Abandon Ship! A Galleon Runs Aground in a Highway Wreck
updated 12/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
The 26-ton Bridgette Smith (named for Fiondella's grandmother) was being hauled on a trailer from a storage facility in L.A. to Marina Del Rey. Disaster struck shortly after midnight on Culver Boulevard. "We came to a bend; I saw the boat tip slowly," says Fiondella, who was following the trailer in his car. "She fell and cracked at the midsection."
Traffic was hopelessly blocked as workers spent the day lifting the stricken vessel onto a bigger trailer with cranes and jacks. After 13 hours, they succeeded in moving Bridgette 100 yards, only to have her capsize again. Nothing more could be done but abandon ship. The next day bulldozers did their noisy work as Bridgette's owner saw his galleon—she had four sleeping cabins, a fireplace, even an on-board Jacuzzi—reduced to scrap. "My boat had been an island in a world of troubles, my shrink, my Shangri-la," laments Fiondella.
A longtime yachtsman, treasure hunter and bit-part actor, Fiondella owns a 10-table, steak-and-seafood restaurant called Chez Jay in Santa Monica that has been a watering hole for celebs with names-like Sinatra, Newman and Redford. Having salvaged a few pieces, such as port windows, Fiondella plans to hold a memorial service for the Bridgette Smith. But proving his humor survived the wreck, he has renamed his erstwhile dream boat the U.S.S. Never Sail.