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SV Seraphina Dismasted
8 crew aboard, 2 masts go down, no one gets hurt
July 8, 2019

ell dang. Lost the boat. No one hurt. Cooper safe. Actually not sure about the boat. Demasted and dropped an anchor 10 miles from Beaufort.”

It was the last week of June. Eric Nessl departed Pecan Grove Marina with his boat Seraphina carrying a crew of 6 teenagers and Eric’s dog, Cooper. They were on their way to Carolina Beach aboard the Hardin Seawolf 40 ketch.

Seraphina Dismasted
Eric Nessl and crew leave Pecan Grove Marina aboard Seraphina, headed for Carolina Beach.
Seraphina Dismasted
Before the dismasting: The crew, enjoying the ride and the view.
Seraphina Dismasted
The other crewmate: Cooper.

All was well until the vessel was off Beaufort in the Atlantic, doing 5-6 knots under sail. Suddenly the area beneath the mast step failed – and the mast fell about a foot down into the main cabin.

The mast was then still standing, but with the spar a foot lower the rigging was loose. Within an hour the main mast would fall under the stress.

Eric’s nephew Zion helmed Seraphina while Eric contacted the Coast Guard and did what he could to secure the boat. Zion described the scene:

I think we started having troubles around 11 pm – midnight? The mast on the sailboat had a part that broke, and stuff lead to other stuff…The main mast started heavily leaning to the sides and eventually snapped at the bottom, falling to the left stern. This then put pressure on the back of the boat and the mizzen mast, which also then broke. We were not close to shore.

The broken mast, and its failure, were all recorded.

A cracked mast.

Eric’s nephew Zion continued:

“It was super scary, and the whole time I had to be the one driving the boat while Eric was doing all he could to stabilize the situation. The rest of the kids came to the stern and hung out behind me. It was pretty rough. I mean we could have just stayed in the bottom of the boat amidst the turmoil but God that would have been AWFUL on account of the motion sickness we were all already experiencing.”

When the Coast Guard arrived, they took everyone – including dog Cooper – off the boat. A towing service had arrived, but they were not comfortable towing the vessel in the dark. Eric dropped anchor. Everyone went to shore for the night and Seraphina was towed to Jarrett Bay Boatworks by the towing service the next morning.

Seraphina Dismasted
Seraphina, the next morning.

A mast falling down may not seem like a “feel good” story – but this story has elements of that. Two masts fell with a sizable crew – and nobody was hurt.

Despite the mayhem of the weekend, Zion had kind things to say about his Uncle Eric:

Eric has the best of uncle qualities. He’s intelligent, likes literature, comfortably communicative, and capable of holding up enjoyable conversations without coming across as demeaning or sarcastic or overbearing or being too prying. And I find that it’s not uncomfortable, I dare say, to act improper around him.
Cooper. What a good dog. He didn’t piss or sh*# the whole time until we were off of the coast guard ship! He performed admirably.

TownDock.net caught up over the weekend with Eric at New Village Brewery. Fellow patrons were advising him to install aluminum masts in place of the old wooden ones. Eric listened patiently, but after questioning, told TownDock.net he felt a wooden mast is more appropriate for the traditional looking boat.

He’s having two new wooden masts made: the main and the mizzen. He will also repair the area under the deck that supports the mast step.

“Other than the masts,” Eric said, “I’ll need to replace all of the standing rigging, some of the running rigging, some stancheons and lifelines, vent cowels, taffrail, and rebuild the mast step, a bulkhead, and maybe the mast partners, which might require some of the deck to be removed.”

He’ll motor Seraphina to Wayfarer’s Cove boatyard in Minnesott Beach for repairs. Eric estimates it will take a few months. After repairs are complete, he plans to return her to Pecan Grove Marina.

(photos and footage provided by Eric Nessl)

Posted Monday July 8, 2019 by Allison DeWeese

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