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Sailboat burns at Urbanna Harbour

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‘Victorias Destiny” (left) burned to the the waterline early Wednesday morning but the trawler “Paula” (right) escaped major damage. (Photo by Larry Chowning)
by Larry S. Chowning

The 39-foot, two-masted sailboat, “Victorias Destiny,” caught fire and burned to the waterline in the early morning hours on Wednesday, December 29, at Urbanna Harbour Marina.

Firemen fought the blaze for over three hours and were successful in keeping the flames from spreading to the rest of the marina, which extends along the south side of Urbanna Creek.

Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ray Burch said that 10-mile-an-hour winds and 20-degree temperatures worked against the 20 volunteer firemen who battled the blaze.

“The fire was way down the dock and we had to drag hoses several hundred yards to get to the fire,” said Burch. “There were no overhead lights and the dock lights didn’t help us much. When we got the water flowing, the dock iced up. Firemen were slipping and I was worried about men falling overboard.”

The owner of the “Victorias Destiny,” John Dennis, was living aboard the boat when he first smelled and then saw smoke inside the vessel, said Burch. Dennis tried to
extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher, but was forced off the boat by the heavy smoke.

When firemen arrived, the boat was totally engulfed, said Burch.  Firemen were handicapped in their efforts because the lane to a dry hydrant at a pond next to the marina was unaccessible due to wet conditions caused by recent heavy rains.

“We had to travel back and forth to Urbanna to get water,” said Burch.  “It was a rough night.”

Water spilling from the fire tanker going to and from Urbanna caused roads to ice up so bad that VDOT personnel were called in to put sand on them, said Burch.

The burned sailboat and its contents, valued at $110,000, were a total loss, said Burch. 

The vessel docked next to “Victorias Destiny” was a trawler owned by Vernon D. Andrews of Dinwiddie. Burch said the trawler was damaged to some extent.

“What saved the boat (trawler) and probably the entire marina was that the wind was blowing away from Andrews’ boat and there were no boats in the two slips on the other side of the burning boat. If every slip had a boat, we could have had a major disaster,” said Burch.

Virginia Marine Police and U.S. Coast Guard personnel are investigating the fire. “Right now, the cause is unknown but not suspicious,” said Burch.

posted 01.02.2010

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