Scott Pumphrey on his yacht, ‘Vivens Aqua,’ grounded on Ocracoke since Jan. 25. Photo: C. Leinbach

This post was updated shortly after posting with the addition of comments from TowBoatUS.

By Connie Leinbach

On Groundhog Day today, Scott Pumphrey found himself in limbo on his ninth day of his Ocracoke non-vacation.

Pumphrey’s 55-foot yacht, “Vivens Aqua,” landed on the South Point Beach around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Several days of attempts to pull the yacht out have been unsuccessful. Tuesday morning’s high tide was the last time TowBoatUS tried to pull the boat into Ocracoke Inlet.

Pumphrey, in a phone interview today (Feb. 2) from inside his unheated boat, said the TowBoat crew untied their anchors because his insurance company told them on Tuesday to discontinue their work.

Lee Sykes, owner of TowBoatUS/Atlantic Coast Marine Group Inc., said in a message to the Observer that his crew has demobilized and left the scene.

“After successfully protecting the vessel from the seas and weather, lightening the fuel from the vessel and stabilizing and pivoting the vessel, ACMG’s efforts succeeded in protecting the vessel and, more importantly to the locals, protecting the sensitive marine environment of Ocracoke Island,” he said. “The vessel owning interests made arrangements to move the vessel out overland and with that decision, the seaward option has concluded.”

Pumphrey said his insurance company, Markel, out of Virginia, “Is acting like they don’t know what they are going to cover.” 

They said they are going to cover what has already been done (by TowBoatUS of Morehead City) but are not sure they are going to cover the rest, he said.

This was very much on Pumphrey’s mind Wednesday afternoon as his boat sat on the open beach for all the world to see, but there was no excavation equipment in sight.

Islander Darren Burrus, who owns Cape Dredging, has been available to dislodge the boat since the accident, but he wasn’t hired at the outset nor has the insurance company committed, and he is leaving town for vacation.

“The finances didn’t work out,” Burrus said while stopped at South Point.

Now the insurance company is in investigation mode, but Pumphrey is concerned that they might not pay for the excavation.

“I just hope they get this figured out so I can get off this island,” he said. “I love this place but for now I just want to get off this island, secure my boat somewhere and go home.”

The weather forecast for Thursday is fair with rain coming Friday through Sunday.

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 via the Intracoastal Waterway.

Last week, on Monday, Jan. 24), the weather was nice and Pumphrey decided to leave the Intracoastal at Morehead City and travel via the ocean “to make up some miles.”

But they got into trouble that night at dark when Pumphrey said the steering went out while navigating the Ocracoke Inlet, a notoriously treacherous waterway through which he had never been, and they grounded on the beach.

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

The ‘Vivens Aqua’ on the South Point beach on Ocracoke at low tide Feb. 2, 2022. Photo: C. Leinbach