51-foot sailboat to remain grounded in Atlantic Beach another day

Coast Guard rescues 2 boaters when sailboat became disabled

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – A 51-foot sailboat named Spirit of Liberty remained grounded Tuesday morning in Atlantic Beach after it lost power and washed ashore over the weekend.

The Coast Guard responded to a distress call Sunday for the Spirit of Liberty around 6:30 a.m. Crews said they rescued the two people on board when the boat lost power and became disabled about a mile south of the mouth of the St. John's River.

The Coast Guard said due to the strong wind and high waves, crews were unable to tow it Sunday. Rough waters to slammed against the boat, causing it to rock back and forth, and at times it appeared as if it could tip over. 

The two men who own the boat said they live in Georgia but were bringing the boat up this weekend from West Palm when they lost power. When authorities let the owner on the boat Sunday night to collect some personal items, he said he noticed thousands of dollars of items and tools had been stolen when someone climbed aboard during low-tide.

Conditions on Monday remained extremely rough with choppy waters and high winds during high-tides both just before 4 a.m. and just after 4 p.m. A tow boat did attempt to pull the boat back to open water but the main rope broke. 

Rescue efforts will resume Tuesday when the weather should be more cooperative.

Eric Haas lives on the beach and saw everything.

"I was watching the ocean, and I saw this boat that was in heavy distress. (It) was going up and down, it looked like it was taking on water and it was getting closer and closer to the shore. So, I called (the) police and the Coast Guard to report a boat in distress," Haas said. "The Nor Easter definitely kicks things up, so that's why I was surprised I saw a boat out like this in a Nor Easter." 

It was a sight to see and attracted several people who wanted to take a closer look.

"It's bizarre this never happens," said Denise LaBrie-Woodard, who lives in Atlantic Beach. "Most people who live in Atlantic Beach are aware of what's not normal or common, so we do flock to the unusual," LaBrie-Woodard said. "I do, anyway. I think a lot of people do, especially in Atlantic Beach — you want something exciting."

"She caught our eye as she was leaving the Saint John's River this morning; she's a double mast schooner," said Atlantic Beach resident Jennie Malloy. 

Malloy and her husband, Carl Drew, were up early to watch the sunrise. Both are sailors and have experience on the water.

"Right now, she's taking the waves of beam to the side of the boat. If they could get the anchor further out, then it would spin into the water, and she's made for that," Drew said.

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The Coast Guard said it's also monitoring any possible pollution, but the boat appears not to be leaking.

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