OCEAN CITY — It’s always a tragic event when a property owner has to resort to gunfire to defend his or her home. Luckily, this time the threat came in the form of an unmanned boat propelled by storm surge.
During Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Eden Roc Hotel owner Bill Salvatore found himself faced with an incredibly unusual situation: a roughly 30-foot boat hurtling toward his home.
According to Salvatore, who lives on Marlin Drive off 21st Street, concerned neighbors called him Monday morning to report that a rogue boat had slipped whatever was securing it and was being pushed by waves and surge from the hurricane towards his home.
“This was at the beginning of the storm,” said Salvatore.
As Salvatore watched, he claimed the boat slammed into the davit for his wave runner, causing massive damage.
“It was pounding on my wave runner davit … it completely destroyed that,” he said.
As soon as his neighbors alerted him to the danger, Salvatore said he called first the Ocean City Police Department and then, at the OCPD’s direction, the Department of Natural Resources. Neither agency was able to offer assistance during the storm. It was at that point that Salvatore said he made a final call to his attorney to double-check on what the law says about protecting a home at the risk of another’s property.
Satisfied that he did have the right to stop the boat before it could do more harm, Salvatore went to his balcony armed with a rifle.
In Salvatore’s assessment, the craft, which was caught on the damaged davit, posed a threat to his property and an even greater hazard to his neighbor’s home. So Salvatore tried to sink the boat.
“Well, I shot it about 15 times with a deer rifle,” he said.
While the boat did eventually run aground, Salvatore was skeptical that he had actually sunk it with gunfire and guessed that the jagged remains of his davit had likely done the damage that sank the ship.
“I don’t think my shooting had a thing to do with it sinking,” he said.
As surreal as the scenario of a man on a balcony firing at a boat during a hurricane may seem, Salvatore didn’t find any humor in the situation and instead expressed sympathy for the vessel’s owners.
“I didn’t like shooting somebody’s boat,” he said.
But Salvatore was also adamant that he does not regret trying to protect his and his neighbor’s homes and believes that the surging boat had presented a real threat to property and safety in the neighborhood.