A whelk boat struck a bell buoy off the Vineyard early on the morning of July 2. The vessel was on autopilot when the incident occurred, according to the vessel’s master, Michael Briggs. Briggs said he was at the stern of his boat when it hit the buoy. The boat, which has no name across the transom, is up on jacks in Vineyard Haven. A section of the bow has been smashed, leaving a green-smudged hole. Briggs said the boat, a 35-footer, dates from the mid-1970s and is wooden with a fiberglass skin. He said his bilges couldn’t keep up with the incoming water after the buoy strike, and he had to radio for help. Eventually, he said, he jammed a T shirt into the hole to stanch the inflow.
Red, White, and Blue, the Oak Bluffs fireboat, met Briggs at the mouth of Oak Bluffs Harbor,
Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz said. A TowBoat US salvage boat also came to Briggs’ aid.
“He was taking on water,” Chief Wirtz said.
TowBoat US guided the wounded boat to the vicinity of the Island Queen pier, Wirtz said, and aided in pumping the boat out. Mark Brown of TowBoat US Falmouth said the boat was two-thirds sunk when he came upon it.
Brown said he believed Briggs’ boat struck a buoy by Squash Meadow Shoal. Ralph Packer, who owns the marine railway yard the boat is perched in, said he believed it was Hedge Fence Shoal. Briggs told The Times he believes he was two miles off Chappquiddick. A spokesperson for the Coast Guard’s First District wasn’t immediately able to identify the vicinity of the buoy that was struck.
Chief Chris Lobherr, officer in charge of Station Woods Hole, told The Times his station deployed a vessel to aid the whelk boat; however, TowBoat US arrived on scene first, and was able to help stabilize the situation.