Boat missing from Vineyard Haven Harbor found on Muskeget Island

Using weather-buoy data, oceanographer describes wind-driven journey.

The modeled path (red line) of the Kimberly Anne from its mooring in Vineyard Haven Harbor to the north shore of Muskeget Island. Woods Hole oceanographer Richard Limeburner calculated the path using wind data from a weather buoy. – Richard Limeburner

The yawl Kimberly Anne of Bass River, which went missing from Vineyard Haven Harbor on Saturday or Sunday, Oct. 22 or 23, was found on Saturday, Oct. 29, near the north shore of Muskeget Island, blown there by the wind. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, John Crocker, interim harbormaster at Vineyard Haven, got a message from Chatham assistant harbormaster Susan Rocanello: “This missing boat has been located and returned to its owner with a few bumps, bruises, and leaks, but otherwise sound. A kayaker found it in Muskeget Island, Nantucket, and reported it to the [Coast Guard]. The owner is thankful to all for their assistance.”

Richard Limeburner, a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has spent many years gathering data and modeling the tidal and current patterns of Nantucket Sound. “How the vessel ran aground on the north shore of Muskeget is a real mystery,” said Mr. Limeburner, “since Muskeget is surrounded by dry-shoal islands and submerged shallow shoals less than 3 feet deep. The water around Muskeget is very shallow, but all sand. The tide and mean current would not put a drifting 35-foot sailboat on Muskeget, but the winds might.”

Mr. Limeburner lives on nearby Tuckernuck Island when he is not at Woods Hole. “My Tuckernuck neighbors all knew the sailboat was aground on Muskeget,” he said, “and they find it hard to believe that the boat got in there.”

Data was not available from the Nantucket Sound weather buoy, so Mr. Limeburner used comparable data from Buzzards Bay to reconstruct the movement of the drifting boat. “The winds were strong — roughly 40 knots — from the west the night of Oct. 22/23. The wind and tide on Oct. 22/23 could carry an adrift sailboat near Vineyard Haven out past East Chop.”

“[In the model] I just used the wind data,” said Mr. Limeburner, “for the period midnight October 22 till midnight October 29 to force the boat along its drifting path. Tides can be added to the calculation later, but the wind seems sufficient to account for the vessel drift from Vineyard Haven to Muskeget Island.” The projected path is shown in the image above as a red line.

Mr. Limeburner said that clearing East Chop was critical. “Then,” he continued, “the winds from Octo. 22 to 28 could conceivably carry the vessel to Muskeget.” He suspected the sailboat may have grounded near Muskeget and not made it as far as the north shore beach because it is surrounded by shallow water less than 4 feet deep. The Kimberley Anne draws 4 feet.

The Kimberly Anne was moored in Vineyard Haven from Bass River before it was to be repaired at Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway. Gannon and Benjamin staff had been checking on it regularly, Nat Benjamin told The Times last week, and it was there on Friday, Oct. 21. On Monday, Oct. 24, it was gone. Mr. Benjamin immediately reported its absence to the police and the area harbormasters.

Mr. Benjamin said a boat has never in his memory disappeared from a mooring in Vineyard Haven Harbor. Earlier last week he acknowledged that the wind had been blowing hard over the weekend, but said that he would have expected the boat to wash up on shore if it broke loose from its mooring. On Monday, Oct. 31, after the boat had been found, Mr. Benjamin confirmed that the line used by the owner to tie the boat to the mooring had broken.

Erick Cooper, Kimberley Anne’s owner, purchased the boat this past spring. It had been out of the water for a few years. “It needed to be rescued,” he said. “It took a ton of work to get it ready.” The boat has been afloat since July, but it had been taking on some water, so Mr. Cooper recently brought it to Gannon and Benjamin to be “refastened.” The 35-foot yawl was designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built in 1959. Much of the exposed brightwork, including the house, is mahogany, while the decks are teak.

“There are screws that hold the wood to the frame,” he explained, “and they were disintegrating. They were bronze, which is a good thing, but they were the originals and needed to be replaced.”