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Two boats capsize near Gwynn’s Island

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A 32-foot boat capsized after it was blown into shallow water on Friday. (Photo by Pete Wright)

A sailboat belonging to George Elder of Annapolis, Md., capsized off Cherry Point near Gwynn’s Island Friday afternoon, and the Tow Boat US vessel that came to its rescue also capsized, reported Petty Officer Jason Lee of U.S. Coast Guard Station Milford Haven.

Pete Wright of Stingray Point in Deltaville said he was watching the 32-foot sailboat on Friday as it sailed off the northern tip of Gwynn’s Island in 25-plus knot winds that blasted from the northwest. “As I watched, I saw its mast and sail get closer and closer to the water and then it went over, and stayed over,” he said.

Wright said the O’Day sailboat, which draws 4.5 feet of water, was blown onto a shoal. The water in that area goes from being 17 feet deep to about 2 feet deep in just a few yards, said Wright, who sailed a boat to the scene on Sunday and took photos. “I think as it heeled over the keel tripped on the sand bar and wind heeled it over and pushed it further up on the sand,” he said. “A large boat of that sort with a keel is normally self righting, but it could not right itself because the keel was laying on sand in just a couple of feet of water.”

Wright kept watching through binoculars and saw what appeared to be a tow boat, but lost sight of the red boat when it capsized.

Wright said he later observed a large Coast Guard boat at the scene, but it could not get too close. A smaller Coast Guard boat came out but both Coast Guard boats departed with the sailboat and tow boat still capsized, he added.

Petty Officer Lee said the sailboat had run hard aground on a shoal and high winds and heavy waves caused problems for the rescue vessels. The tow boat operator called the Coast Guard around 5:30 p.m. saying he was in the water with two people from the sailboat, said Lee. All three were taken by the Coast Guard to the Milford Haven Station where they were met by an ambulance. There were no injuries, said Lee.

It was reported that Tow Boat US salvaged the sailboat and tow boat by Monday.

The Gloucester Mathews Gazette-Journal contributed to this story.

posted 05.29.2013

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