The still-grounded ‘Vivens Aqua’ on the end of South Point Jan. 28. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Scott Pumphrey will have an unplanned weekend on the Ocracoke beach since TowBoatUS will not be able to return with more boats until Monday.

Lee Sykes, owner 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.”

Scott Pumphrey on his yacht Jan. 28. Photo: C. Leinbach

Sykes said the boat can’t just be pulled off the beach; these jobs are done in stages.

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.

Crew members of TowBoatUS on Ocracoke Jan. 27 to secure the grounded ‘Vivens Aqua.’ Photo: C. Leinbach

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

“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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  1. Not Likely. His insurance, plus if he has a sea tow contract, will be reimbursing the costs. He may also have to absorb a deductible as well.

    • Kind of a knee jerk reaction. If you know boaters, not all of them are rich, and boats this size go on the market all the time for pretty cheap. Also I did not see any reference to public funds being spent to refloat this boat. Park service keeping an eye making sure our natural resources are kept clean, I’m on board with that,

    • Poor people ignorance, TowBoatUS is a for profit marine towing company that us rich people pay for. Taxes? You think your 10K a year tax liability makes you more of a taxpayer than my 100k tax bill? We pay more in taxes than you earn each year.

    • Seriously. How ignorant. First of all what is the “mess” you’re talking about? It’s a boat that’s grounded. Big deal. If it starts leaking fluid (oil or gas) then sure, there’s a mess / problem, but right now it’s just a poor guy and his wife that ran aground. And, as others have rightly pointed out, BoatUS is not taxpayer funded, other than what seems to be minimal Coast Guard involvement, this doesn’t involve taxpayer money.

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