Veteran loses everything after his home, a sailboat, sinks in Monday’s winter storm


(Photo courtesy: Karen Roberts)

Editor’s Note: Since this report aired, WAVY News 10 has learned Richard Brown is facing ten charges of possession of child pornography.

10 On Your Side confirmed with the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office that Brown waived his preliminary hearing on those counts on Friday, January 7.

10 On Your Side has since published a follow-up story about the charges.

Richard Brown (Photo courtesy: Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office)


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk community is coming together to help a veteran who lost everything in Monday’s winter storm.

Richard Brown lived on a boat anchored in Willoughby Harbor for months until strong winds and rough waters dislodged his boat two days ago.

The winter wind dragged the boat’s anchors, causing it to slam into Naval Station Norfolk and eventually sink. Right now, Brown’s friends are paying for his stay at the Day’s Inn, but they need some help.

“I’ve cried my eyes out several times,” Brown told 10 On Your Side.

Brown’s boat was a lifelong dream.

It’s now submerged under feet of water off of Naval Station Norfolk.

WAVY photo

“I gave everything up for it and poured everything into it,” Brown stated, “I have nothing, zero. Not even a comb. I did this [brushed hair] with a fork because I don’t have a comb.”

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Brown, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army, took up sailing after quitting his job in Pittsburgh two years ago. A lightning strike to his boat lead him to Willoughby Bay, where he was anchored since the summer — until this past Monday.

As Brown’s boat slammed into the cement wall of the Navy base, he quickly grabbed some documents and his cat Gizmo and left the boat. His other cat, Snickers, was never found.

“There was knee-deep sloshing water inside. The boat was literally just slamming. It was being slammed into the wall and pulled away and then slammed back into the wall and pulled away. It was just over and over,” Brown recalled.

He was planning on sailing to Hatteras and then to the Caribbean to give dozens of books and games to children in need. Brown’s friend and fellow sailor, Karen Roberts, helped him salvage what he could from the boat to sell so he could afford to buy clothes and food.

“Imagine asking somebody ‘What’s your plan?’ when you don’t have a home, you have a cat, you can’t go to a shelter, you have no food, you have no comb, you have no toothbrush, you have no toothpaste,” Roberts said.

Brown is trying to stay positive.

“I’m still trying to put it all together. What I should be doing, what I need to do, what’s going to happen. I just don’t know,” Brown said.

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