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Not just a grounding, a 'local spectacle'

Owner runs his brand-new Contender 200 feet onto an island; pulling it off took five boats and 11 hours

Talk about running aground. Only a few hours after taking delivery of a new 2010 Contender 37 center console, the owner ran the boat onto an island in New York's Great South Bay after dark.

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"He was pretty much wide open when he hit the island," says Ryan Bayley, owner of Sea Tow Great South Bay. "He said he wasn't paying attention - that was it. He was extremely embarrassed." Bayley estimates the boat was traveling as fast as 50 mph.

It took five Sea Tow boats 11 hours to pull the vessel off the island, which is on the north shore of Long Island's Great South Bay in the Oakdale area.

"We had 600 feet of line out going straight across the channel because we needed to pull from deep water," Bayley says. "We had Coast Guard boats there, police boats there. Boats were anchoring for the day to watch. It was a local spectacle."

A Contender 37 with triple 350s costs about $275,000, depending on options. Bayley declined to say how much the job cost the owner, but the owner's insurance company did pay for it. Bayley says the owner didn't want to be identified.

The grounding occurred about 10 p.m. on June 4, according to Bayley. Triple 350-hp Yamaha 4-strokes pushed the boat 200 feet up the beach and into marshland, leaving a wake of torn-up grass and mud, Bayley says.

The owner, a businessman from Bay Shore, N.Y., and his son were uninjured, Bayley says. The boat was not damaged, and other than some chewed-up props, the trio of outboards emerged unscathed, too.

"They were trying to go from Ocean Beach, Fire Island, to Bay Shore, and somehow they missed by about seven to eight miles," Bayley says. "They were way off course. I couldn't believe it."

The Contender plowed its way to a stop. Its triple Yamahas sustained only prop damage.

The boat was equipped with GPS. Small, uninhabited Nicoll Island is on the NOAA chart.

"We pull three or four boats per year off this island," says Bayley, who has owned the Sea Tow franchise for six years. "There are no lights on the island, but there are a lot of lights behind the island, so when you're coming in it looks like it's open water."

One Sea Tow boat responded right away but couldn't move the vessel, Bayley says. "We decided to get more boats and manpower and wait till daylight," he says.

It was the first time Bayley has had to call a neighboring Sea Tow operation (Sea Tow Moriches) for help. Bayley's fleet includes three 24-foot Privateers and a 23-foot Steiger Craft.

Bayley says the owner was about 50 years old and his son was in his late 20s. The owner was driving. Neither was ejected. Bayley says the island has a "gradual incline of sand and marshland behind [the sand], with no hard structures."

The accident illustrates the importance of situational awareness on the water.

"Be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes on your GPS, but don't rely on it because they're machines and aren't perfect," Bayley says. "Slow down and know what you're doing."

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue.