Navigating in and out of Ocracoke harbor can be tricky in windy weather, as a Cedar Island ferry, the Sea Level, found out today. Photo: C. Leinbach

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A Cedar Island ferry that ran aground near the mouth of Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor this morning was freed after three hours and no injuries were reported.

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s ferry  the Sea Level ran soft aground in shallow water around 9 a.m., Ferry Division officials said in a press release.

The vessel was able to eventually free itself under its own power three hours later. There were no injuries to any of the 16 passengers or crew members.

The grounding occurred in Bigfoot Slough as the Sea Level was on its way to Ocracoke from Cedar Island. The vessel slowed as it approached the shallow water, but strong 25-knot winds out of the southwest pushed the ferry onto a sandbar. The crew of the Sea Level immediately informed the passengers of the situation and confirmed that all were unharmed.

As the tide came in, the Sea Level freed itself under its own power and safely completed the trip to Ocracoke to unload all passengers and vehicles. Crews will inspect the vessel for damage, though none is expected.

“The area where the Sea Level ran aground is a federal channel that is susceptible to rapid shoaling,” said Ferry Division Interim Director Jed Dixon. “We have previously asked the Army Corps of Engineers for some dredging assistance at that location, and we’re hoping they are able to work on it as soon as possible.”

In addition, the Ferry Division has placed the Pamlico Sound routes on an amended schedule tomorrow (Wednesday, April 5) through Friday.   The revised schedule is needed while the Sea Level is inspected following its grounding on a sandbar on Tuesday.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • Ocracoke to Cedar Island: 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Cedar Island to Ocracoke: 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Ocracoke to Swan Quarter: 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • Swan Quarter to Ocracoke: 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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