Unmanned Queen Bee’s incredible 3-year voyage
Posted on 28 March 2012
Written by William Sisson
A good, well-built small boat can take far more punishment than its operators will ever care to endure. That’s just one of those truisms about well-found boats in the hands of experienced helmsmen — or perhaps even in no one’s hands.
For the latest example of an extraordinarily tough boat, consider the improbable, unmanned voyage of the Queen Bee, a 26-foot Regulator center console that was lost in 2008 off Nantucket, Mass., and found floating earlier this year about 20 miles off Spain — more than three years later. Talk about a wandering gypsy.
“Thirty-five hundred miles,” marvels Joan Maxwell, the president and co-founder of Regulator Marine, the Edenton, N.C., company that built the boat. “It had to have been rolled and tumbled. There were six named hurricanes in the North Atlantic during that time period.” For all anyone knows, the boat might have made two laps around the Pond on the Gulf Stream and other currents, Maxwell notes.
This much is known for certain. The last time anyone saw the yellow-hulled deep-vee was in August 2008, when owner Scott Douglas and his brother-in-law Rich St. Pierre were pitched overboard by a breaking wave off Nantucket. The men were lucky to make it to shore alive. St. Pierre was helped by an inflatable device from a survival bag that also was knocked off the boat, according to accounts.
“Amazing,” Douglas reportedly said after seeing photos of his long-lost fishing boat, now home to a colony of barnacles and other growth. “It looks entirely different.”
Judging by photos of Queen Bee taken after she was recovered, the twin-outboard boat certainly looks as if she’d been at sea for a good long while. The hatches were gone, the deck cap was missing, and the engine cowlings had been torn off, though the twin Yamahas were still bolted to their bracket. The console and some electronics remained, and the T-top frame was twisted but still there, too.
Remarkably, she was found floating stern-down with just a section of the bow above the surface. “It probably could have drifted for another three years,” a Coast Guard spokesman was quoted as saying.
Maxwell says her company is working with Spanish authorities to have the boat released to them so they can bring it back to North Carolina and examine it. Given the boat’s condition, Maxwell worries the Spaniards will simply see it as a derelict with no value and destroy it.
The solid glass hull with foam injected into its stringer system was built in 2003, says Maxwell, who spoke with Douglas after Queen Bee was discovered. She says the owner considers the discovery a “closure” of sorts on a story he has told literally thousands of times over the last three-plus years.
And now it appears a new chapter might be in store for Queen Bee. Regulator is interested in using the wanderer to demonstrate the durability of its hulls. “The saga continues,” says Maxwell. “We’re still trying to get it home.” If she is successful, you might even see Queen Bee at a boat show next year.
“It just goes to prove that truth is stranger than fiction,” says Maxwell.
"The sailor cannot see the North but knows the Needle can." -Emily Dickinson
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.