Treasure Seeker mystery unravelsPOSTED: 02/22/16 7:24 PM
Captain Ray Hixon Jr. in the wheelhouse of the Treasure Seeker. Photo 2gringos.blogspot.com
St. Maarten News – The mystery of the Treasure Seeker – the pseudo pirate vessel that lost its anchor during Hurricane Gonzalo in October 2014 and ended up causing for more than $1 million in damages to the floating dock of a marina in Philipsburg, is slowly unraveling.
The case went to court earlier this month but then the captain of the boat claimed that he was not the owner of the Treasure Seeker and that he was therefore not responsible for the damages. The captain has until April 5 to prove that he is not the vessel’s owner, the court ruled on February 9.
Information this newspaper has unearthed in the meantime however, show that Ray Hixon Jr., an American citizen, is not only the captain but also the owner of the Treasure Seeker.
The pirate ship was earlier based in St. Thomas, where the 78-foot motor vessel was described in September 2011 in the St. Thomas Source. The article mentions Captain Ray Hixon Jr., his son Tripp Hixon and his wife Betsy – both also with the prefix captain.
The Hixons are nothing if not determined, journalist Molly Morris wrote at the time. “This is their second voyage to the Virgin Islands on their own private ship. The first, in 2008, met a sad and watery end when their vessel sank south of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 7,000 feet of water.”
The term “their own private ship” seems to confirm that Hixon owned the Treasure Seeker at the time – which does not necessarily mean that he was also the owner on October 12, 2014, when Gonzalo hit St. Maarten and the ship lost its anchor.
Here is another indication: on April 26, 2012, Karen Elowitt wrote an article about the Treasure Seeker for USA Today. It contains the line: “Owner Ray Hixon, his wife Betsy and son Tripp ran a similar business in St. Petersburg, Florida, for many years.”
The Hixons found a new boat in Washington Island in Wisconsin: the C.G. Richter; that vessel became the new Treasure Seeker and it is also the exact same boat that was in St. Maarten in 2014.
On June 16, 2014, Ray Hixon Jr. posted on Facebook about his new adventure in St. Maarten. “I am in St. Maarten opening new business here – floating bar and grill plus pirate’s playground. We do charters also – looking for investors – 15 percent interest.”
The adventure in St. Maarten lasted only until October, when the hurricane hit the island and sent the Treasure Seeker reeling.
Right now, Hixon is fighting his case in court in an attempt to get away from a million-dollar claim for damages. Whether he will manage to prove he did not own the Treasure Seeker at the moment disaster struck, remains to be seen, but the indications we picked up so far do not seem to be in his favor.