Ocracoke Observer: Efforts resume Monday to free grounded yacht on South Point

The still-grounded ‘Vivens Aqua’ on the end of South Point Jan. 28. [Connie Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer photo]

By Connie Leinbach, Ocracoke Observer
Scott Pumphrey had an unplanned weekend on the Ocracoke beach since TowBoatUS was not be able to return with more boats until Monday.

Lee Sykes, manager of the company out of Morehead City, said in a phone interview that the primary focus of the two crews that came on Thursday was to get the vessel’s bow facing offshore in advance of pulling it off the end of South Point.

That meant securing tow lines and anchoring them offshore so that the boat stays where it is.

“The boat has moved off the beach, about a boat length,” Sykes said. “She’s kind of in a little holding pattern there until we get to the next step.”

That next step, he said, will be extraction of the 700 gallons of fuel in the “Vivens Aqua.”
The first step was a vessel assessment, and the second was to attach a hawser, which is a thick rope or cable for mooring or towing a ship. Teams in two boats secured the hawser with two anchors in the ocean on Thursday.

Then, the crews pull soundings off the beach to determine the best track for her into the water, he said.

Sykes said he sent a fuel extraction crew to Ocracoke Friday afternoon. Over the weekend, they will work on fuel removal so that on Monday, when weather conditions are more favorable, more boats can try pulling the “Vivens” off the beach.

Complicating the operation is Ocracoke’s remoteness and a second winter weekend storm, which began Friday afternoon and will continue into Saturday.

Pumphrey was not too concerned about the stormy weather forecast for this weekend.

“It’s not gonna be any worse seas than the stuff I was in the last (three) nights,” he said in a phone interview. “Last night wasn’t too bad; the other two nights were pretty banging around.”

Around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, he and his wife, Karen, ran aground in their 55-foot Novateck yacht on South Point while trying to navigate to Silver Lake via Ocracoke Inlet.

The couple, of Salisbury, Maryland, were sailing their newly acquired boat from Palm Coast, Florida, back home when they got into trouble on the ocean Monday night.

Pumphrey said the steering went out and he missed the Ocracoke Inlet, a notoriously treacherous waterway, and grounded on the beach.

“The Park Service and the Coast Guard have concerns with the fuel that’s on board,” Sykes said, noting that his company is a Coast Guard contractor for the fuel removal.

“The concern with the Park Service and the Coast Guard, and rightfully so, is the hazard of the fuel that remains on board, and if there was a release that is a sensitive piece of beach. It’s in everybody’s interest to clear that.”

Once the fuel oil is removed and the vessel becomes lighter in weight, there may be an opportunity to refloat and tow it from the beach, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore said in a press release.

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