Another bewildering chapter in the odyssey of Artemis

Shellfisherman Arthur Martinez of Truro walks along the breakwater and past the 42-foot vessel Artemis on Sunday, March 4, in Provincetown. The boat was moored near MacMillan Pier and broke away during the nor’easter. It moved westward in the harbor and eventually pushed against the breakwater, according to Coast Guard officials.Cape Cod Times file photo via AP

The ghost of the derelict scallop boat Artemis, whose owner set a strong standard for scofflaw vessels during his time in Gloucester, continues to hover over its final resting place along the side of Provincetown breakwater.

The Artemis, a 42-foot metal boat owned by John F. Christiansen of West Yarmouth, broke free of its mooring in Provincetown Harbor in the midst of a March 2 nor’easter and went aground on the rocks of the town’s West End breakwater.

And there it sat for months, as Provincetown officials arm-wrestled with Christiansen to remove it. In June, Provincetown police came up with a curious solution: They charged Christiansen with littering for refusing to extract the vessel off the breakwater.

A month later, the town gave in and expended public funds — which they still are trying to recoup from Christiansen — to remove the Artemis from the breakwater, haul it and cut it up for scrap.

In early December, according to a Friday story in the Cape Cod Times, Orleans District Court Judge Robert Welsh III ruled for Christiansen and dismissed the littering complaint because of “insufficient evidence.”

No one in Gloucester who dealt with Christiansen and the Artemis were the least bit surprised that Provincetown officials were left frustrated and angry. That was their experience, as well.

When the Artemis first went up on the breakwater in March, Scott Memhard of Cape Pond Ice had an immediate response.

“Thank God it didn’t happen here,” Memhard had told the Times. “Myself, Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro and the city are celebrating the fact that it didn’t happen here.”

Viking Gustafson, general manager of the Gloucester Marine Railways, echoed those sentiments.

“Better there than here,” Gustafson said.

In March 2015, Christiansen brought the Artemis to the railways on Rocky Neck for berthing. He soon fell behind on his payments and Gustafson demanded he remove the boat. A year later, the Artemis was still there and, at one point, Gustafson threatened to haul it and cut it up in the railways parking lot.

“He said, ‘You can’t do that,’ and I said I could and if he wanted to get the federales after me, go ahead,” Gustafson recalled. “I also told him I’m never talking to him again.”

In July 2016, Christiansen had the Artemis towed across the Inner Harbor to Cape Pond Ice. Memhard, thinking he would at least get a regular ice customer once Christiansen started fishing again, agreed to let the scalloper dock at the ice plant’s wharf for four days.

Four days turned into a year. The boat was in such disrepair that it never went back to fishing and Christiansen never bought one cube of ice.

“In the end, I felt bamboozled,” Memhard said. “In fairness, Viking did warn me.”

The Coast Guard paid between $35,000 and $40,000 to remove all fuel and environmental hazards off the boat and Memhard and the city started making plans to take out the Artemis and scuttle it.

But first he passed the word around town that everything and anything left on the Artemis was available to all comers. First come, first grab.

The boat got stripped. The Christiansens were not happy and finally, in July 2017, they said they had made arrangements to tow the Artemis to Cape Cod.

Christiansen had it towed first to Chatham, but Harbormaster Stuart Smith was familiar with the boat and refused to have it in the harbor.

Christiansen then had it towed to Provincetown, where it met its final fate and added to its already voluminous array of disgruntled waterfront stakeholders, harbormasters and city officials.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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