MERCY’S VESSEL Past

MERCY’S VESSEL Past

New mission for old Bogan’s Basin fishing boat

To borrow from the Blues Brothers, the Atlantis is on a mission from God.

This storied Bogan’s Basin party and charter boat had been sitting idle in her slip collecting rust when she was bought and given new life as a floating medical clinic for missionary workers.

Her new calling will take her to the coasts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, a long way from the banks of the Manasquan River. Her new owners, GPA Mobilization Ministries, based in Oxford, Pennsylvania purchased the boat last winter.

They have sanded off the name Atlantis and painted on a new one: Mercy’s Vessel.

“A good number of people we treat have never seen a doctor before,” said Capt. Buddy Puryear, the boat’s new captain. Puryear is a retired U.S. Navy captain who resides in North Carolina.

While Puryear is just getting acquainted with the boat, few know it as well as Capt. Francis Bogan, who skippered the vessel for the better part of three decades; a good chunk of that time was spent offshore in the canyons fishing for tuna.

“It was the most sea worthy vessel there was, period. You could go up and the down the coast and you won’t find a better boat,” said Bogan.

The Atlantis was built in 1970 by Blount Marine in Rhode Island for carrying anglers offshore in an era when that fishery was still being felt out.  It is a heavy, steel-hull boat with aluminum superstructure. At a 110-foot length, it was the biggest of the Bogan boats at the time it was completed.

“She wasn’t designed for speed. She was made to go offshore, to go out further and have a good boat when we were out there,” said Bogan. “When the 65-footers had to come in when it blew northeast, she could stay out. She could take a beating.”

With a top speed of 13 knots she was sometimes referred to as the “slow boat to China” by those who fished on her. She could take about seven hours to steam out to the Hudson Canyon from the Manasquan Inlet, but she could barrel through any heave on the Atlantic.

“It was legendary, Capt. Francis and the Atlantis,” said Chris Carhart. “We always had the Xactics (ice) boxes maxed out with tuna.”

Carhart worked deck on the Atlantis in the 1990s and 2000s making the trips to the canyons each year during the fall season.

“The weather was never an issue with it. I feel like people didn’t care about the speed because it was so stable,” he said.

The boat was originally called the Jamaica. Then, in 1976 when the Bogan’s had the 125-foot Jamaica built, the boat became the Paramount for a brief stint. In 1980, she was renamed the Atlantis and was handed to Francis Bogan to run his tuna charters.

It’s worth mentioning that the boat wasn’t necessarily named for the fabled ancient island of Greek literature that sunk into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Both Howard (Bogan) Sr. and I came up with that name separately at the same time. The name intrigued us but there was no rhyme or reason to it,” said Bogan.

If there is any irony at all, it is the fact that the boat was equipped with a scanner to find lost wrecks on the ocean floor. Those discoveries would help the family establish their offshore fishing reputation.

In the decades of the ’80s and ’90s, the charter business thrived and the Atlantis made enough money to cover its maintenance costs. One of the major chores on a steel boat is keeping up with the rust.  It was a task Francis Bogan toiled away at for years.

“I spent every winter, year after year, just chipping away at the rust. It took a lot of work, a lot of painting,” said Bogan.

Speed though, would eventually catch up to the boat. Newer, faster boats became more desirable than the 13 knots the Atlantis could do with a a following sea and wind at her back. Bogan said the charter businesses were also hurt by tightening fishery regulations.

By the late 2000s, the Atlantis’ business had dried up, while maintenance costs continued to mount. It became apparent that it was time to sell the boat. Only it wasn’t fishermen who came knocking, but missionaries.

Bogan, however is happy the boat has a new purpose.

GPA Mobilization Ministries wanted the Atlantis to increase their medical and evangelical efforts. They currently send up to two medical teams to Central America for four to five weeks each year.

However, the cost of airplane flights, living quarters and clinical space were eating into their budget.

With the Atlantis they intend to send teams of 20 that will stay between eighteen to twenty weeks total each year. They would visit about two or three ports on each trip. The team will work up to seven weeks in the various ports of call.

They will live and work on the Atlantis.

Puryear said the boat is presently docked in Bear, Delaware while they continue to outfit for its new purpose. They want to increase the fuel capacity from 2,000 gallons to 8,000 gallons.

They have gutted the cabin to build dorms and cabins, a pharmacy and clinic space and a galley and dining room.

“We’re looking for a home base in Florida. From South Florida to Honduras is a 4 day transit. Panama is a 6 day transit,” said Puryear.

The first mission could be the fall of 2016 or spring 2017.