Boats from TowBoatUS of Morehead City try to free the grounded yacht ‘Vivens Aqua’ on the Ocracoke, N.C., Beach. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

If the high tide is higher at 3 a.m. Friday morning, the yacht that has been stranded on South Point on Ocracoke since early Tuesday may finally be free.

That’s the hope of Scott Pumphrey, who is spending a fourth night in his boat at water’s edge.

On Thursday, the bow of Pumphrey’s boat, the “Vivens Aqua,” was pointed toward the ocean after having pointed inland for two days.

“I’m about 200 yards from where I was the first night,” Pumphrey said in a phone interview from his boat, explaining that the boat had been floating over night in the high tide and got turned around. Because one of his two engines was gone and his steering damaged, the boat could not get off the beach and into deeper water.

“Those (previous) high tides were lower,” he said about the water depth. “Friday’s high tide is supposed to be a foot higher.”

On Thursday, TowBoatUS out of Morehead City, brought two boats and after attaching lines to Pumphrey’s yacht, awaited the afternoon tide at 3:44.

Several locals in their trucks showed up to watch the proceedings.

Jimmy Whalen and his cat, Whiskers, watched the salvage proceedings. Photo: C. Leinbach

But though the “Vivens Aqua” rocked side to side a bit, it did not move forward into deeper water as the thrusters and propellers were still sunk in the sand.

Pumphrey, as he prepared for another night in is his accidental waterfront lodging, said he hoped the additional water at the 3 a.m. high tide would get sufficiently under the boat enough to release the suction created by the sand.

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. Karen was able to get off the boat Tuesday afternoon and return home.

Michael Barber, public affairs specialist with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore of which the Ocracoke beach is a part, explained the procedures when vessels ground on National Park Service property.

“If the grounded vessel is not removed in a reasonable period of time or if the grounding causes damages to park resources, it is possible that that there could be a violation of one or more regulations that apply to National Park Service Lands,” he said in an email. “There have been cases on National Park Service property where an owner does not remove a vessel and the NPS must remove the vessel. In these and other cases where the grounding caused damages, the National Park Service may recover the costs and damages associated with the grounding incident from the responsible party under the System Unit Resource Protection Act (54 U.S. Code § 100721).”

He also said the potential for pollution from fuel or other hazardous substances is always a concern during a vessel grounding incident.

“Especially around surf or inlet areas where wave energy or storms can damage a vessel and result in the discharge of marine pollutants,” he said. “In these cases, the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. They have performed a threat assessment in this particular grounding and are communicating with the vessel owners to mitigate the threat of pollution.”

Scott Pumphrey on his boat on Thursday. Photo: C. Leinbach
Islanders line up to see if Pumphrey’s boat will be freed. Photo: C. Leinbach