The 'Vivens Aqua' in the Jan. 31 dawn high tide on South Point, Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach
The ‘Vivens Aqua’ in the Jan. 31 dawn high tide on South Point, Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

Jan. 31 evening note: The evening high tide wasn’t high enough to float the grounded yacht. Crews will try again at the 7:21 a.m. high tide on Tuesday (Feb. 1).

By Connie Leinbach

Today’s early high tide was supposed to be the one to pull the grounded “Vivens Aqua” off the Ocracoke beach, but despite a clear sky, wind conditions dashed those hopes.

Lee Sykes, owner of TowBoatUS out of Morehead City which is conducting the rescue operation on the boat that has been lodged on South Point since Tuesday morning, said though the wind forecast had been favorable, the wind changed to a southwest wind around 4 a.m. today to 20 to 25 knots.

“And that stretch of beach got rolled up pretty big,” he said about the waves just offshore. “So, it was not smart for us to try to pull her out because she was gonna get battered when she got to the heavy break. And then on top of that, it wasn’t smart for us to put our boats in there because it (the wave height) was about eight foot outside the breakers.”

The crew will assess the boat at low tide today and look at trying again at this evening’s 6:49 high tide.

If that doesn’t work, they will try again at Tuesday morning’s 7:21 a.m. high tide because that’s supposed to be the highest of the high tides of the last few days, Sykes said.

According to tide charts, he said there’s about a foot difference between the night high tide and the morning high tide for today and Tuesday.

“The winds are supposed to be favorable,” he said. “So maybe it will come together.”

At low tide on Sunday, a crew siphoned 700 gallons of diesel fuel out of the 55-foot Novatek

The boat’s owner, Scott Pumphrey, huddled wrapped in a blanket inside his unheated cabin as the crews worked to prepare the boat for another attempt at freeing the “Vivens Aqua” at the high tides.

“We set a secondary anchor at 11 o’clock (Sunday) night just to make sure she didn’t get set any higher,” Sykes said about last night’s work. “We put airbags underneath the back of her to make sure she didn’t bury in the sand to make sure she was lifted up and sat on top of sand.”

His crews on Friday secured the stranded boat ahead of a winter storm that swept over the island Friday night.

Scott Pumphrey, left, talks to Coast Guard personnel Tonya Mulhern and Aaron Stankiewicz on Sunday, Jan. 30. Photo: C. Leinbach

On Saturday, the crews attempted to extract the fuel, but the near-freezing cold weather prevented that, said Tonya Mulhearn, a member of the Coast Guard Incident Management Division out of Wilmington, during Sunday’s fuel extraction.

“We make sure all the possible pollution on the boat is taken care of,” she said.

She said the crew went out Saturday night around 11 p.m. and pumped out about 200 gallons and then returned Sunday to pump out the remaining fuel.

Sykes had said that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Coast Guard were concerned about hazard of the fuel on board.

“We appreciate the teamwork and support from the Coast Guard’s N.C. Sector staff and their contractors to help protect the Seashore,” Hall said.

Now, the diesel fuel is the property of the Coast Guard, which has control, until insurance takes over, Pumphrey said in an interview inside his cabin.

A camp cookstove attached to small bottles of propane has been his only heat since after the yacht ran aground on South Point around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning while trying to navigate to Silver Lake via Ocracoke Inlet.

Pumphrey and his wife, Karen, of Salisbury, Maryland, had been sailing their newly acquired boat from Palm Coast, Florida, back home for about a week 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 to return home, and Pumphrey said she’s been calling a lot.

“We’ve haven’t been apart more than two nights since we got married 20 years ago,” he said. “Other than missing my wife, kids and grandkids, I’m fine.”

Pumphrey’s inadvertent vacation on Ocracoke in his boat was starting to get old as he noted today that the boat has been floating at every high tide.

“It’s starting to get frustrating,” he said today. “Give me a couple of days and I’ll be floating in the inlet myself.”