Mackerel Cove in July. The town is seeking the removal of a boat that sank in the cove this spring. (Jessica Picard photo)

The Harpswell Select Board has ordered the owner of a boat that sank in Mackerel Cove, Bailey Island, this spring to remove it by mid-September.

An Aug. 31 letter from the Select Board to the owner, Donald “Donnie” Freeman, of Bailey Island, says Freeman has 15 days to remove the boat from the bottom. If he does not, the town may remove the boat itself, bill Freeman for the cost, and pursue civil and/or criminal penalties.

Harpswell Harbor Master Paul Plummer, in an Aug. 28 letter to the Select Board, said he learned from an anonymous tip that Freeman’s boat had sunk at its mooring. Plummer described the craft as an “old Novi boat” without a cabin, between 20 and 30 feet long.

On June 6, Freeman told Plummer the boat has no motor and there was no fuel or oil on board. Freeman could not remove the boat immediately for financial reasons, so Plummer set a deadline of Sept. 1 to either remove the boat or return it to its mooring, according to his letter.

As the deadline neared, Freeman did not raise the boat or provide information about his plans to do so, Plummer said in the letter. Plummer asked the Select Board to declare the vessel abandoned.

Under the town’s Harbor and Waterfront Ordinance, the declaration of abandonment allows for the town to take further action, such as to remove the boat at the owner’s expense.

Freeman did not respond to a voicemail from the Anchor.

Freeman’s boat is not the first sunken craft to cause headaches for the town in recent years.

A 26-foot Silverton motor vessel called Joint Venture sunk in Lowell’s Cove, Orr’s Island, on Nov. 22, 2021. The boat remains at the bottom of the cove. Joint Venture’s owner was convicted of a misdemeanor, abandonment of watercraft, but the judge did not impose a penalty, citing his financial circumstances. The town hoped to remove the boat with state funds, but those funds were not forthcoming. Plummer said he would ask the Select Board how it wants to proceed.

A 65-foot trawler named Miss Plum sank in Mackerel Cove in the 1990s, but started to leak diesel fuel this summer. The leak was discovered on July 10 and plugged by a local diver the same day. The U.S. Coast Guard later returned and pumped out the rest of the fuel. Town officials have said Miss Plum’s condition would make removal impractical.

In addition to Freeman’s boat and the Miss Plum, there is a sailboat at the bottom of Mackerel Cove. The town does not have any information about the vessel’s ownership or when it sank.

Other sunken vessels in Harpswell waters include a sailboat that went down in Middle Bay in 2018, according to Plummer. The craft is in the area of Crow Island and Simpson’s Point, near the Brunswick town line.

Plummer said in an email that sunken vessels are “absolutely a problem” in Harpswell waters, which is why the town is “trying to hold people accountable when we are made aware of it when it happens.”