The brigantine Enchantress, which sailed with the Tall Ships on America's Bicentennial, was David Kent's dream. He sold his house and quit his job to build it, but when the 131-foot ferroconcrete square-rigger got too expensive, he took off for Florida in a used Cadillac and dropped from sight, leaving his dream in the taxpayers' and Chemical Bank's laps.
"That guy just saw too many Errol Flynn movies," says U.S. Chief Deputy Marshall George Douglas, who seized the Enchantress on court order.
"Kent is a different breed from most of the guys who come down the path," says a man who knew him well.
His motto, Kent told reporters before he disappeared, was. "If you want something bad enough, you can do it."
He wanted the Enchantress, by his account, badly enough to quit a $50,000-a-year job with a steel company on Long Island, sell off most of his assets and at one point to move his wife and child into a toolshed after selling their house as the vessel was built from 1971 to 1975.
But Kent also was able to interest first the now-defunct Security National Bank and then the Chemical Bank in lending him money for his dream.
After the Enchantress had sailed with the Tall Ships' parade and begun doing charter business. Kent consult-dated his debts with a new, $425,000 loan from Chemical. The bank asked the Small Business Administration to guarantee 75 per cent of the loan and SBA agreed.
On Sept. 16, Douglas seized the Enchantress in Newport, R. I., where Kent had sailed to attend the America's Cup races and do some chartering. By that time Kent was far behind in his $5,700 monthly payments on his loan. "It ended up here and I ended up grabbing it," Douglas said. "But I wish it had just come for the races and then got out."
Even with its, 5,000 square feet of sail furled, Douglass said, in a strong wind the Enchantress pulls hard at its pier at the Goat Island Marina. In fact, the ship's sails may s pulls hard at its pier at the Goat Island Marina. In fs pulling the pier into Narragansett Bay.
It costs $1,000 a week to keep the Enchantress at Goat Island, and the engineer has been kept on salary to turn on the engine has been kept on salary to turn on the engines from the time to time and pump the bilge.
The other 10 crew members left as the food abroad the Enchantress ran out, but they filed suit against Kent this week for back pay.
Kent left for the Florida saying he hoped to find a partner with money to save his brigantine, but his lawyers, Jeremy Howe, says he hasn't heard from Kent recently. No one answers the phone at Kent's Florida house.
"The Enchantress is going to be sold at auction. There's nothing anyone can do about it now," Howe said.
"I am commanded to sell the brigantine Enchantress," the advertisements by the U.S. marshal's office say, "her masts, boilers, tables, engines, machinery, bowsprits, sails, rigging, boats, anchors, chains, tackle, furniture, fittings, tools, pumps, equipment, appurtenances and accessories."
Sally Bender of the SBA's New York office says it's not as though there is no security for the taxpayers' money - "we have the ship."
James Auletta of the Chemical Bank branch that managed the loan to Kent is sanguine about the sale prospects. "Personally, I think we should cover costs," he said.
People in Newport and Providence who have seen the Enchantress think the sale will leave the ship in a puddle of red ink.
"It's 2 years old, but if you saw it you would think it was 40. There's been no upkeep on it." Douglas said. The remaining member of the Enchantress' crew has told Douglas that the brigantine used to do 12 knots but he doubts she could do more than six now.
Her cement hull, which has been in the water almost five years without being hauled, has grown a half foot of barnacles ans seaweed, Douglas said.
Douglas, who has seen a lot of boats but never before a square-rigger, refuses to guess what the Enchantress will bring. To his amazement, recently saw a court-ordered sale of a sailboat that was resing on the bottom with only the tip of its mast showing bring $5,000.
Even stranger, he said, and aged ferryboat that the city of Pawtucket, R.I., bought for $1 brought $49,500 after some renovations a few year later.
Whoever buys the Enchantress also will have to spend about $5,000 to repair her broken generator and may not be able to move her until warm weather. The North Atlantic off Rhose Island is not easy sailing for tall ships in winter.
The lucky buyer could be the tax-payers and the Chemical Bank since they will enter a protective bid to make sure the vessel doesn't go for a song. As it rests at Goat Island Marina, the Enchantress sports a temporary sign: "This Vessel is Now Property of the U.S. Government."
Neither Chemical Bank nor SBA spokesmen today expressed any anger toward Kent or opinions that the loan was in any way foolishly granted.
Bender of the SBA said she was satisfied with the report on the loan SBA got periodically from Chemical.
A source close to Kent said, however, that "Kent is not a businessman. He's more of a hustler than anything else."
The latest rumor to reach Rhode Island, one source said, is that Kent has found a couple of partners but instead of coming back for the Enchantress he's talking of building another square-rigger.
Frank Braynard who organized the Bicentennial Tall Ship parade in New York, laments the troubles of the Enchantress.
"She's a beautiful ship who should have a long life," he said.