Owner appeals to Port of Port Townsend for reimbursement after boat is damaged in fire
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Marshall Woodman on the deck of the Sea Gypsy, which was damaged by a fire on an adjacent boat in September.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A live-aboard Boat Haven resident has petitioned the Port of Port Townsend to reimburse him for damage to his boat caused by a fire in an adjacent boat, saying the fire was the result of rules not being enforced.

Through its attorney, the port has stated it is not responsible for damage to the boat.

Marshall Woodman, 66, a retired refrigeration engineer, was asleep on the 55-foot Sea Gypsy on the morning of Sept. 27 when the neighboring Treasure Hunter caught fire.

Woodman was awakened by firefighters, grabbed his cat and escaped.

Woodman said two previous fires on the Treasure Hunter should have triggered an inspection.

Also, the Treasure Hunter was violating policy by having a locked area that delayed extinguishing the fire, according to both Woodman and port officials.

“If it happened an hour earlier, I could have died in that fire,” Woodman told port commissioners Wednesday.

“This isn't a question of property but a question of lives.”

Commissioners listened to Woodman, who has retained an attorney, but said their attorney, Carolyn Lake, had told them they couldn't respond to him directly.

Woodman had asked the port to either allow him three years of free rent and a new tarp or to buy his boat — which he said has a replacement value of $900,000 — for $30,000 outright.

The port, through its attorney, said in a letter to Woodman that it would not give him free rent or buy the boat.

The port offered to return six months' worth of rent — $920 a month — if he left after that time period.

Woodman said the offer was “insulting.”

Another insult, according to Woodman, was Lake's statement that if he fails to leave the Boat Haven, the boat will be destroyed, with the estimated $12,000 cost billed directly to him.

Lake did not return a call for comment Thursday.

The Sea Gypsy's bow was charred by the flames but did not catch fire after firefighters hosed down the charred portion.

However, damage was considerable, Woodman said.

In a handout to port commissioners, he said he had $65,594 in repairs of fire damage.

Woodman's attorney, Paul Richmond, said Thursday he hadn't decided whether to file an action against the port on Woodman's behalf.

“It's clear to me that the port is not treating my client fairly,” Richmond said.

“He wasn't responsible for the damage, and he should be reimbursed.”

Treasure Hunter owner Karen Broome, who was subsequently evicted from the Boat Haven and her boat destroyed by the port, said at the time she would make restitution for all damages but has not done so.

“I said that I would help people, but I didn't have any way to raise the money,” Broome said Thursday.

“I lost my boat and all the money that I spent on it, and no one came to my aid.”

Broome said she doesn't feel responsible for the fire, saying the port did not enforce its own regulations.

An investigation found that the fire was caused by a faulty power strip.

Broome said she excavated the site after the fire and found a dead rat, which she believes gnawed through the wire and caused the fire.

“We didn't bring any rats in with us,” she said.

“The rat caused the fire, and if a rat is on port property, they should be held responsible,”

“To my knowledge, we do not have a rat issue in the Boat Haven,” said Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik.

“If we did, we would call an exterminator.”

Woodman has lived on the Sea Gypsy, which is not currently seaworthy, in the Boat Haven for three years.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 24. 2014 9:08PM
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