If you’ve never made it out to the wreck of the sailboat “Belle” at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, there’s less to see now.
Outer Banks photographer Wesley Snyder, a frequent visitor to the remains of the 30-foot sailboat on the beach between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe, arrived Tuesday morning to find the familiar “Belle” on the boat’s transom gone.
A man from Fredericksburg, Virginia, posted on a Facebook group about another local shipwreck, the Ocean Pursuit, that he took the name from Belle, but has since removed the post. OBXToday sent a Facebook message to the man, who did not reply.
Snyder’s discovery prompted an outcry on his photography Facebook page – Wes Snyder Photography – with people calling for the offender to be prosecuted. But federal officials say that won’t be happening.
The Pea Island refuge falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Agency spokesman Mark Davis said the Belle “has been on the strand so long it’s now considered debris, not property.”
“We are empathetic to the frustrations over the removal of the name; however, we will not pursue an investigation into this one.”
The Belle has been a local attraction on Pea Island since it wrecked in 2013. The sailboat is said to be a salvage from Hurricane Sandy and was being towed solo when both boats ran aground. The other was cut up and hauled away, but Belle has remained on the beach since.