Newburyport to auction off ‘ghost ship’

The city of Newburyport is auctioning off a 37-foot boat that has sat idle for months since the German man who owned it apparently drowned in the Merrimack River last year.

The Endeavour, a six-person sloop, has garnered 26 bids on an online municipal auction site, the highest for $9,225. The proceeds from the sale will go into a fund used by the city for, among other purposes, upkeep of the waterfront, Harbormaster Paul Hogg said.

Richard Decker, the boat’s former owner, went missing in November while piloting a small skiff on the Merrimack River, Hogg said. An extensive search did not turn up a body and authorities believe he drowned.

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Decker’s entire family lives in Germany and said they want nothing to do with the boat when the city contacted them, Hogg said.

“Because they’re in Germany it would have been to hard to deal with it, so they donated it to the city,” he said.

Following Decker’s disappearance, the city took control of the boat, removing it from the river, winterizing it, and storing it, Hogg said. He said the cost of caring for the vessel was minimal, and the boat remains in fine condition.

The sloop was built in 1980 and is powered by a 50-horsepower Detroit Diesel engine, according to its listing on Bidding lasts until May 29.

Newburyport, which sits at the mouth of the Merrimack River in the northern tip of the state, has a long maritimee tradition and a haunting history of ghost ships.

In 1996, the city claimed and auctioned the Heather Lynne, a fishing vessel that capsized off the coast of Gloucester, claiming the lives of its three crewmembers.

“It’s not something you deal with every day, so you just do the best you can,” Hogg said.