Fishing boat beaches while captain snoozes

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A fishing boat named Mary Emmalene, out of New Beford, ran aground on the shore near the East Chop Beach Club Friday around 1:30 am. — Courtesy Lt. Williamson/Oak Bluffs Police Dept.

A commercial fishing boat grounded early Friday morning near the East Chop Beach Club after the captain reportedly fell asleep at the helm.

“That was a sight — a big fishing boat like that on the beach,” Oak Bluff Fire Chief John Rose said. Rose said the captain, whom the U.S. Coast Guard later identified as Sam Berreira, set his autopilot and dozed off. Oak Bluffs Police and U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Nicole Groll separately identified the vessel as the Mary Emmalene. Rose said the captain wasn’t injured when the Mary Emmalene hit the shoreline. The vessel did not appear to sustain much damage either, Rose said; however, it appeared the transmission may have sustained strain when the screw dug into the sand. Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander described the captain as “lucky” he grounded where he did. “If he had come into the harbor with the autopilot on, we’d be having a whole other conversation,” Alexander said. “It’s never good to snooze when you’re behind the wheel of a boat.”

Oak Bluffs Police Officer James Bishop responded to the scene. “As I approached the vessel, I noticed the captain attempting to put the vessel in reverse with no success,” Bishop wrote in a report. Bishop wrote that the Mary Emmalene was “approximately 12 feet from shore,” and that he tried to communicate with the captain through yelling, but wind and the captain’s “strong accent” hampered this. “Chief Rose was able to speak with the captain via radio;” however, Bishop indicated, “a strong language barrier” was at play. 

Alexander said the boat grounded at high tide, and TowBoat U.S. out of Falmouth was able to haul it off the sand before the tide receded. 

TowBoat U.S. Falmouth owner Mark Brown said the vessel couldn’t proceed on its own power because of transmission damage, and was towed to New Bedford. 

The Mary Emmalene is a 45-foot scalloper owned by Fair Winds Enterprises, a Tennessee company. Calls to a number listed for the company weren’t immediately returned. 

Groll said the incident remains under investigation.