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SLIDESHOW: Shoaling snares sportfisherman

Shoaling in Florida’s St. Augustine Inlet has led to the grounding of several yachts in the past year. This spring, a 48-foot Viking convertible hit the shallows. The impact damaged its props and running gear, and surf pounded the sportfishing boat for three days, smashing a saloon window and destroying the interior, before the boat could be ungrounded. At high tide with breaking waves, only the flybridge was visible.


Click play to watch a slideshow of the boat’s misfortune as Capt. Scott Stebleton, owner of TowBoatUS St. Augustine, describes the salvage procedure.

"There were breakers crashing over the stern," says TowBoatUS St. Augustine franchise owner Capt. Scott Stebleton. "[The waves] ripped out 1-inch-thick granite countertops."

TowBoatUS workers used about eight air bags — 44,000 pounds of buoyancy — to raise the yacht, he says. The hull was undamaged. "Once it was pumped out and under tow, we never started a pump again," he says.

The three people on board were unharmed. A charter company from New Jersey owns the Viking, named The Edge, according to St. Augustine officials. At the owner's request, TowBoatUS did not provide the names of the company’s owner or the people on the boat.

The incident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. May 5 just south of the inlet entrance and east of its south breakwater, says Jeremy Robshaw, public information officer for St. Johns County Fire and Rescue. Wave height was 2 to 4 feet with 15-knot winds.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was unable to provide an estimated speed or other details. However, the damage to the props and shafts indicates the yacht was on plane when it struck the bar, according to St. Augustine officials.

Last November, TowBoatUS captain Norm Manley capsized while trying to yank a sailboat off the shoal, and he spent more than three hours in the water and nearly drowned (click here for our coverage of that accident).