Captain guides sinking tug boat onto beach

By Chuck Weber

HIGHLAND BEACH, FL (WFLX)-A tug boat taking on water, came ashore in Highland Beach before dawn Monday morning, giving neighbors quite a surprise.

"I looked out around 5:00 or 5:30," recalled Bob Scanlon, a resident of the condo overlooking the tug. "This boat did not belong on the beach, but it was there."

The tug belongs to a contractor doing a beach renourishment project in the City of Boca Raton. The Coast Guard says a dredging barge had broken loose and the crew on the tug was trying to secure it.

But the dredge's anchor hit the hull of the tug, putting a hole in the vessel and causing it to take on water. Jennifer Bistyga, with the City of Boca Raton, said the captain cut loose from the barge, and started heading toward the Palm Beach Inlet. As the more water came into boat, the captain purposely guided his vessel toward the beach-- the only way to keep from sinking.

Jeff Marvin, who lives nearby and frequently fishes in the ocean, said the captain came ashore at a good spot. "Just south of here, the reef starts," said Marvin. "If he would have come up on the reef, who knows what would have happened to the boat, or the reef?"

Later in the morning when the tide was lower, a bulldozer drove into the surf. The operator raised his scoop, and crew members walked off the tug and onto the bulldozer-- a ride to solid land. No one was injured.

It's hoped repairs to the tug can be made when surf conditions are right. Bistyga, with the City of Boca, said the break-away dredging barge was secured in the beach renourishment project area offshore.