The old ketch 'Caprice'
Years ago in Salem, Massachusetts, I stumbled upon the ketch 'Caprice' in the Dyer Boatyard off Lafayette Street. It was an absolutely beautiful wooden yacht of 56' on deck, stripped of her bowsprit and spars, with a brand new horn timber installed, but still needing that particular planking to be re-installed.
Old Fred Dyer had just died and he'd left the yard to his son, young Fred, who told me the name of the owner of Caprice, and that he was drunk somewhere in Florida at last reckoning, and that the boat would be sold at an upcoming sheriff's auction. I found the remains of the owners family, and with their blessing, gathered up the newly rebuilt 3-71 engine, all the sails and rigging, located the fabulous spars in covered storage in a Gloucester boatyard, where I arranged to pay the storage and collect them as soon as I had the yacht in my hands.
I also found that Caprice had been built alongside the famous 'Bluenose' in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and from the front was almost identical. I think that put her construction at around 1906.
Along came the auction and what followed was one of the most bizzare string of events I have ever seen in a boats history. Fred Dyer bid a hugely inflated number that he claimed to represent the yards outstanding bill for the boat. None of the other lienholders had anything like that to build, so Fred got the boat and everyone else wrote off their losses. I offered Fred the rest of the boat so he could make it whole, but he wasn't interested.
He hired a demolition company to bring over a D9 Cat bulldozer and crush it to kindling. Along came the man and the Cat, he fired up the bulldozer and removed it from the trailer, then stopped it just short of the boat, stepped down and had Fred Jr. sign the required forms. Fred did, then the man reloaded the bulldozer on the trailer and shut it off. He informed Fred that he'd just signed the boat over to him, and that it was now his property, and he had 24 hours to either destroy it or remove it from the boatyard. Fred lost his mind. I'm told it was a great scene that shoul;d be used in movies.
The next day, 'Caprice' showed up in a wooded area in Topsfield off Rt 97, where pricy house lots were being sold and much pricier houses were being built. It turns out the new owner was one of the lost souls of the cocaine generation who was spiralling around the bowl on what might be the last flush of his life. He'd put the boat on his sister's new house lot, I'm sure, with all the required accompanying promises. Cocaine, however, demends it's own payments, and for the next year, the lead ballast pigs and bronze fitting disappeared little by little as the weeds grew up around 'Caprice'.
Then it disappeared again. I soon found her farther north, in the town of West Boxford, behind a needy little house in a newly constructed scrap wood and plastic shed. I talked to the very young and hopeful new owner, who told me that he and his pregnant wife had gotten a $10,000 home improvement loan, and at the last moment, he'd found 'Caprice' and got her for just that much, and now he was going to fix her up and sail off. I gave him all the information for the rest of the boat, where it was and how to gather it, then walked away shaking my head. Maybe it was Caprice that was spiralling around the bowl for the last flush.
Has anyone from that area ever stumble upon the boat and might know what happened to her? I'm pretty sure she musy be dead and gone, but who knows? Maybe the kid was able to save her.