Yes, that’s Skylark on the beach and no, I can’t believe it either.
Wednesday November 11 was a tough day. Just another adventure day but a tough one.
Sand in the head came up from the thru hull for three sink drain.
Sand driven into the cockpit by the surf.
This toolbox was closed and in a locker under the dinette seat. I can’t imagine how seawater got in here. Pretty much everything on the boat got wet or broken or both.
The original float plan called for a two to three day nonstop run from Haverstraw to Norfolk where I’d pick up the intracoastal. We’d run a few miles offshore, far enough off to keep out of shallow water and close enough in to keep away from ship traffic. The plan was for Frank and I to take turns keeping watch and keep the boat moving day and night. Frank got badly seasick off the New Jersey coast so we pulled into Shark River inlet for the night. We continued from there to Ocean City, MD where we anchored to hide from some unfavorable weather. Frank came down with a stomach virus and had to get off the boat. With 120 nm to Norfork or about a 25 hour run I made the decision to break the trip into three parts as I didn’t want to try to make this run alone as I wouldn’t be able to sleep for the duration of the trip. I left Ocean City around 8 am heading for an anchorage at the south end of Assateague Island around 30 nm south of Ocean City. I planned and followed a route based on the water depths shown on the charts, followed the route south running around 6 kn in a 15 kn offshore westerly breeze and arrived at my turn in point around 2:30 pm. Heading due west to the inlet I dropped the sails to motor the last mile as the water began to get shallower. I knew from the chart the area was shallow and prone to shoaling and soon realized the chart didn’t look anything like the shoreline ahead.
Now a number of people have suggested I tell this story and weave in something like going out in hurricane Kate looking for adventure and then being attacked by alien vampire pirates and chased onto the beach but one of the reasons I’m writing this blog is to pay forward the experiences, the hopes and the truths of the cruising experience. I wouldn’t have found the courage to be out here if it wasn’t for those who had gone before me and shared honestly the experiences they had as well as their thoughts and feelings about those experiences so I feel it would be a disservice to the mission of the blog and those before me to embelish or minimize any part of this accident to save my pride.
I saw the surf ahead and knew I didn’t want to be anywhere near there, the water depth suddenly went from 13 to 6 feet and as I slowed and began to turn back I hit the shoal. Turns out the area is prone to quickly shifting shallows and changing shoreline driven by the weather and currents. Skylark was heeled over in shallow water, being lifted by each succesive wave and being pushed closer to the beach. There was an offshore breeze and I was quite confident I could sail off so I unfurled the jib and had at it. I could keep the boat pointed offshore but couldn’t make any headway so I was slowly moving torwards the beach and when the boat heeled torwards the ocean a wave would frequently break into the cockpit filling it and sloshing green water below.
I tried contacting Tow boat unsuccessfully but was able to reach the Coast Guard. Unfortunately I would find out later that the Coast Guard was only interested in saving me, not the boat. We had a three and a half hour exchange on the VHF as the boat drifted closer to the beach. They eventually sent a boat and a helicopter, neither of which would pull me off the beach.
The surf didn’t seem particularly strong or unusual but the effects on Skylark were violent and brutal. Despite a bow anchor being deployed Skylark was turned beam to the sea and the waves would force her to lean one way and then the other, flopping over with a great crash. When the cockpit faced the waves much water came aboard with every breaker and a good amount made its way below where all the drawers and lockers had burst open, dumping their contents on the cabin sole where they mixed with the sea water and sand being driven into the boat.
To be continued…….