MARSHFIELD — Dave and Karyn Walsh dreamed about life after retirement, sailing the East Coast from Florida to Massachusetts aboard their 40-foot Viking boat Naut Again.
But that dream came to an abrupt halt in the early-morning hours of Thursday, when their boat, along with two commercial vessels stored at a Marshfield marina for the winter, were destroyed by a suspicious fire under investigation by Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s office.
The blaze started just after midnight Thursday at Taylor Marina on Central Street, about three hours after another suspicious fire was sparked in the rear of an unoccupied summer home in Humarock, a section of neighboring Scituate.
It remains unclear whether the fires are connected to at least 16 blazes set in unoccupied or abandoned properties in a number of communities south of Boston since September.
“We’re not speculating whether these fires are connected to the string of unsolved fires in Southeastern Massachusetts,” Coan said in a phone interview. “They remain under investigation.”
Devastated by their loss Thursday, the Walshes stood in the cold rain and embraced at the foot of Naut Again, charred down to its hull.
“I’ve had it for 12 years,” said Dave Walsh, who lives in Pembroke, choking back tears. “She had beautiful lines, and this is not the way I expected her to go.”
“I have a knot in my stomach,” said Karyn Walsh, comforted by her daughter, Juley Sanborn, 28. . “It’s so many memories. It’s like a family member; it’s our summer home.”
The boat, now a total loss, contained irreplaceable personal belongings, including the family’s captain’s log of all the trips they have taken, Sanborn said, making it all the more upsetting if the fire is determined to be the work of an arsonist.
“You feel angry that somebody could do that,” she said. “It’s sad to think that there are people out there like that, that just take very little consideration for what something like this means to certain people.”
Also destroyed was the Ellen Marie, a 42-foot commercial boat that Derek Chandler of Carver, purchased a few weeks ago to expand his summer tuna-fishing business. He had stored it about a week-and-a-half ago and planned on insuring it after winter was over.
“I mean, it’s just sitting there, what’s going to happen?” Chandler said of his decision to wait until spring to insure it. “I’m still in shock.”
Marina co-owner John Taylor, whose family has operated the facility for 44 years, said it is rare that a fire so intense would ignite on its own this time of year.
“When boats are put away for the winter, there usually isn’t a source of ignition,” Taylor said.
Another fishing boat, the Big Mac, sandwiched between Naut Again and Ellen Marie, was destroyed, Taylor said. Four other boats stored in the same lot were damaged, said Fire Chief Kevin C. Robinson.
The first call came in at 12:16 a.m. Thursday, he said, and a second alarm was sounded after firefighters at the scene determined that the highly flammable fiberglass the boats are made of would intensify the flames. Twenty-one Marshfield firefighters successfully battled the blaze.
Heavy smoke led to evacuation of some homes adjacent to the boat storage lot on Cherry Street, Robinson said, but none were damaged and no injuries were reported. Robinson estimated damage from the fire at more than $500,000.
The Scituate fire was reported at 9:20 p.m. Wednesday by a person who walked past the Central Avenue home and heard smoke alarms chirping inside, said Fire Chief Richard A. Judge. Firefighters responded quickly, knocking down the fire while it was still small, he said, and the home sustained minimal damage.
Judge said, “The fire is suspicious in origin.” It started just a quarter mile away from another unoccupied Central Avenue summer home where a fire was set last Thursday. Coan’s office quickly determined that fire to be the work of an arsonist, and it remains unsolved, Coan said.
“The series of fires that occurred in Southeastern Massachusetts is under intense investigation by state, federal, and local fire investigators,” Coan said.
Coan is urging anyone with information about any of the fires to contact the state arson hotline at 800-682-9229.