Boat burning returns

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Back with community-wide anticipation is the Long Island Maritime Museum’s annual boat burning, which took a hiatus last year because of pandemic concerns.

The event brought in about 3,000 in 2019 and this year is expected to bring a comparable crowd, or even exceed that count.

“Online tickets have been selling well,” said a representative from the museum, but said the bulk of tickets are sold the same day, as families follow weather conditions.

The gates of the museum open at 5 p.m. for eventgoers and the fire theatrics, scheduled to start at full night sky, will likely begin its burn at 7:30 p.m. and be extinguished at 9 p.m.

The entry fee is $5 per person and children under 5 are free.

Unlike in previous years where fundraisers were held, this year will only have clam chowder from Blue Island Oyster for purchase as well as carnival foods (pretzels, hot chocolate) from a local vendor.

There is no alcohol sold at the event and coolers will not be allowed.

This year’s donated vessel comes from the Weeks family and is a 1966 29-foot Pacemaker named the Got It Easy.

It is made of white oak and mahogany and was built in the Pacemaker factory of Little Egg Harbor, N.J.

The vessel made its way to the Weeks Yacht Yard in Patchogue fairly early in its life, estimated around the late 1970s.

The original owner, Charles LaBarca, was the cheeky head of a pickling warehouse in Patchogue on Norton Street and Bay Avenue nicknamed, the Pickle Man.

As is traditional, the West Sayville Fire Department will be in charge of the boat burning.

LaBarca sold the boat in the mid-1980s, christened Wet Dreams at this point, to a peculiar and perhaps indulgent man who claimed to be descended from French royalty and been dispossessed of his noble title and castle in France.

Unable to pay the restoration that current yard owner Kevin Weeks graciously took on, replacing a plywood transom with one of solid mahogany, Wet Dreams was left on the Weeks yard and re-christened Got It Easy where she has sat dormant for the past 20 years before being donated for the museum’s 2021 boat burning.

As is traditional, the West Sayville Fire Department will be in charge of the boat burning.

Once a vessel is donated for the boat burning, a specialized team from the fire department is sent to inspect it. The team does a thorough review of the interior to ensure that there is no fuel or other hazardous materials that could cause an issue when lighting the boat.  

The fire department’s truck company also cuts some ventilation holes in all sides of the boat to allow enough air to let the boat burn.

Parts of the boat are also filled with hay, and then soaked in diesel fuel.  

For the big moment, flares are used to light parts of the boat.

“We closely monitor the wind direction at all times to make sure the patrons of the event or not affected by the hazardous smoke,” said Brian D’Onofrio, first assistant chief of West Sayville Fire Department. “We also make sure that patrons are far enough away.”

Around 30 to 40 members of the West Sayville Fire Department attend the boat burning, as it is an auspicious start to the treasured holiday season.

“My favorite memory is the camaraderie of our membership that night.  It is a night to sit back, relax, enjoy some hot chocolate and apple cider, all while keeping our community safe,” added D’Onofrio. “And of course, our yearly photo that we take is always a great memory we will cherish.”

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