Eagle Harbor gunman’s vessel is for sale via state auction

The “Flying Gull” — the boat that a gunman used as a watery outpost to fire more than 100 rounds from a rifle at the area surrounding Eagle Harbor in July — is now for sale via a Washington State Department of Natural Resources online auction.

Derelict Vessel Removal Program Manager Troy Wood is managing the sale of the boat, a 55-foot-long 1940 Sparkman &Stephens ketch. The vessel will be available online for viewing from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Sept. 20, according to the auction listing at www.govdeals.com, a government liquidity site.

The listing specifies Wood is to be contacted “regarding the condition of this item, to make a viewing appointment or to discuss pick up.” Wood can be reached at 360-902-1574, or via troy.wood@dnr.wa.gov.

The boat’s listing received more than 500 visitors shortly after being made public, and a starting bid of $1,000 had already been placed as early as Wednesday morning. The auction ends at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The Flying Gull, which is currently moored at the Washington State Ferries Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility, is not in pristine condition, to be sure. It is described as having, “dings, dents and scratches consistent with vessel,” and “broken glass” on the exterior, and “stains and dirty (seats &floor) consistent with field vessel,” in the interior spaces.

Whether or not the boat is fit for the sea is an open question as well, and the successful buyer must present the state with a plan on how it will be removed from the WSF shipyard in Winslow.

“The sea worthiness is unknown along with the overall condition of the hull,” according to the DNR vessel description. “The apparent successful bidder will also be required to provide verifiable assurance of a legally acceptable relocation and moorage site for the vessel plus a plan for timely removal of the vessel from the [WSF] Ferry Maintenance Facility (generally 7-14 days after purchase).”

It was from the Flying Gull that Robert David Yeiser, 34, of Seattle, staged a nearly four-hour standoff with Kitsap authorities just south of downtown Winslow, which started after Yeiser began to shoot at the shoreline with a rifle just before 8:30 p.m. July 8.

Yeiser was eventually shot and killed by police while he stood aboard the sailboat and aimed a gun at officers.

The sudden gunfire prompted a massive police response to the shoreline of Eagle Harbor, and authorities said Yeiser soon began to shoot at officers after they arrived at the scene.

Officers — most of them members of the Kitsap County Regional SWAT Team — attempted to make contact with Yeiser early in the morning on July 9, as he was aboard the sailboat, which was anchored in the middle of the harbor.

As the police boats approached the wooden sailboat just after 1 a.m. Sunday, however, officers saw Yeiser raise his rifle at officers.

Police then shot Yeiser as he stood on the deck.

Yeiser was an employee at Amazon in Seattle since June 2012, according to his profile on LinkedIn, a business-based social networking website.

He was a former editor in the online retailer’s web services division, according to his LinkedIn profile, and started work as a senior content developer and was with the company through June 2016.

The boat itself proved to have a surprising past as well, and a storied history of hunting Nazi submarines.

According to a 2010 marine survey conducted of S/V Flying Gull by Rodger Morris, the vessel had a history of clandestine maritime operations. The survey described Flying Gull as a heavily constructed, Sparkman &Stephens-designed wood motorsailer, built to military specifications by Henry Grebe &Co. in Chicago, Illinois. It was “used by the U.S. Navy during WWII as a ‘spy ship’ in the Caribbean and on the Eastern coast of Central and North America,” according to the survey.

The story of the Flying Gull, originally named AWAB (All Women Are Beautiful), begins in 1938 when John Simpson teamed with up with the Navy to construct a pilothouse ketch. Officially called Sparkman &Stephens Design 247, AWAB was launched in 1940.

Lee Youngblood, a sailboat broker in Anacortes, listed the Flying Gull in 2013 for her owner, Dennis Webb. According to Youngblood, the boat was credited as a critical asset in the sinking of numerous enemy submarines during the war.

Youngblood said the boat was outfitted with classified equipment capable of detecting submarines below the water’s surface and pinpointed their locations for depth charge drops by other Navy ships.

Youngblood said the Flying Gull was responsible for detecting an enemy submarine off the shores of Long Island, New York and identifying some 27 more outside the Panama Canal, which were poised to cut off crucial Allied supply lines to the Pacific theatre.

Secrecy still surrounds those fabled days, however.

“I have no proof of any of this,” Youngblood said, explaining that the Navy would not discuss the particular technology used aboard the vessel to detect submarines.

After the war had ended, AWAB made her way back to Chicago where she would sail the Great Lakes region until 1959, when Simpson sold the boat to Ritter Shumway of Rochester, N.Y.

Renaming her Flying Gull, Shumway retained ownership of the vessel until 1993.

Flying Gull remained in New York undergoing renovations and repairs until 2004, when she was moved to Seattle by Webb and later sold to Yeiser.

The vessel was taken by police as evidence initially after the shooting, before custody ultimately fell to the state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

The previous owner has a relative in Ohio, Wood said, and the Flying Gull was turned over to that relative after the WSP finished their investigation.

“The vessel was in the bay without permission and it was in the process of being removed by the city,” he said. “The new owner had admitted to the DNR that taking care of the vessel was not feasible and then waived any further custody notifications or appeal.”

The wavier, Wood said, allowed the Derelict Vessel Removal Program to proceed with a sale of the boat quicker, preventing additional storage fees.

“The vessel was reported to have some value,” he added. “So a sale is warranted.”

Review editor Brian Kelly and Kitsap News Group writer Nick Twietmeyer contributed to this story.