Stranded Dragger Is Freed

The Miss Scarlett, which ran aground just off Navy Beach in Montauk on Nov. 17, was towed across Long Island Sound on Tuesday. T.E. McMorrow

The 55-foot steel-hulled dragger that ran aground in Montauk on the morning of Nov. 27 was finally pulled free Tuesday by the tugboat Judy M., the hole in her hull having been patched by an underwater diver the day before. The vessel, the Miss Scarlett, was towed across Long Island Sound to a boatyard in North Kingston, R.I., where she will be refurbished. Before the towing could begin, though, she received an inspection from two Coast Guard officers, who spent over an hour on board. 

“The state of the main engine is going to determine what happens next,” Rob Morsch, one of the boat’s owners, said as he watched the Miss Scarlett being pulled free. Much will depend on how much water got into the cylinders. “Air compresses, water doesn’t.” An insurance adjuster was on hand for the entire operation Tuesday.

According to both Mr. Morsch and Lt. William Stewart of the Coast Guard, the captain and crew were asleep at 6 a.m. when the boat ran up on the beach at Navy Road off Fort Pond Bay, apparently having hit a rock. The bridge navigation-alert watch system, designed to ring every few minutes to keep the helmsman awake, was turned off at the time. The captain, whose name has not been released by the Coast Guard, submitted to an alcohol test shortly after the incident, Mr. Morsch said, and passed it.

He later submitted to a drug test. Mr. Morsch said it was his understanding that the captain passed that as well, and Lieutenant Stewart said yesterday that it was unlikely that criminal charges would be brought.

Rumors that the boat might have struck a rock elsewhere than off Navy Beach were unfounded, Lieutenant Stewart said. The amount of water rushing in through the hole in the hull would have sunk her too quickly for that to have happened, he said.

Navy Beach became a popular destination for Montaukers and others over the 10 days the Miss Scarlett was stranded, particularly for those in the fishing community, several of whom were on hand as she was freed from her sandy prison. Also on hand was Nick Havens of Montauk, who had been hired to watch the vessel at night. Mr. Morsch believed that a certain Montauk resident, whom he would not identify other than to say “one idiot,” might try to get aboard the craft, which was accessible from shore at low tide. The fear was not so much thievery, Mr. Morsch said, as that someone could slip, get hurt, and sue the owners. 

The Coast Guard’s first concern “was the pollutants,” Lieutenant Stewart said. Twelve hundred gallons of diesel fuel were pumped out of the boat two days after she ran aground, and a boom was placed around her to prevent toxins from entering the water. “We want to prevent any type of pollution. It can be batteries, it can be fuel, it can be lube oils. Hazardous stuff,” the lieutenant said. 

The tugboat Judy M., also based in New London, pulled the Miss Scarlet free. Among watchers on shore, the talk was of engines and the fishing industry. 

“It doesn’t matter what gets legalized. Don’t drink on the boat, don’t smoke pot on the boat,” Mr. Morsch said. 

“It is something you just don’t do,” said George Miller, owner of the Sahara Dust II, a 44-foot dragger out of Montauk.

On the other hand, Mr. Morsch said, what the crew does on land is their own business. “To drug-test all the mates — there wouldn’t be any fishermen,” he said. “Every fishing port would be empty. Every boat would be rusting at the bow.” 

The Miss Scarlett arrived safely in Rhode Island at about 6:30 Tuesday evening.