By Connie Leinbach
After 15 days beached on Ocracoke’s South Point, the “Vivens Aqua” got back into its natural habitat today and was towed safely into Silver Lake Harbor.
“Local boys” Farris O’Neal and his crew, and Barry Crum, owner of Crum Works of Buxton, pulled the beleaguered boat off of the beach around 12:30 p.m. today into Ocracoke Inlet around 2.
Crum’s crew had spent Saturday, Monday and Tuesday pulling the boat over pneumatic pins about 1,500 feet across the sand to the deeper inlet water. As the “Vivens” dipped into the water, the few spectators on the beach cheered as the two crews secured the tow lines.
Scott Pumphrey of Salisbury, Maryland, owner of the “Vivens,” was happily tying it up on terra firma at a National Park Service boat slip this afternoon and thanking everyone for their help. He had spent the last 15 days in his unheated boat with only a propane cookstove for a bit of warmth and was looking forward to getting some heat from the NPS dock meters.
“Overall, I think we nailed it,” said Crum while helping to secure the boat at the dock. “We had some issues – in the transition from the beach side to the ocean side — but she rolled right into the water.”
Pumphrey said his boat will be towed on Friday to a boat yard in Morehead City for repairs.
“I feel truly privileged,” Pumphrey said during his last night of inadvertent “camping” on South Point. (Camping is not allowed on any Ocracoke beach.) “Awesome beach, awesome view night and day, and double down on the people.”
Pumphrey, a retired police lieutenant with the Baltimore Police Department, had purchased the boat, built in 2001, in Palm Coast, Florida, and had been sailing it for a week up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to his home.
His wife, Karen, joined him in Wilmington a few days before their unfortunate landing on Ocracoke.
The night of Jan. 24, after having diverted off the ICW into the ocean, Pumphrey decided to overnight in Ocracoke, though never having been here. He got in trouble in the inlet and after his steering went out, the 55-foot Novatec yacht grounded around 1 a.m. Jan. 25.
Karen was so rattled she got off the boat, got a ride to Ocracoke’s South Dock and got a ferry to Hatteras, then went on back home. She and Pumphrey have been in contact frequently each day, he said.
Pumphrey’s “maiden voyage” in the “Vivens” was his first part of the Great Loop, he said. The Great Loop goes from the tip of Florida and along the East Coast, up through New York to the St. Lawrence, through the Great Lakes, down through the Mississippi and back to the Intracoastal in Louisiana.
“I plan in the coming years to travel the Great Loop numerous times and will make Silver Lake a regular stop for sure – via the ICW, of course,” he said.
The Park Service initially issued a special use permit to Pumphrey for removal directly over water, the NPS explained in a press release.
After several days of TowBoatUS trying to pull the boat off the sand, those efforts failed. That led to a decision to remove all fuel oil from the vessel, which TowBoatUS did on Jan. 30.
The NPS issued Pumphrey another permit to a salvage contractor, Crum Works, to move the boat across the beach and into the Pamlico Sound.
According to some islanders, the last time a boat as large as the “Vivens Aqua” grounded on Ocracoke was the “Charlie Mason” pogey boat, which was fishing offshore of Ocracoke on Jan. 1, 1948, when the weather deteriorated, according to Ocracoke Island Journal, an online blog by islander Philip Howard.
After getting the nets tangled in the propeller, the captain called the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance. Shortly after getting a hawser secured to the stricken vessel, the line broke, and the vessel came ashore on Ocracoke’s beach.
Hatteras Islander, Charles Stowe, was among the Coast Guard crew who responded to the wreck. As islanders often like to put things to music, he penned a ballad, “The Charlie Mason Pogey Boat,” that tells the story of re-floating the trawler.
Ocracoke native and musician Martin Garrish regularly performs this song.