Homeless man attempts to float USS Aries free from Gasconade mooring; ship moves 400 feet

Ropes securing vessel to shore became snagged; thwarted theft

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 6/17/20

GASCONADE — A homeless man apparently boarded the retired Navy hydrofoil missile ship USS Aries on June 1 and attempted to float it away from its mooring at Gasconade city.

B.J. Meinhardt, a …

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Homeless man attempts to float USS Aries free from Gasconade mooring; ship moves 400 feet

Ropes securing vessel to shore became snagged; thwarted theft

Posted

GASCONADE — A homeless man apparently boarded the retired Navy hydrofoil missile ship USS Aries on June 1 and attempted to float it away from its mooring at Gasconade city.

B.J. Meinhardt, a co-owner of the 1970s vessel, said the man managed to move the ship about 400 feet along with the barge it was attached to before the two rope lines “snagged up” and halted his progress.

“Someone was trying to do a Huckleberry Finn and float it down to New Orleans,” said Meinhardt. “The end of the rope snagged up and he couldn’t get back to the snag and unsnag it. And he couldn’t throw off the loop.”

A strong current due to high water on the Gasconade River likely prevented the man from freeing the two ropes which are used to secure it to shore.

Meinhardt said no one was on the ship when owners were there the previous Sunday (May 31). A small johnboat and a paddle boat were found near the ship. He speculates these boats may have been stolen upriver on the Gasconade along with other items found at the site in the 1500 block of Corp Road.

“We think he arrived Monday sometime and came on board sometime Monday or Tuesday and took it on Tuesday ( June 2),” he said.

Gasconade County Sheriff’s deputies were notified June 2 that the ship had been moved from its berth along the town side of the river, near the Union Pacific railroad bridge.

Sheriff Mark A. Williams reports the man, 40, was taken into custody and transported by ambulance for a mental health evaluation at an unspecified area hospital.

Williams did not identify the man suspected of moving the ship.

“He made about a 400-foot journey,” said Meinhardt. “He took off with the barge too. The whole flotilla.”

Meinhardt said the Aries was one of six hydrofoils built to support NATO operations. The fast-moving ships offered protective services to other ships but never really reached their full service potential, he said. He said this ship last was used for drug-interdiction work in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations out of Keywest, Fla.

Meinhardt said someone is usually at the ship every weekend and tours can be arranged.

“With this COVID-19 thing we’re doing tours by appointment only,” he said.

Tours are available on weekends by appointment by calling 636-541-6130 or 314-550-0931. Information on the non-profit museum based on the ship is found at www.ussaries.org.

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