rb boat fire 021214 1The Fidder seen from the Cooper Bridge as it burned early Wednesday morning. Below, the icebound vessel on January 26. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


navesink ice 012614 2The Fiddler, a mysteriously anchored boat that drew curious skaters, iceboaters and walkers out onto the frozen Navesink River in recent weeks, seemed to defy nature.

How long, people wondered, could it avoid getting crushed in the grip of ice between Red Bank and Middletown?

Well, if the so-called ‘lobster boat’ was doomed, few might have foreseen that it would meet its demise this way.

The Fiddler was destroyed in an early morning blaze of unknown origin Wednesday morning.

A security guard at the Molly Pitcher Inn who called in the fire first saw it at 1:15, when flames reached as high as 20 feet, he told redbankgreen. Two and a half hours later, the fire was still going strong, sending acrid smoke into downtown Red Bank.

Borough Fire Chief Tommy Welsh, watching the fire from a parking lot at the hotel, said he had no information about its possible cause.

“We didn’t send anyone out there” to the fire site, which was hundreds of yards from the nearest shore, surrounded by ice estimated to be seven inches thick, Welsh said.

An officer from the State Police Marine Unit was also on the scene. The agency has jurisdiction and will investigate, he said.

Ownership of the boat could not be immediately determined.