No injuries after boater runs into trouble, vessel sinks at Washington Baum ramp

The airboat sank near of the end of the dock adjacent to the Washington Baum boat ramp. [photo courtesy N.C. Wildlife]

No one was hurt after a boater ran into trouble while trying to dock at the boat ramp along the Manteo-Nags Head Causeway on Wednesday.

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. at the Washington Baum Bridge boating access area, according to N.C. Wildlife Enforcement Senior Officer Anna Barbosa.

Barbosa said a 14-foot airboat with just the operator onboard was approaching the dock when it took water over the stern, then struck an unoccupied bass boat that was tied to the dock.

“The airboat then rode up on the bow of the bass boat which in turn caused the stern of the airboat to become submerged and subsequently sink,” Barbosa said.

“Officer Amos Williams of the North Carolina Marine Patrol and the captain of a charter vessel were nearby and quickly retrieved the operator from the sinking airboat,” Barbosa said.

She said a U.S. Coast Guard Pollution Response Unit also responded due to fuel in the water.

The airboat was eventually retrieved from the water and there was no significant damage to the bass boat.

Barbosa said her investigation found that a combination of wind, operator inexperience with the vessel and design features of the airboat were the cause.

“Captain Jamie Moore, who was not involved in the incident and operates Outer Banks Adventures, explained that the direct drive, 1:1 gear ratio places the engine higher up in the vessel altering the center of gravity,” Barbosa said. “A higher center of gravity makes a vessel more likely to tilt during operation.”

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Sam Walker was news director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.