By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
---- — NEWBURYPORT – A dock on the Newburyport waterfront suffered extensive damage last night when it was battered by The Prince of Whales as the 100-foot whale watch boat was tossed like a bathtub toy on the roiling waters of the Merrimack River.
At around 9:30 p.m. Newburyport Police and harbor officials rushed to secure the tethered boat, which was grinding against the dock each time it rose with the waves. Initially officials wanted to untie the boat and move it further down river where it could be safely moored, but that was determined to be unfeasible and dangerous.
“It should never have been out there in the first place,” said harbormaster Paul Hogg, adding that the Prince of Whales has a mooring that it could have used to ride out the storm.
Despite forecasts saying the worst of Hurricane Sandy would strike during the mid-afternoon, conditions deteriorated significantly after sundown. Huge breakers battered the Newburyport waterfront, with 10 to 15 foot waves pummeling the side of the Black Cow restaurant.
Strong winds from the east pushed the water level in the river to unusual heights. The wind-driven waves formed ferocious whitecaps that churned the river and dashed against waterfront buildings, docks and boardwalks, sending up large spouts of spray.
City Marshal Tom Howard said he’d never seen anything like it.
“This place is in a complete path of destruction,” Howard said.