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Queen Bee’s odyssey is a honey of a tale

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The Queen Bee has returned to the hive in North Carolina, ending one of the strangest, most unlikely small-boat journeys in recent memory.

For those who don’t know the story, Queen Bee is the Regulator 26 center console that was lost off Nantucket, Mass., in 2008 and was found floating 3-1/2 years and more than 3,000 miles later off Spain. During that time there were at least six named hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

The story might have ended there had it not been for the persistence of the folks at Regulator Marine in Edenton, N.C., to get this long-distance survivor shipped back to North Carolina. It took six months and a fair bit of paperwork and persistence, but Queen Bee has come full circle.

“We’re really excited about getting her home,” company president and co-founder Joan Maxwell told me yesterday. “It’s an incredible, incredible story.”

That’s an understatement. The boat was lost in August 2008 when a breaking wave knocked owner Scott Douglas and his brother-in-law, Rich St. Pierre, out of the boat off Nantucket, where they had been fishing. The men were lucky to make it to shore alive.

And the yellow-hulled Regulator 26 with the pair of Yamaha 225s? The center console was missing in action and soon forgotten until she was spotted inverted off Spain earlier this year and towed into port, where her parentage and story were quickly uncovered. (Click here for my April Soundings column about Queen Bee.)

Regulator Marine is throwing a welcome-home party of sorts for Queen Bee and her remarkable tale Aug. 28 at the Barker House on the Edenton waterfront. The guests of honor will include Douglas and St. Pierre, Maxwell says.

The boat in its ungussied-up condition will make appearances at several boat shows this fall and winter before ending up at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, where it will spend five years, according to Maxwell.

She credits Lee Norfleet, the business process manager at Regulator Marine, with doing much of the long-distance legwork to get the boat back to the States.

“Right guy for the job,” Maxwell says. “He stayed on it.”

When I spoke with Maxwell last winter after the boat was found, she and the rest of the Regulator crew were interested in getting the 26-footer back, in large part, to see how the center console had held up. Consider it a floating laboratory on modern fiberglass boatbuilding.

So how does the wanderer look?

“It’s amazing to look at it and say this was floating for 3-1/2 years and it looks like this,” Maxwell says. “I think with little or no effort that boat could be running. The [Armstrong] bracket is in amazing condition. There’s some paint off it, but it’s solid.”

The Yamaha outboards, minus their cowlings, were still on the boat when it was found. The console was intact, and pieces of the broken windscreen were still in place. The liner is in the boat, the hardware is in decent shape, and even though the hatches are missing, the piano hinges are still attached, Maxwell reports. The batteries and their boxes are still aboard, as are the electronics and one small hatch in the aft cockpit.

Maxwell says it appears that the Queen Bee was struck by something about one-third of the way down its port side. The clues include fiberglass crazing, a twisted T-top frame and a missing deck cap. “Maybe it got hit by a ship?”

And, Maxwell notes, “There was a nickel inside the glove box.”

Go figure.

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