The Death Boat

If your slip is on the fuel dock and the same dock as the marina office, you are more than likely to experience a lot of foot traffic, drama, excitement, humor, and perhaps pathos as you mess around in your boat.

Douglas was a reclusive live aboard whose boat slip was located on the fuel dock. Right across from Sunday II. His boat was there when Sunday II arrived in 2013 and based on the barnacle growth he never took her out. She was a 37-foot sloop and the only time she was ever washed down was when the marina crew pressured cleaned her topsides.

Like most boaters, Douglas had a history, but none of us knew about it at the time. He was also busy below decks but we did not know this either.

The boaters on the fuel dock (C dock) are a congenial lot. Many are sailors, always ready to offer advice, lend a hand, or tell a story. Not Douglas. He stayed to himself, talking little, living a solitary life. He was rarely seen and when he was seen off his boat he was riding his small motor scooter, and once was spotted at a local pharmacy. Even though his boat was tied up in a slip just a few feet from the marina office, and he was a live aboard, it was not unusual for him to go unnoticed for days on end.

On several occasions the boat owner in the slip next to Douglas complained to the dock master about the unkempt condition and odor permeating from his boat. The owner/captain of a 40’ charter catamaran, in a slip across from Douglas, was also concerned about the general disarray of the boat and the effect it had on the foot traffic that constantly traversed the “C” dock. Apparently, Douglas was not concerned about the condition of his boat. After the death, we learned this had not always been the case.

Sometime in June, Douglas died in his boat at the base of the stairs he couldn’t climb. He had his cell phone at his side. Several weeks later, on a hot July 1, a marina worker found the 73-year-old’s body after opening the closed hatch above the stairs when knocking got no response. A “C” dock security camera captured Emergency Medical Service personnel, in Hazmat suits, removing the body from the boat. According to what police learned, he died there alone, passing from incurable pancreatic cancer after being under a doctor’s care.

The Death Boat

Evidently, the marina is not required to maintain an emergency contact list so it took some police work to find Douglas’s brother and daughter. His relatives had to hire someone with HAZMAT equipment to go into the boat and retrieve personal items. They also discovered his hidden hobby: Painting landscapes and seascapes. These paintings were removed from the boat and lined up the length of the “C” dock to air out. Douglas painted the open scenes he had once cherished.

His daughter said that Douglas had been extremely outgoing and he was a leading yacht salesman and experienced sailor in Maryland until the ‘love of his life, his wife, died’. When his wife died, a major change came over him and he sailed south and became the reclusive, permanent, live-a-board resident of the marina.

The obituary of Douglas J. Hansen reflects everything we knew of him:

TCPalm Obituary

Douglas’s family has no interest in boats and its history was making the boat hard to sell. In addition, it has been difficult for them to find someone willing to go aboard and clean out the boat. The boat was sealed shut with tape and plastic and remained in the same slip on C dock; much to the chagrin of all the other boat owners on C dock.

How do you think the other boat owners felt about having the Death Boat left on their dock? Here are some log entries:

July 2nd- There is an odor lingering in the area and in my opinion the boat needs to be moved as soon as it is cleared by officials. The boat is in dismal condition and it has not moved for as long as I have been here. At one time the Marina crew pressure cleaned the topside of the boat because it was in such bad shape. I need to talk with marina personnel to find out what the plan is for the boat.

July 6th- I am waiting to see what is going to happen with the “Death” boat in the slip in front of me. The Hazmat people are supposed to be here today to clean out the boat. I had a call from the Vero Beach City Manager yesterday and he basically said the city was doing everything they could to take care of the “Death” boat issue. The “Death” boat belonged to Doug Hansen. I met his brother and daughter today. They are here from Maryland and have no knowledge of boats. Also, the Hazmat people were not interested in cleaning Doug’s boat. So, now the question is what’s next.

July 13 – Death boat is still here and latest comments were, they were having trouble finding someone to tow the boat out of the marina. Should I ask to move my boat to the North dock?

July 16 – I spoke with (another boat owner) and he said he is going to talk with the Vero Beach City Manager about the death boat. He also said he is going to personally visit the City Manager’s office to air his concerns about the death boat and he has some recommendations for the City Manager and the marina. 1130 – Secured topside cleaning because the odor coming from the Death boat is at times overwhelming.

July 18 – I received a return call from Charles Vought of the Heath Department and basically he said there is not a health issue with the “Death Boat”. The biggest issue would be with the odor and there are no risks involved with the odor.

August 02 – It has been over a month since the body was discovered in the “Death Boat”! When are they going to take care of this problem?

August 18 – I met the reporter (local paper) and she asked questions about the “Death Boat” We talked for about 1 ½ hours. I do not know when or if her article will be published.

September 02 – Today I sent an email message regarding the Death Boat to the Vero Beach City Manager. Not long after I sent the message the City Manager informed me that they would be taking the Death Boat out to a mooring on Tuesday of next week.

September 06 – The “Death Boat” is supposed to be moved to a mooring today, according to an email message I have received from the Vero Beach City Manager. This may not happen because the weather is “iffy”. 1500- Marina personnel have towed the Death Boat out to a mooring.

Almost ten weeks to the day that the highly decomposed body of Douglas was found in his boat.

The Death boat sat on a mooring at the marina for over a month and then it disappeared. We have no creditable information on what happened to it. A couple of speculations have emerged including someone bought it to strip off anything worth salvaging and someone bought it cheap and is cleaning it up in secrecy hoping to sell it without divulging its history.

Know anyone who recently bought a used 37-foot sailboat in Florida?

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