A Grinch - or Grinches - evidently sabotaged the annual Delaware River "Santa Run," in which gifts are distributed to visiting seamen, some from thousands of miles away.
After discovering that the tugboat Jupiter had an inoperative propeller, the Seamen's Church Institute and the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild canceled the event Saturday.
The Seamen's staff had planned to deliver ditty bags to seafarers from many nations aboard ships docked on the Delaware River. However, the 1902 tugboat, docked at Penn's Landing at Market Street and Columbus Boulevard, would not move because an object, believed to be a docking line, was tangled in the propeller.
"The anchor, which we keep locked up, was thrown over the side," said Mike Matulewicz, a Ship Preservation Guild board member and volunteer. "A line usually coiled up on the stern had disappeared."
Volunteers noticed the docking line was missing about a month ago, but the tug had operated normally.
On Friday, when volunteers tried to move the boat, in preparation for the Santa delivery, something - believed to be the docking line - got caught in the propeller. Matulewicz said he planned to file a police report.
The tug has been the target of vandalism in the past. Recently, bottles were thrown from Market Street in an attempt to break the windows, he said.
Each December, maritime volunteers go from ship to ship docked in the river to hoist - via a rope and bucket - ditty bags up the side of vessels to waiting sailors on board.
The bags contain warm hats, gloves, scarves, games, toiletries, pens, paper, and sometimes cookies. About 3,000 ditty bags are handed out during the holiday season, assembled by church groups, civic organizations, individuals, and students from schools, including Maritime Academy Charter High School.
Ditty bags are given out between Thanksgiving and New Year's - or until the bags are gone - by volunteers who visit arriving ships in the port. With the tugboat out of commission, the one-day Santa delivery will likely not be rescheduled this year. But the gifts will still be delivered.
Seamen's center staff and volunteers visit 30,000 seafarers and 1,550 ships a year docked at 31 terminals on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware.
"It's a way of giving gifts and showing kindness to the seafarers, many of whom live near the equator and are not really prepared for Philadelphia winters," said the Rev. Peter Stube, head chaplain and executive director of the Seamen's Church Institute of Philadelphia and South Jersey.
"We also collect winter jackets, lightly worn, to give to seafarers this time of the year."