week, leaking a small amount of diesel fuel into the water, and as a result the Southampton Town Trustees plan to take steps to bring to a close a decades-long, drama-filled sparring contest between its irascible owner and local officials.

According to Southampton Town Senior Bay Constable Ted Sadleir, officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with environmental consultants hired by the town, were on the scene over the weekend to prevent the spill from worsening. Crews from Miller Environmental Group, a Port Jefferson consulting company hired by the Trustees, placed floating absorbent booms around the boat to prevent the spilled fuel from spreading into the rest of the creek and pumped water out of the boat to float it again. They also removed the fuel that remained in the boat’s tanks to prevent further spillage.

The vessel, the Stacy Lyn, is a 55-foot Duffy fiberglass lobster boat owned by Jim Flaherty, a former bayman from Hampton Bays who gained widespread notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s for his dramatic legal jousting with the town.

On Friday morning, the Stacy Lyn had settled on the bottom of the creek, it’s northern gunwale submerged, in about 6 feet of water. It is not immediately clear what caused the boat to sink, but town officials said the boat has been deteriorating at its berth for years. The Stacy Lyn and two other boats owned by Mr. Flaherty that were once berthed in the creek have been the subject of several dramatic confrontations between the town and Mr. Flaherty over what town officials say is the environmental threat they have posed in the creek for two decades.

“This boat has been a nuisance for 15 years,” Town Trustee Ed Warner Jr. said this week. “It hasn’t left the dock in 20 to 25 years. It was a beautiful boat at one time, but it hasn’t been cared for.”

In 2003, after seven years of legal jousting with Mr. Flaherty, the town removed and demolished the former fisherman’s other two boats, a houseboat he called “a fishery support vessel” that had sat on the bottom of the creek for years and a wooden-hulled fishing boat, the Shannon Kathleen, which also partially sank in the creek in 2000 and leaked several gallons of diesel fuel into the water. Both boats were tied to the bulkhead of a property Mr. Flaherty owns.

In October 2003, as contractors hired by the town began to crush the Shannon Kathleen, Mr. Flaherty climbed aboard the boat and lay down on the top of the cabin, directly beneath the jaws of the crane that was being used to rip it apart. He threatened the members of the Town Trustees present at the time and their families and threatened to shoot Mr. Sadlier “between the eyes.” He was arrested by police for obstructing government action and did not appear at the dock again over the three days it took to dismantle the boats and remove them from the water.

Over the years, Mr. Flaherty has filed 10 separate lawsuits against the town, over a variety of issues he had with town laws and policies, from the use of town docks to access to town garbage facilities. On one occasion in the 1980s, he marched through Town Hall wearing muddy waders filled with fish chum in protest. All of his suits were dismissed in State Supreme Court.

Mr. Warner said the town will now begin taking steps to remove the Stacy Lyn from the creek. He said the Trustees will follow the same procedure they did with the Shannon Kathleen: they will have a marine surveyor assess its condition and value and if it is found to be unseaworthy they will have it removed, in one piece if possible, in many if necessary.

“We get 40 or 50 phone calls a year complaining about that boat as an eyesore and an environmental and safety hazard,” Mr. Warner said. “There’s not much we can do until the worst case scenario happens, something like this, and then it’s too late, you have oils and fluids leaking into the environment. Now we have to get that boat out of there.”

Mr. Warner said that the Trustees have not had any contact with Mr. Flaherty, who could not be reached for comment.

Staff writer Colleen Reynolds contributed to this story.

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Proper biodiesel is booze, and fat.

Hard to see any harm from that.

Maybe we could wash that kind of fuel down with a hose...
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Jul 16, 11 12:38 AM
The same Jim Flaherty that showed up in town hall with chum spewing out of his boots back in the late 70's lol

By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 16, 11 12:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
The same Jim "Flatfish" Flaherty moored a huge houseboat at the head of Smith's Creek that sat there, unoccupied, for many years. It also sank.
By loading... (579), quiogue on Jul 16, 11 3:54 AM
It's amazing how 2 boats in the same slip, JUST SINK?!
By johnnyhampton (81), Southampton on Jul 16, 11 1:34 PM
Don't insurance companies have to keep claim records on file for 7 years? If so, seems strange that the second boat to sing was 8 years later. Oh, probably a coincidence. You know, like 2 fishing boats and a house boat sinking...
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 16, 11 1:57 PM

By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Jul 17, 11 11:57 PM
I hope Mr Flaherty gets the bill from the DEC!
By fritzdaddy (34), southampton on Jul 17, 11 3:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
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